Uncategorized

Backpacker’s Guide to Indonesia

To be completely honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this post, because there is just THAT much to say about Indonesia. Did you know that Indonesia is made up of over 18,000 volcanic islands (that’s almost triple the number of islands in the Philippines!) and is home to the largest Muslim population in the WORLD? I spent a month in this beautiful country and didn’t even scratch the surface of what Indonesia has to offer, but I wanted to share some tips for anyone planning to visit or hoping to learn more about it!

 

komodofish

 

Route:

One of my favorite parts of solo travel is the ability to be flexible with your plans, and I certainly was in Indonesia. I met some of the most incredible people in this country and switched around plans to travel with different groups, so I definitely didn’t make the most efficient use of my time, but that’s fine with me!

When most people think of Indonesia, they immediately think of Bali, which is probably the most popular island for tourists to visit. You could easily spend a month alone just on Bali, but I personally think two weeks is enough if you are limited on time or want to hit some other unique areas in Indo. In most countries I have made guides for, there is a typical route or a logical way to plan your time, but that really isn’t the case here and it totally depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. Because of that, I will touch on each place I visited and also include a few suggestions for places I haven’t gotten a chance to see yet.

Where to Visit:

Kuta:

Alright, so let’s get this one out of the way. Kuta gets an extremely bad reputation amongst the majority of travelers and almost every person who gave me advice about Bali before I arrived said “Whatever you do, get out of Kuta immediately,” so I went in with low expectations and planned on staying only one night since it is close to the airport. But guess what! I LOVED Kuta! I will shout it to the sky over and over- yup! I loved Kuta!!! Okay, now that’s out of the way.

What Kuta is good for: partying (Skygarden- don’t ask questions, just go and enjoy all you can eat and drink for $8 US), meeting people, learning to surf, variety of food options (both local and western), walkability, shopping, activities (two words: WATERBOM waterpark), accessibility to airport, sunsets on the beach

What Kuta is NOT good for: interacting with locals, authentic Indonesian culture, learning to ride a motorbike (LOL), people who think they are too good for “touristy” areas, people looking for peace and quiet, people who can’t handle people constantly trying to sell you things, peaceful/serene/beaches

There you have it. To some people, Kuta sounds like hell on earth, but I had the best time ever there and met some of my closest friends I met traveling, including my current roommate in Melbourne! With all of this information, decide for yourself if you want to visit or not. For my purposes, Kuta did its job and I actually came back to the same hostel three separate times and stayed a total of 12 nights! No *ragrets*.

Where to stay: Captain Goose Hostel. I actually counted and in my 6 months in Southeast Asia, I stayed in 57 different hostels. This hostel is in the top 3 best hostels I’ve ever stayed in, mostly because of the people, the pool, the awesome vibes, and the free pancakes all day. I can’t recommend it enough!

Other options: Coco Beach Hostel (no pool, but free breakfast and nicer rooms than Captain Goose, good to just chill out, not as social), Ayu Lili Garden Hotel (very cheap for a hotel, good location, great pool, not as social but good for a splurge night if you’re on a budget), or any of the other nice resorts/villas in the area

 

Ubud:

Ubud is becoming more and more well-known and is definitely not one to be missed. This is where you can experience more authentic Balinese culture, relax, get a massage, see the rice terraces and monkey forest, and do plenty of shopping. I will say that a lot of people come to Ubud expecting it to be more of a “village” experience than it actually is, so be warned that the main part of town is crowded and touristy, but it has a totally different vibe than everywhere else in Bali.

Where to stay: Puji Hostel or In Da Lodge Hostel. I stayed at Wanderlust (owned by same people as Puji and just down the road) for a night, and it wasn’t bad, but Puji is definitely more social and also has on-site laundry!

Don’t miss: hike up Mount Batur volcano for sunrise (though you can book this from other parts of Bali, it is closest to get to from Ubud), white water rafting, monkey forest, Umah Ubud (amazing food, best pizza for cheap)

mtbatursunrise

 

Spas: Sedona Spa was unreal and I highly recommend it. For $16 US, I got a 90 minute spa package, which included a private room overlooking rice terraces with a full body massage, green tea scrub, soak, and flower bath with tea and watermelon afterwards. It is DEFINITELY worth going to a nicer spa in Ubud rather than a cheap massage parlor off the side of the road.

Splurge meal: Chill Out Restaurant has an amazing filet mignon steak for only $7 US- highly recommend :).

 

Uluwatu:

This chill surfer town is such a unique place with AMAZING food. When I think of Bali, I think of hippie/vegan/healthy food, and this is definitely where you can get it. So much good food here and fun places to explore on a scooter. DISCLAIMER: You must be able to ride a scooter/motorbike to get around Uluwatu. Public transport is non-existant, Uber/GrabCar/Blue Bird Taxi are not allowed, and everything is too spread out to walk. It’s an amazing place to visit, but not worth it if you can’t get around on a scooter in my opinion. However, it is a very easy place to learn if you aren’t experienced! There is little to no traffic and most of the roads are easy to navigate. As always, be careful and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Another note: have a plan for getting out of Ulutwatu so you don’t end up taking an expensive private driver out like I did. I even tried getting an Uber/GrabCar but there were no drivers in the area or they wouldn’t come because they are banned there. We had no other choice but to get a private driver to get us to Jimbaran, the nearest big town, then get an Uber from there. This definitely shouldn’t deter you from visiting; it’s just one thing I wish I knew beforehand :).

Where to stay: I stayed at Bingin Inn, which was super nice with a pool and reasonably priced. I hear Karma Backpackers is great as well but it was a bit out of the way so we decided not to stay there.

Don’t miss: Bukit Café is an absolute MUST, so is Cashew Tree..such amazing food here!

Things to do: Hire a scooter and check out some of the beaches like Padang Padang, Bingin, and Dreamland, and Single Fin Bar has an amazing party on Sundays if you can make it for that. It’s not to be missed! Check out the M Resort for an incredible sunset and see this super lux hotel- just walk in with confidence and no one will question you :).

canggu

 

Canggu:

Canggu (pronounced Chang-goo) is another beach town a bit farther out past Seminyak from Kuta, and I absolutely loved it! This is another place where you definitely need to be able to ride a scooter to get around (Uber/GrabCar is also banned here, but you can still be dropped off if you’re coming from somewhere else) but it is definitely more accessible to other places than Uluwatu. If I had to choose one of the two to visit, I would probably pick Canggu simply for convenience in location, but I loved both places!

Where to stay: We splurged a bit and stayed at Butterfly Beach Apartments to chill out, but LayDay Hostel was recommended to me by many people if you’re looking for a budget hostel.

Things to do: Rent a scooter and check out the beaches around the area, watch all of the surfers or surf yourself, try all the amazing food, go shopping at the cute boutiques (they are expensive), visit Tanah Lot temple

Don’t miss: Crate Café for breakfast, Betel Nut Café, Nalu Bowls, Cloud 9

 

Lombok:

I was planning on going to Lombok and never ended up making it, but wanted to share a few tips from other travelers I talked to about it. Lombok is an island near Bali (close to the Gili islands) and has a lot to offer, including beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and the famous volcano, Mount Rinjani. Mount Rinjani is quite a strenuous multi-day hike, but everyone I know who has done it said it was totally worth the effort and the cost! I personally opted for the easier and cheaper sunrise hike up Mount Batur on Bali, but I hear Rinjani is much more special. Overall, I’ve heard mixed but overall positive things about Lombok, and if you are looking to get away from crowds on Bali or Gili T and have the time, Lombok is great to visit for a few days!

Where to stay: From what I hear, Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta on Bali) is better to stay at rather than Senggigi, which is closer to the port.

gilit

 

Gili Islands: Just to clear up confusion, many people refer to “the Gilis” but most are actually just referring to Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three islands. If it wasn’t obvious, “gili” means “island” in Indonesian :). The three islands off the coast of Lombok are Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T), Gili Air, and Gili Meno. Gili Meno is known for being the “honeymoon” island and is mostly comprised of expensive resorts, so I just visited the other two. One of the coolest parts about the Gilis is that there are no cars or motorbikes on the islands. The only way to get around is to walk, ride a bicycle, or be driven in a carriage pulled by a horse!

giliswing

 

Gili Air:

Gili Air is the more chilled out version of Gili T, and I like to think of it as the happy medium between Gili Meno and Gili T. There are definitely more families and couples here, but there are still plenty of backpackers to meet and places to go out. I surprisingly had amazing food on Gili Air (I wasn’t expecting much for a small island) like fresh seafood and I found the prices to be lower than Gili T.

Where to stay: Gili Air Hostel was good but does not have WiFi. The bar in the back is great for meeting people (a lot of dive instructors living on the island actually come here for cheap drinks before going out), and they offer free movies!

What to do: Diving and snorkeling are both fantastic, and it’s a great place to chill out on the beach and avoid the crowds of Gili T. If you dive, I highly recommend Manta Dive Centre (shoutout to Dani for being the best instructor ever!). Note that the dive and snorkel spots are pretty much the same as the other islands, so if you don’t visit Gili Air, don’t worry about missing out on any secret spots since boats from all three islands go to the same spots.

DCIM103GOPRO

 

Gili Trawangan:

Gili T was one of my favorite places I have visited in all my travels in SE Asia. I’ll be honest, after liking Gili Air so much, I had low expectations for Gili T because I have heard that it’s just a party island. After visiting, I found out that it is SO much more! I will definitely be back at some point. I could honestly picture myself living there!

Where to stay: Gili Mansion is cheaper than Gili Castle, which is their partner hostel, and you can still use the facilities at Gili Castle like the rock wall and the pool! When I visited, Gili Mansion was still under construction (they seem to be building an awesome pool!) and only had a small common area, but most people just hung out at Gili Castle anyways.

What to do: Play mini golf, enjoy the outdoor movie theater, check out all of the cool bars (huge party at one place every night), visit the beaches and famous swings for sunset, go on a boat trip (either snorkel or there are several party boat trips), walk or bike around the island, check out the night market

komodosunset

 

Labuan Bajo/Komodo National Park:

This place had been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I knew it would be my grand finale of diving for my trip in SE Asia. If you Scuba dive, I HIGHLY recommend going to Komodo National Park. Though it is by far the most expensive diving I have done in SE Asia, it was an experience of a lifetime and I do not regret it for a second. Komodo….as in, Komodo dragons, you ask? Yup! This is also where you can see the largest lizards in the world. Trust me, they look like a cross between a crocodile and a dinosaur and they are massive!

komododragon

 

Disclaimer: Though Komodo Island/Rinca Island are cool and Labuan Bajo has a few other things to offer besides the world famous diving, I would not make the effort to come to Komodo if you aren’t a somewhat experienced diver. To be eligible to do a live aboard trip (which is what I did), you need to have your advanced open water license and be very comfortable in the water. Komodo is known for strong currents and potentially dangerous spots, so it is not for the faint of heart. Some companies will let you go on day dives with just your open water certification, but I think it really depends on how experienced and comfortable you are in the water. Plus, I highly recommend doing a live aboard trip over day dives because there are SO many spots you can’t reach from Labuan Bajo in one day and it is an entirely different type of experience. I did mine with Blue Marlin Komodo and had one of the best experiences of my life. You can read more about my experience here if you’d like! If you are considering visiting Labuan Bajo/Komodo, feel free to reach out to me and I can give you more detailed tips! If you’re considering, DO IT. Once in a lifetime diving with mantas, sharks and turtles with ideal conditions, that is all I will say.

How to get there: Fly into Labuan Bajo (you can usually get cheap flights from Denpasar) or take a four day boat trip from Gili Islands or Lombok

 

Other places to visit in Indonesia:

Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java/Yogyakarta, Nusa Lembongan, and so many more! I know I hit only the highlights, so definitely do some additional research on other cool islands to visit :).

Visas:

Luckily, Indonesia offers an easy, free 30-day visa on arrival for most countries, so no need to arrange anything in advance. If you know you want to extend your visa for more than 30 days, you can pay $35 US on arrival for a 60-day visa, which is easier and cheaper than trying to extend at a later date through an agency (however, still possible to extend later on).

Warning: Don’t be like me! Learn to count! Clearly I was distracted and made a stupid mistake when I booked my flight out of Bali. I accidentally overstayed my visa because I somehow forgot that October had 31 days and just assumed my one month visa was good from October 17 to November 17. Lesson learned- Indonesian visas are 30 days and 30 days only, no matter how long the month is. I’m still salty about this and don’t even want to get into the story, but I ended up having to pay an extra $50 US on my way out because of my stupidity. Oh well…everyone makes mistakes while traveling and I’ve just learned to laugh at it!

 

balirafting2

 

Food:

I will be totally honest here and say that after spending 6 months backpacking in SE Asia on a tight budget, eating mostly local food, I was ready for a break in Indonesia. I did try several Indonesian dishes like Bakso soup and nasi goreng (local version of fried rice), but I ate a LOT of western food and a lot more McDonald’s than I ever thought possible. Not sorry! However, I definitely encourage you to try the local cuisine wherever you go and try as many new things as possible :).

 

gilicastle

 

Phew! That was a ton of information. I hope you found this guide to Indonesia helpful and choose to visit this beautiful country as soon as possible! As always, let me know if I missed anything in the comments or shoot me a message or email if you’d like any additional advice. I’m happy to help!

Advertisements

How I Visited Kawasan Waterfalls for $1

What is Kawasan Falls?

Kawasan consists of 3 tiers of incredible waterfalls with pristine, turquoise water in the heart of the Philippines. I found out about it because of a video I saw online one time, so I made sure to go while I was in the Philippines!

kawasanfalls8

 

Where is it?

On the island of Cebu, about a 20-30 minute bus ride south from Moalboal or a 3 hour bus ride from Cebu City, toward the center of the island. If you visit the Philippines, I highly recommend flying into Cebu City airport and exploring the surrounding areas. Don’t worry, I’ll be posting my itinerary and recommendations for the Philippines soon!

Why visit?

I’ll just leave this here…

 kawasanfalls4

 

How to get there:

  • Take the Ceres line bus from Moalboal for 19 pesos (~$0.40 USD)
  • Pay 40 pesos entry to the waterfalls (~$0.75) and enjoy!

When to go:

I highly recommend going to Kawasan Falls in the morning to avoid the crowds. I went around 10:00 a.m. and was pleasantly surprised with how few people were there. I’ve seen pictures and it seemed like it was quite crowded, which may have to do with the season (this is low season) and time of day. Extra tip: if it’s crowded at the first set of falls, head straight up to the second or third level, where there will definitely be less people :).

Things I did not pay for:

  • Organized canyoneering tour (my friend did one for ~$50 USD)
  • Tricycle/tuk-tuk ride from Moalboal (300-400 pesos)
  • Life jacket rental (50 pesos) *** Must be a strong swimmer to swim under the falls without one…I struggled a bit 🙂
  • Bamboo raft ride (300 pesos)
  • Table to sit at/store belongings (300 pesos)
  • Fees to use the rock waterslide and rope swing (10 pesos each)
  • Food (200-300 pesos)

If I paid for all of these things, I would’ve spent almost $30 USD! Kawasan is quite touristy (obviously people don’t want to miss out on this beautiful site), but if you do it right, it can be very cheap and you can avoid the crowds.

What did I do?

Well…. I swam under a few waterfalls…

kawasanfalls2

 

Went cliff jumping with the canyoneering groups….

kawasancliffjump

 

Hiked through the jungle….

kawasanfalls3

 

Slid down a rock waterslide….

kawasanrockwaterslide

 

Swung on a rope swing….

Kawasanfallsropeswing

 

Spent a few hours floating in water that could not be any more pristine….

kawasanfalls6

 

Overall, I had an amazing day and met awesome people! I loved going by myself because I could go wherever I wanted and stay as long as I liked, which is the best part of solo travel, in my opinion :). If you ever get a chance to go to Kawasan Falls or the Philippines, DO IT! I am happy to answer any questions if you do!

 

kawasanfalls7

 

Did I miss anything? Do you know of any more waterfalls in the Philippines that I can’t miss? I’ve made it my goal to see how many waterfalls I can visit in my month here. Tough life, right? Thanks for reading!

 

Vietnam in 30 Days

31 days. 12 cities. Hundreds of new friends. Thousands of memories. No regrets.

After a month that came and went way too quickly, I have officially fallen in love with Vietnam. There are no words to explain how much I learned traveling through this incredible country, so I wanted to share a bit of insight, lots of tips, and an ideal itinerary for a month-long trip. Feel free to share this post with anyone you think might find it useful for a future trip! I also made a GoPro video of my Vietnam trip if you want to check it out here  :).

 

Traveling in Vietnam: Because Vietnam is such a long, narrow country, almost everyone travels from north to south or south to north, starting in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. I personally did north to south, so that is what this itinerary follows, but it can very easily be done the other way around. One of the best parts about this is constantly seeing other travelers you know! I loved knowing I would always know people at every hostel I stayed at, and I ran into familiar people in the randomest places. You will notice that it is a VERY small world in Vietnam.

The easiest two ways to get around are by motorbike and by bus. Those who are confident enough to ride over 2,000 km via motorbike will buy one in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and sell it at the end of their trip, but many choose to rent in certain cities (particularly the famous Hai Van pass from Hue to Hoi An) or just take buses. I rode on the back of many motorbikes, but never actually rented one myself in Vietnam (probably will in Cambodia) and opted for buses instead. Buses are very easy and cheap to book, and night buses save you money on accommodation as well :).

 

DCIM101GOPRO

 

Cost: The U.S. dollar is strong and worth approximately 22,000 Vietnamese Dong, so it is ideal for foreign travelers who are on a budget. Everyone has a different style of traveling and often prefer to spend their money in different ways, so it can be difficult to say how much to expect to spend for a month in Vietnam. I chose to save money on food and accommodation (~$5 US/night for hostels) so I could splurge more on activities and can’t-miss experiences, meaning I spent a bit more than someone who prefers to just chill out or not spend money on doing crazy stuff like rappelling down waterfalls. Note that alcohol can play a big factor in your daily budget, depending on how much you drink, but many hostels in Vietnam give out free beer and cheap drinks ($.50 to $1 is common for a beer and ~$2 for a cocktail, but pub crawls are the best way to get your money’s worth). In my month in Vietnam, I spent an average of $35/day, which includes everything from buses, food, snorkeling, canyoning, custom clothing, etc. I didn’t find it too bad for going all out :).

 

Itinerary:

Hanoi– 3 or 4 nights

This big, bustling city is a great starting point for Vietnam. Soak up the culture and get excited for awesome food and more motorbikes than people!

Where to stay:

  • Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- Original or Downtown (both are great, downtown location is more of a party hostel)
  • Hanoi Rocks Hostel (very much a party hostel, I stayed here one night and that was plenty 🙂 but tons of fun!)
  • Central Backpackers (I didn’t stay here but I’ve heard great things)
  • Chien Hostel (newer hostel and my friends who stayed here loved it)

Do not miss:

Explore the Old Quarter, do a pub crawl through a hostel, walk around the lake in the Old Quarter, see the water puppet show, check out the bookstore street perpendicular to the post office (has the word Dinh in the street name), and if you want a splurge meal, Pizza 4Ps is amazing!

 

Sapa– 2 nights

Doing a homestay in a village outside of Sapa in northern Vietnam (close to China border) is almost a rite of passage for backpackers. You can book a tour or homestay in advance in Hanoi or when you get to Sapa, but I actually just showed up on the bus without a plan. I got very lucky and had an incredible experience with locals I met right outside of the bus station (they will come up to you and show you their guest book with reviews in English). Typical homestays arranged in Hanoi are about $100 USD, but I only paid $40 for two nights (not including bus fare), which was a much cheaper price and was a more authentic experience than what most of my friends did. However, there is no guarantee you will get lucky like I did, so make sure to do your research first and ask other backpackers for recommendations (I heard of many “mamas” to stay with through word of mouth). I stayed with Mama Mai in the Hmong Village, which was a 4 hour trek from Sapa. It doesn’t get any more rural than that! My favorite part about doing the homestay was being in the Hmong Village, which I found actually has the most documentation/artifacts/photos online and in museums out of all of the ethnic groups in Vietnam. I even saw a photo of the grandma I stayed with at the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi- how cool is that?!

 

DCIM101GOPRO

 

When you do a homestay, no matter how you choose to book it, the local guides will take you trekking to see other villages and explore the rice paddies, cook local cuisine for you, and help you experience the incredible beauty of the mountains of northern Vietnam (you literally will hike through the clouds!). Overall, I highly recommend taking a trip to Sapa, even if you only have one night and have to take a night bus. It was one of my favorite things I’ve done on my entire trip! Even if the family you stay with doesn’t speak much English, my advice would be to interact with them and learn from them as much as you can. You can always talk with other travelers, but when else can you ask a local person questions about their culture and learn about their experiences first hand?

 

DCIM101GOPRO

 

Halong Bay– 2 nights

Seeing Halong Bay is an absolute must in Vietnam. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is world famous for its thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests and you’ll never see anything else like it. Because it is so popular, you have many different options to see it. If you are not looking for a party scene and want to save money, I know many people who took a bus or motorbike to Cat Ba Island, then booked a boat tour to Halong Bay from there. The more popular option is to book a tour in Hanoi, and even still, there are tons of options either from tourist offices or hostels/hotels.

 

DCIM101GOPRO

 

If you’ve done any research on Halong Bay, you’ve probably heard of Castaways Island, which is the most well-known party tour run by Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. Beware- there are MANY copycat tours and even more scams from companies who claim to do “Castaway Tours”. I can’t even tell you how many people I heard of getting scammed an overpaying for a tour which was not what was advertised. Make sure to ask lots of questions, and if you are want to guarantee you have a fantastic time, go straight to Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- Original and book it in person from there. Though I felt physical pain when I paid for this very expensive tour ($200 US for 3 days), it was WELL worth it. At Castaways, you stay on a private island with a beach, go tubing and kayaking, go on an all-day boat cruise, drink copious amounts of alcohol, and meet truly incredible people. Anyone wearing the yellow wristband in Vietnam shares a special bond of what they experienced at Castaways :). I have also heard people who went on the tours run by Central Backpackers Hostel and Hanoi Rocks to Halong Bay and loved it, so Castaways Island is definitely not the only party tour out there, but it is definitely (in my biased opinion) the best.

 

DCIM101GOPRO

 

Phong Nha– 3 nights

Taking a night bus to Phong Nha from Hanoi is cheap and easy, so don’t worry if it’s your first one. Do not under any circumstances skip Phong Nha! I am baffled when I hear of people going straight to Hue from Hanoi and missing out on one of my favorite spots in Vietnam. The actual town of Phong Nha doesn’t have much to see, but it is a truly incredible area surrounded by farmland and national parks, known mostly for the famous caves.

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Where to stay:

  • Easy Tiger Hostel- This hostel is fantastic and has a pool, which is a huge selling point for the hot weather in Phong Nha. They also have a ton of hammocks on the property, which is perfect if you take a night bus and arrive early in the morning before reception opens. The staff is extremely helpful and they do a talk every morning at 9:00 a.m. to explain all of the activities to do in the area. The hostel is huge and extremely social in the day and at night, so I highly recommend it!

Do not miss:

Dark Cave (ziplining into a mud-filled cave…need I say more?), Phong Nha Cave (you go in a boat and it looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!), farmstay happy hour for sunset (info at Easy Tiger), and if you’re feeling really adventurous, go to “The Pub with the Cold Beer” in the countryside where you can kill your own chicken before you eat it. I won’t post the gruesome photos or videos here….but I did participate in this traumatizing/unique experience. Sorry vegetarians! Feel free to ask me about it if you want more info :).

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Hue– 1 night

The bus from Phong Nha to Hue is only about two hours, so it’s super easy to head down there just for a night as you travel south. Hue is fun to see and Vietnam’s beautiful imperial city on the river, but if you are pressed for time, I would accept it if you skipped it.

Where to stay:

  • Hue Imperial Backpackers Hostel, which is run by Vietnam Backpackers Hostel (other locations in Hanoi and Hoi An)

Do not miss:

The famous imperial Citadel, tombs, pagoda, abandoned waterpark (super cool!), Hai Van pass to Hoi An on a motorbike if you’re up for it!

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Da Nang– 1 or 2 nights

The bus from Hue to Da Nang is only about 2 hours and run throughout the day. Da Nang is a beach town mostly known for Vietnamese vacationers and not too many westerners (even my hostel roommates were Vietnamese!), but definitely has a lot to offer. My favorite part about Da Nang is how modern the city looks, especially when it is all lit up at night.

Where to stay:

  • Funtastic Beach Hostel- Funstastic has two locations, and I chose the one at the beach, which was great. One of the owners is a world-famous food blogger, so they have awesome food tours and restaurant recommendations here. They even offer free van rides to Hoi An every day!
  • Danang Backpackers Hostel- I didn’t stay here but it gets great reviews and has a more central location!

Do not miss:

The Dragon Bridge Show is held on Saturday and Sunday nights and is absolutely fantastic! The giant bridge across the river is in the shape of a dragon and lights up at night, but on the weekends, the dragon spits out fire and water at 9:00 p.m. and soaks everyone around the bridge! This show is actually more like a festival with food, carnival rides, live concerts, etc. and is ALL Vietnamese tourists. No joke, I did not see another westerner the entire night and I was in a sea of thousands of people! Everyone was taking photos of me and my Norwegian friend and asked us to practice English with their kids. It was hilarious! Also, I didn’t have time to do it, but walking food tours are very popular. Check out multiple beaches in the area, as well as the famous Marble Mountains :).

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Hoi An– 5 nights minimum

Hoi An is easily one of my (and everyone else’s) favorite places in Vietnam, so I am not joking when I say to stay for 5 nights. Known for its tailor shops on every corner, well-preserved Ancient Town, coffee shops, and French colonial influence, Hoi An is somewhere you will definitely want to spend more time. If you can, try to time your visit around the Full Moon Lantern Festival, because this was an absolutely unforgettable experience. Releasing lanterns into the river and seeing thousands of them around the entire city was awe-inspiring. Rent a bicycle or motorbike to explore the countryside, go to An Bang beach (just watch out for the jellyfish!), walk around the old city at night, and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Hoi An.

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Where to stay:

  • Sunflower Hotel (actually a hostel with a great pool and fantastic free breakfast)- Book in advance because it can fill up. I showed up without a reservation and got lucky, but I heard of many who were turned away. This is the #1 spot for backpackers to stay!
  • DK Hostel (part of Vietnam Backpackers Hostel group)- More expensive at $12 US/night, but I’ve heard good things about it.
  • Under the Coconut Tree- This hostel is on the beach (a 10 minute drive outside of town) and is perfect to chill out for a few days. I didn’t book in advance and wasn’t able to stay here because it was booked, but plenty of my friends have stayed here and said it was great. If you don’t stay at the beach, you can easily rent a bicycle or motorbike or take a taxi to spend a day there. One thing I wish I did was get up early to watch the sunrise from the beach! The pictures I’ve seen look incredible.

Do not miss:

Full Moon Lantern Festival (look up dates online and see if you can make it!), get a tailored suit/shoes/clothes/bathing suit, rooftop drinks at the Chef, An Bang Beach (tip: walk farther down the beach for cheaper lawn chairs and food), and Bale Well restaurant to make your own spring rolls with a set menu.

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Nha Trang– 1 or 2 nights

I would highly recommend stopping in Nha Trang, not necessarily because it’s a particularly amazing place, but it breaks up your journey from Hoi An to Dalat and puts you on a bus for 12 hours instead of 17, which makes a huge difference. Nha Trang is mostly known for being a beach town EXTREMELY frequented by Russian tourists (literally, all of the signs are in Russian). For some reason, it can get a bad rap with travelers, but it is definitely worth seeing for at least a night.

Where to stay:

  • iHome- This is the popular backpacker hostel in Nha Trang, and though I didn’t stay here, I’ve heard amazing things about it!
  • Mojzo Inn or Mojzo Dorm- They have two locations and I stayed at the inn, which is closer to the beach, and had a great time. They have free beer every day, are very helpful at the reception, and it’s only a 5 minute walk to the beach.

Do not miss:

Snorkeling or diving (Nha Trang is known for this), nightlife, Bai Dai Beach (aka Long Beach) is a 30 minute motorbike ride out of the city, but you will NOT regret it. Why? See exhibit A:

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Dalat– 3 or 4 nights

I would recommend taking the 4 hour bus ride to Dalat from Nha Trang during the day, because it is absolutely gorgeous! My bus was at 4:00 p.m. (I squeezed in snorkeling in the morning), but I didn’t get to see much scenery on the way up in the dark. If you do take a later bus, take a daytime bus when you leave Dalat! Dalat is a cooler (literally, the temperature is actually cold and you will not sweat- it’s amazing) mountain town that is a favorite for many backpackers. It’s great for outdoorsy activities, waterfalls, and enjoying cooler weather!

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Where to stay:

  • Dalat Family Hostel- The actual rooms are mediocre and cramped, but the atmosphere, staff, and travelers make up for it times 10! If you’re looking to meet amazing people and have a good time, just trust me on this one and stay here :).
  • Cozy Nook Hostel- Lots of my friends have stayed here and loved it!

Do not miss:

Canyoning (rappelling down waterfalls, cliff jumping, etc.), night market, Crazy House (on top 20 list of weirdest hotels in the world), waterfalls, 100 Rooms Maze Bar (yes, this bar is a super tall building made into a giant maze that looks like Alice in Wonderland!)

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Mui Ne– 1 night

The bus from Dalat to Mui Ne is about 4 hours, and is a great stop to make on your way to Ho Chi Minh City. Mui Ne is known for its watersports and sand dunes, but there is not much to see in the city itself, so in my opinion, one night is enough, though I could’ve spent an extra day just hanging out at the pool.

Where to stay:

  • Mui Ne Backpacker Village- This is basically the only place you’ll want to stay in Mui Ne, mostly because of the awesome pool. This is a pretty large hostel and it’s very social, so even if you are just there to see the sand dunes, you will still meet lots of people. P.S. the chicken burger special at the hostel restaurant is amazing!

Do not miss:

The sunrise tour to the sand dunes! For only $7, you can spend the morning riding around in a Jeep to all of the best spots in Mui Ne, including the white dunes, red dunes, and the Fairy Stream. Definitely worth your money! If you are willing to splurge, for about $40 US, you can take surf or windsurfing lessons. Lam Tong Family seafood restaurant is a short walk from the backpackers village and has AMAZING cheap seafood!

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Ho Chi Minh City– 4 or 5 nights

The bus from Mui Ne to HCMC takes about 5 hours, not because of the extreme distance, but the sheer amount of traffic there is getting into this crazy city! HCMC is an incredible place with lots to see and is a wonderful way to end your time in Vietnam.

Where to stay:

  • Vietnam Inn Saigon- This hostel was fantastic and includes free breakfast, two free beers every day, and an awesome rooftop bar on the 9th floor. The pub crawl is on Mondays and Thursdays and it was probably the best one I have done on my trip so far! The hostel is very social and pretty large, so it’s ideal for solo travelers wanting to meet people.
  • Hideout or Hangout- I didn’t stay at either, but I’ve heard great things about these partner hostels. The original location (Hideout) is more expensive, but the Hangout and Vietnam Inn Saigon are both the same price and only a 2 minute walk from each other across the park. The pub crawls go to the same places as well, so I saw lots of friends who were staying there while I was out.

Do not miss:

War Remnants Museum (hopefully this is a given), Cu Chi Tunnels, a pub crawl (through hostel), Street Food Market (best food I’ve had in Vietnam…still dreaming about that bacon wrapped pulled pork hot dog), ABC Bakery, The Lunch Lady (best pho and spring rolls ever!), Sky Bar on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower for drinks at sunset (you can pay $10 US to go to the Sky Deck viewing area, or just go to the bar for an overpriced drink, which is what I did)

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Mekong Delta– 1 night

Almost every tourist office and hostel in HCMC advertises tours to the Mekong Delta. Many people choose to go on a day trip, but I would actually recommend staying overnight there because it would be an extremely long travel day and completely exhausting just to take a day trip. I booked a two day trip with a homestay through my hostel, and had an amazing time! This was partially due to the people I met and did the trip with :). The tour can be cheesy and fast-paced at times, but you can’t miss seeing the morning floating markets, riding on a boat through the canals surrounded by tropical trees, or seeing the copious amounts of random animals at some of the stops (i.e. crocodiles, snakes, porcupines, horses, frogs, weasels, etc.).

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

I will never forget my homestay experience either! After eating a home cooked meal with fresh fish the father caught that day and talking with the family we stayed with, we played cards and did magic tricks with the father, who did not speak a lick of English. Sitting around the table with two Dutch people, a guy from Spain, two Czech people, another American, and a Vietnamese man playing cards was an awesome way to connect without needing to speak the same language. Waking up to Vietnamese coffee with a view of the river wasn’t too bad either :).

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Extra tips for Vietnam:

Street food– always look for crowded places where locals are. The best food is typically at places where you sit on a plastic stool/tiny chair outside! I never eat anywhere that’s empty or if it looks super westernized. Don’t be afraid to try places without English translations! Don’t even ask what it is, just be open to trying new things.

 

Safety– Though Vietnam is generally very safe, there are dangers in any country. My first day in Vietnam, my phone got stolen by a guy on a motorbike when I was walking at night. I cannot even tell you how many of my friends were robbed in Vietnam, so make sure to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Do not take ANY valuables out with you at night especially, never walk alone, keep belongings close and away from the street where someone could snatch it from you, and even try walking against traffic so no one can sneak up behind you on the road. This is not to scare you, but it is a sad reality in Vietnam and it is important to be aware. If you are robbed, don’t let it affect your view of that city, of Vietnam, or the people, because generally, people are VERY nice! I certainly learned my lesson and I am SO thankful for travel insurance. If you do happen to get robbed or need to file a claim with your travel insurance, make sure to file a police report and get an official stamped copy, as you will need to submit it with your claim.

 

Open Bus Ticket– If you plan to take buses the majority of the time, you may want to purchase an open bus ticket. This will save you money and you can buy a ticket for 4, 6 or 10 rides, but it can be a bit complicated to book them because you need to find that same company in each city. If you do buy an open bus ticket (I didn’t, but I would’ve saved a bit of money if I did), I would book it through Sinh Travel or Hanh Café, which are big companies and easy to find throughout Vietnam.

 

Easy Riders: This motorbike company is a great option for people who want to ride on a motorbike and enjoy the views of Vietnam, but not necessarily drive it. Easy Riders are common in every city or town and you can hire them to drive you to a destination (my friends and I rode with Easy Riders to one of the caves in Phong Nha), do a one-way rental to drive a shorter distance like the ____ pass between Hue and Hoi An, or hire a driver to take you on a multi-city tour for as long as you’d like (I met someone who was with a driver for 5 days visiting the towns through central Vietnam). It is a bit more expensive than renting a motorbike yourself, but it is a safe way to enjoy the sites and not worry about directions/roads/other drivers.

 

Visas– It is important to know that you need to prepare for your visit in Vietnam in advance. It is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that you cannot just show up to and get a visa on arrival. As far as visas are concerned, you have two options:

  1. Get a government letter of approval for tourism online (~$18 US) and fly into the country to get a visa on arrival for $25 US. A quick Google search will populate a ton of websites to get you this letter, so just make sure you look at a few for prices and make sure it’s legit. I used http://www.vietnamvisa.govt.vn, but there are plenty of others out there. Again, you can only get a VOA with this letter of approval if you FLY into Vietnam.
  2. Send in your passport to the embassy in advance to get a visa before you arrive. I did not choose this option simply because I was already traveling when I was planning this trip and could not send in my passport, but it is a popular option and eliminates any stress about getting a VOA. This is also the only way to can get into the country over land, so keep that in mind if you want to take a bus or another form of transport besides a plane.

You can choose either a 30-day or 90-day visa and either single entry or multiple entry visa, depending on your travel plans. If I could go back and do anything differently, I would’ve gotten a 3 month visa to give me more flexibility and not feel rushed toward the end. Save yourself the trouble of trying to extend your visa (an annoying and pricey process) and just get the 90-day visa because you WILL want to stay longer in Vietnam, I guarantee it!

 

DCIM102GOPRO

 

Phew! That was a ton of information. I hope that helps if you are planning a trip to Vietnam, currently traveling there, or just wanted to see what I’ve been up to this past month. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to add anything I missed or feedback in the comments section!

How to Get an Adrenaline Rush in Koh Phangan

Alright, I just have to rave about two of the most fun things I have done in Thailand on the island of Koh Phangan! The Challenge Phangan and Slip n’ Fly are both popular attractions on the island for those looking for a huge adrenaline rush or just to work off a hangover from the Full Moon Party (see photo below). Here is a bit of information about each if you’re looking to go or just want to see more pictures!

fullmoon

The Challenge Phangan is essentially a giant wipeout course on a lake which will leave you more exhausted than you ever thought possible from an inflatable course. With everything from a swing starting from a 30 ft. high platform to giant red balls to attempt to jump across, the course has a huge variety of challenges for every skill/fitness level. The giant blob is definitely the biggest hit and if you have the guts to do it, the staff will launch you with three people (see photo of my friend Mark mid-air below).

FullSizeRender - Copy (6)

IMG_0826

atop.jpg

thechallenge

Where is it?: On the northwest side of the island

Cost: 500 baht per person (~$14 US) for the day (pricey but WORTH it)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

How long to stay: Depending on the crowds and the size of your group, I’d go for a minimum of three hours. There is also a small restaurant there with (overpriced) food, but I highly recommend the nachos if you get hungry :).

Facebook page: Check out some of their pictures on The Challenge Phangan’s Facebook page!

Slip n’ Fly Party is equally as awesome as the Challenge Phangan, but in a totally different way. The park has a DJ attempting to play “western” party music, games like pool volleyball, lots of drinks, and of course, huge water slides. If you want to see someone soar, send them face first down the biggest water slide you will probably ever see and hope they nail the landing. Watching other people go down the slides is just as hilarious and entertaining as doing it yourself! If you dare to take a ball down with you and make it in the basket mid-air, they’ll even give you a free drink. I had so much fun at this park and met amazing people there too! The best part is that it was free for me and my friend Harry because I met a local guy who gave me a ride on his scooter the day before (sorry for hitchhiking, mom) and he put us on the list! That saved us a ton of money and made the day even better :).

IMG_0880

DCIM101GOPRO

Where is it?: Toward the center of the island but easily accessible from the pier area via taxi/songthaew

Cost: 600 baht per person (~$16 US) for the day (still worth the price)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with happy hour (100 baht drinks) from 5-7

How long to stay: I could’ve stayed here all day! We were there for three and a half hours and I definitely could’ve used an extra hour or two. Then again, I spent a significant amount of time waiting at the top of the slides trying not to chicken out…

Facebook page: Check out some of their pictures on the Slip n’ Fly Party Facebook page!

If the photos aren’t enough, you can check out my GoPro video of my month in Thailand below with even more footage! As always, thanks for reading and have fun in Koh Phangan if you go in the future (you should!).

NJ-NYC-AL-LA-NJ-NYC

As soon as I thought my life couldn’t get any crazier, it did.

February: New Jersey (with a pit stop in NYC), Alabama, L.A., back to New Jersey, NYC, Orange County (now)

March: Hawaii, Las Vegas, Phoenix, L.A., home for Easter weekend

April: I don’t have my schedule yet, so who knows! My contract for my job is up May 1st… then the next adventure begins!

May: Austin, Hawaii (yes, again!), San Francisco, Southeast Asia.. all within two weeks!

May- ?: Southeast Asia!

I wanted to share some pictures from the last few weeks:

 NYC round 1! This was just a quick visit before our flights out of NJ. Also my first time ever in the city!

Auburn, Alabama now holds a special place in my heart. This was my second visit to Gamma Delta chapter and I had a great time getting to know the members better and exploring the area. Some of my favorite things were eating ice cream sandwiches at the famous Toomer’s Drugs, trying all of the amazing local food, and having a house of 10 Alpha Gams cook dinner for me one night. I was also on campus for campaign kick-off week, which is when the top 5 candidates for Miss Auburn share their platforms and begin campaigning. Our chapter typically has a member in the top 5 every year, and this year, they rallied around Meredith Thomley during her campaign (see purple Meredith shirts!).

Our chapter at USC recently had their spring Bid Day at a family fun center with go karts, laser tag, rock climbing, mini golf, an arcade and batting cages. I luckily was in town and got to help them welcome their newest members!

A sunrise from the runway, wrestling match at Rutgers University (that’s a first!), and some pictures around the Rutgers campus, which was founded in 1766, making it the oldest college (now university) in the country! Another fun fact: Rutgers is split into five separate campuses, which were originally separate colleges, all accessible by bus.

Here are some pictures during our recruitment process at Rutgers! We gave presentations for fraternities and sororities to promote Rutger’s newest sorority (a.k.a. Alpha Gam), met hundreds of women on campus, and hosted several events to get to know our Potential New Members. We also did a Healthy Living Campaign and collected healthy living pledges from the community throughout the week. For each pledge, we donated $1 to the local JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Chapter, which totaled $143! I unfortunately had to leave early due to my vacation already being scheduled, so I missed out on our one-on-one interviews this week and will miss Bid Day this weekend, but I know it will be great! We are all looking forward to seeing our newest chapter come together :).

IMG_0007

After leaving Rutgers, I spent the first few days of my vacation time in New York City and stayed with one of my good friends, Shannon, who recently moved to the city. Shout out to Shannon for being a wonderful host! On my first day in NYC and while Shannon was at work, I went to the 9/11 memorial and museum, which was an absolutely incredible experience. It was one of the best museums I have been to and I spent over 2 1/2 hours in the exhibits, listening to testimonials, watching short videos, and seeing hundreds of artifacts from 9/11. It was an experience I appreciated going through alone and after reflecting on everything I saw and heard, I have realized how moving the museum truly was. If you are ever in New York City, you cannot miss the 9/11 museum. If anyone would like to talk about their or my experience there, don’t hesitate to reach out.

One experience I wish I had more pictures of: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon! After the 9/11 museum, I met up with my cousins, Allie and Mackenzie, and Mackenzie’s boyfriend, Nick, for lunch overlooking the city. Mackenzie, Nick and I then went to 30 Rock to see Jimmy Fallon live! Mackenzie’s friend who she used to work at The Ellen Show with now works for Jimmy Fallon and got us in as VIPs. It was the. best. thing. ever. Unfortunately, NBC was VERY strict about cell phones/photography, so I have very little photo evidence, but I assure you, we were there, and it was awesome! What a cool experience. Shout out to Mackenzie for the hook up!

If you are ever in NYC, you HAVE to go to the Top of the Rock, a.k.a. the 67th floor of 30 Rock. The timing after Jimmy Fallon was impeccable, because we went straight to the top of the same building and watched the sunset overlooking the city. This was probably one of my favorite things I’ve done in recent history- there are no words… just pictures:

 Graffiti in Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn:

Shannon and I explored Williamsburg, the High Line, and Chelsea Market. This seafood market was the COOLEST place ever! Check out the size of that huge crab! They had amazing lobster, fresh sushi everywhere and it reminded me of a New York version of Pike’s Place market in Seattle. Loved it!

It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without going to Central Park! Did you know that you can ride a horse through the park for $125? Eh, I’ll pass. Shannon, Nick (her boyfriend’s name is Nick too.. and yes I did a lot of third wheeling over the weekend) and I also went to Serendipity to get frozen hot chocolate. Apparently there is a movie called Serendipity (which I have not seen) which is pretty famous and made this place pretty famous too (which explains the hour and a half long wait). But I mean, look at that frozen hot chocolate…

Some other random pictures from NYC, including Grand Central Station, subway art, Bloody Mary’s at brunch, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and a picture from the Summer in Winter Party at Brooklyn Brewery:

FullSizeRender (27)

Brooklyn Bridge: another must-see!

Ah..the familiar view outside a plane window. This time, saying goodbye to New York City! Until next time!! Who knows… maybe I’ll end up moving there! (Nope, still don’t have a plan for after Southeast Asia..)

FullSizeRender (16)

Now, off to USC for a few days (can you say Friday brunch?!) before heading to Hawaii on Tuesday! I’m so excited to meet the officers and advisors from our Delta Sigma Chapter at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and hopefully get to Waikiki Beach! Aloooooha!

January Update!

I think I may have set a record for fitting the most into a two week winter vacation! After working from home for a week or two (and going to Disneyland once again), I visited Nashville with my family, which was awesome. We got to see my step-grandma, do lots of sightseeing and I even got to meet up with my friend Jess from North Carolina, who happened to be in Nashville at the same time. After my sister and I flew home through a huge lightning storm/tornado (see pictures below), we celebrated Christmas with our mom. I left for a cruise to Mexico on Christmas day with my friend, Lauren, and her family. It was great to see them and enjoy more food in three days than I ever thought humanly possible. Two days after I got back from my cruise, I went to Big Bear with my friend, Shannon, and her boyfriend, Nick. One would think third wheeling it on New Years weekend in a cabin would be awkward, but it was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in a while! We had a blast and had lots of laughs (plus I got to make a snow angel). Well, that was my winter break!

xmas

Went on a fun Christmas cruise in Newport Harbor with my sister + friends and our cousin Mackenzie. Yes, I was dressed in an elf suit.

OG Disneyland picture, see: top left. Had a blast spending the day with my aunt Kim, uncle Ron and cousin Kayla! Sadly, that was the last time I’ll be going to Disneyland for a while now that Kayla is back in Boise and no longer working at Disney. I’m glad she had a good experience with the Disney College Program for the fall semester. 🙂

nash

nash2

Panoramic view of the front entrance of the Opryland Hotel. Opryland was one of the craziest places I have ever been to and it was awesome! Saying it is a hotel and convention center is a huge understatement. I went on a boat cruise inside the hotel! There are tons of things to do and see- it was like a mini Disneyland decorated for Christmas!

We took a tour of the Tennessee State Capitol building, which was very interesting and I learned a lot. I enjoyed comparing it with my experience touring the Alabama State Capitol building earlier this year and hearing about Tennessee’s rich history. The picture on the right is an amazing seafood gumbo (ish) dish from my favorite meal of the trip! We went to this amazing New Orleans style restaurant on the river’s edge in Colombia, TN with JoJo (step-grandma). It was one of the best meals I have had in recent history!

This was from our flight home from Nashville, smack dab in the middle of a lightning storm/tornado! It was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced on an airplane. Pictures don’t do it justice, but when the lightning flashed, the whole sky went white like in the picture on the right even though it was in the middle of the night!

bigbear

Picture of our cruise ship (same one I went on for spring break a few years ago) and a few pictures from Big Bear with Shannon and Nick!

For the past three weeks, I have called San Luis Obispo my home. I knew it would be a great place to visit, but it was even better than I expected! Now I understand why people vacation here. Most of my time was spent helping start a new chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta and meeting hundreds of people on Cal Poly’s campus, but the seven of us also got to do some exploring in our free time. We ate incredible food, visited Pismo and Avila beaches, had a bonfire on the beach, visited the famous Madonna Inn, hiked to the “Serenity Swing” behind campus, went to the farmer’s market, and explored downtown SLO. We hosted many successful events, raised money through our Healthy Living Campaign on campus for the local JDRF chapter, recruited 125 inspiring women and have left a mark at Cal Poly. Here are some pictures from the past few weeks:

Extension Team and Pismo Beach

Branded water bottles we gave away on campus and some pictures from our bonfire event. We planned it last minute as a request from some of the students and 50 people showed up! I loved that they let you drive your car right up on the sand- so fun!

We hosted an event where potential members could paint canvases- these were some of my favorites!

bidday

Bid Day!!! We are so excited to welcome this incredible group of founding members into Alpha Gam :).

alumks

An alumnae get-together last weekend in SLO!

pano

hike3

Some pictures from our sunrise hike! It was absolutely breathtaking. Apparently, the Cal Poly swim team recently brought up the trampoline, which has been a huge hit on campus! I’m so glad we went when it was there- probably my favorite thing we did while in SLO. Clearly I went a little crazy on the trampoline…

Phew! That was a lot to catch up on. Now I’m headed to bed before waking up for a 6 a.m. flight to New Jersey. Time to start all over again to recruit another new chapter at Rutgers University. Until next time! Thanks for reading :).

November Update

I realized that the past month has FLOWN by and I haven’t had a chance to post an update! The month of November has been pretty packed for me- I spent time at USC and UCLA, saw both fake and real snow within a week, went to Disneyland (again), was reunited with the LC Team in Indy, spent Thanksgiving with family and have now ended up in Arizona. Here are some pictures of my recent adventures:

For some reason, I thought it was a completely normal idea to go to Disneyland and the USC Homecoming football game all in one day… I was exhausted, but I had a blast! Sara, a member from our chapter at ASU happened to be at USC for the weekend, and while I was giving her a tour of the Alpha Gam house, I found out she and her brother were going to Disneyland the next day. Ironically, I was supposed to go meet my cousins that day anyways, but didn’t have a ride there and was going to the USC game, so I decided not to go. Sara and her brother happened to be going to Disneyland before heading back for the game that night, so at around midnight the night before, I decided to tag along with them! It ended up working out great because they were both meeting a friend who got them into the park and I met up with my cousins who got me in. I also got to meet up with a few Alpha Gams from SDSU who I spent a lot of time with last year and happened to be at Disneyland too :).

After a fun day enjoying the Christmas decorations at Disney and rushing back to L.A., I met up with Mike, one of my consultant friends, and we headed to the game with our student section tickets. It was a ton of fun and I am glad USC won. However, I do have to share an update on my quest to decide on whether USC or UCLA has the better student section…. and I have to say, my experience at the UCLA/BYU game was far superior. Not a single student sits down because they are all going crazy the whole time! Maybe I just got to the USC game too late and wasn’t around the die-hard fans. I’m sure I’ll give them another chance sometime :). For now, I am still indifferent towards college football (though my mom will tell you I am a USC fan). It’s always fun pretending to be a student at their games though!

After my visit with Delta Alpha Chapter at USC, I headed to UCLA for another week and a half. While I was there, they hosted their Diabetes Awareness Month campaign, which encouraged healthy living and education. This is a picture of their display board they used while tabling and collecting healthy living pledges from students on campus. They also hosted a free Zumba class at the house for anyone to attend, which was a huge success! Members from other Panhellenic sororities came and even said they wanted to come do Zumba at our house in the future. Overall, their effort to showcase our philanthropic focus, diabetes education and awareness, was a great success. While at UCLA, I also met up with a few fraternity consultants, which is always fun. I met up with one consultant from New York who had never been to California, or west of Michigan for that matter! I love getting to know people who come from completely different backgrounds than me, and I am so grateful that this job has allowed me to meet so many different types of people.

On a free day at UCLA, my good friend and former LC, Shannon, came to visit! We went to The Grove for the Christmas tree lighting, which included a huge concert with performances by Seth MacFarlane, Meghan Trainor and Katherine McPhee. It was worth the wait and huge crowds to experience the spirit of Christmas with dancers, an orchestra, fireworks, fake snow, and a ton of awesome decorations. It was a great way to begin the holiday season :).

Each semester, the Leadership Consultant Team meets at IHQ for a quick debrief of the past four months on the road. It was great to be reunited with the LC team and see other staff members, as well as the first SNOWFALL! Just the week before, I was in L.A. enjoying the fake snow, and the day after we got to Indianapolis, a snowstorm hit. As you can see in the picture above, we definitely got a few inches of snow. Running outside the office and enjoying the snow is definitely one of my favorite memories! I had a nonstop smile on my face and couldn’t help but look out the window the whole day- it was awesome.

While we were at Debrief, we attended various meetings with other staff members, had our performance reviews, completed miscellaneous project work (including working as elves in the stock room for the Alpha Gam Boutique!) and attended the staff-wide training. Erin Fischer, a well-known speaker and facilitator, hosted a program on resiliency for our staff of about 50 people, which was very beneficial. We also had a huge pre-Thanksgiving potluck, at which I completely stuffed my face. I also loved getting to catch up with Sam and Alex, two LCs from last year who I have become close with. They put together a mean cheese platter :).

After Indianapolis, I got to go home to Irvine for Thanksgiving weekend and see a ton of my family. As the traditional divorced/blended family goes, we had two Thanksgivings in one day. With my dad’s side, we got to see my grandma Ruth and aunt Peri, who live in L.A., and on my mom’s side, our cousins, aunt, uncle and grandparents came down from Northern California for the weekend. We played tennis, relaxed at the house, ate a ton of food and played Boggle together, which is always intense with our family. Shannon also hosted a fun dinner party at her house in Orange County and I got to meet some of her friends from home. I may even get to spend New Years with their group in Big Bear! After a fun weekend at home, I flew to Arizona for a six-day visit at ASU to help Delta Xi Chapter conduct officer transitions. Though it’s a little chilly here (50s/60s), I am lucky I’m not in the snow like many of the other LCs! I always love coming back to ASU and have worked with this chapter for the past year and a half, so it is great to see all of the progress they have made each time I visit. I am meeting with all of the outgoing and incoming officers this week to make sure each officer is properly trained and ready to go when their terms start in January.

0ucla1

Did you know that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is Giving Tuesday? After spending an excessive amount of money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is important to me to give back to a cause that resonates with me on Giving Tuesday. The Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation supports women’s leadership, education and philanthropy through awarding scholarships and grants for various programs. Many grants are awarded to individuals and organizations connected to diabetes education, research, summer camps for kids with diabetes, and the care and treatment of diabetes patients. Some of the Foundation’s other programs include: scholastic achievement awards, undergraduate scholarships, continuing education grants, leadership conference scholarships, grants to the Fraternity for educational, charitable and leadership work, disaster relief grants, and much more. When I was in college, I received a scholarship to attend UIFI, a Greek Leadership Conference in Indiana, which was a life-changing experience. If it weren’t for receiving that scholarship, I would not have taken on the leadership roles I did in college and definitely wouldn’t have ended up in this job. The Foundation also funds part of the LC program, so I am eternally grateful! If you want to learn more about the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation or would like to donate to our cause, feel free to check out their website at: http://alphagammadelta.org/agdfoundation.

Bonus! Here is a picture of the article I wrote for the Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly Magazine on financial planning. The Quarterly is distributed to all collegiate and alumnae members of Alpha Gamma Delta, so it is a huge honor to be published! I have a more comprehensive version I can send along if you are interested in reading more :).

0thx2

I have a busy month ahead of me after this visit, but I will try to post another update soon! I will be working from home for two weeks in December before going to Nashville for a few days with my family. I come back for Christmas Eve and am leaving on Christmas Day for a cruise to Mexico with my friend Lauren, and her family, which will be super fun! New Years plans are still up in the air, but I will head back out on the road at the beginning of January. I don’t have my schedule yet, but I am excited for my last semester in this adventure! Thanks for reading :).

A Few Days Off/Vancouver Adventure!

Trying to keep up with this blog has been so challenging for me! I forgot how much I despise writing and am now reminded why I was a science geek in college :). But I promised myself I would stick with it so I could look back on the great memories I have been making on my travels and keep friends and family updated- I know I’ll be glad I did. I wanted to give a quick update on the past few weeks! I had my vacation time for the semester two weeks ago, which I split between my grandparents house in northern California and Irvine. I spent the past week visiting our Delta Zeta Chapter at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, which was a blast. Now, I’m back in L.A. visiting our chapter at USC before heading to UCLA on Tuesday. Here is what I’ve been up to:

gg        gpa

I had a very short, but wonderful visit with my grandparents! I hadn’t seen them since June and hadn’t been to their house in Morgan Hill for (what it feels like) years. My grandma and I got lunch and massages together before getting dinner with my grandpa. The next day, we went to our favorite Gizdich Ranch to eat fresh apple pie on our way to Carmel. Usually, we go berry picking there in the summer and it’s one of our fun traditions to see all of the farms in Watsonville over the hill. Fun fact: you can get five avocados for $1 there! Mind-blowing.

gpa2     gma

apples

Here are some pictures from our trip to Carmel and Monterey! Shockingly, the weather was great and the water looked amazing for the end of October. My grandma was in her element, as you can see in the picture below :). Few things beat running into the ocean on a sunny, fall day and breathing in the crisp, beachy air. We also drove the 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and stopped at a lookout with a famous tree growing out of the rocks (picture below), saw where my aunt and uncle got married, and visited the retreat center where our huge family reunion was ~25 years ago. My GGMom (Great grandma) used to live in Monterey and the whole area just reminds me of her. We also had a wonderful lunch with a view at Schooner’s at the Plaza Hotel in Monterey, where we used to go with GG Mom. We all miss her a lot! I loved hearing all of the stories from memories my grandparents and family members have shared in the Carmel area.

   beach    beach2

17mile

Here is my grandma’s masterpiece she has been working on for months! She has replaced their entire front yard with drought-resistant plants and a dry creek made of rocks. She’s told me a lot about it over the past few months over the phone, but it was great to see it in person! She isn’t done yet, but there has been a ton of progress from the old lawn and ivy they used to have. She also has battled a yellow jacket hive and is convinced the young warrior bees are out to get her…I hope they stay away from her. It’s crazy to think that my grandma has done all of this by herself, including transporting and placing hundreds of rocks! You go, grandma!

yard

After a quick two day visit with my grandparents, I flew to Orange County, where my cousin, Kayla, picked me up from the airport so we could head straight to Disneyland! She is in the Disney College Program and gets free guest passes for lucky cousins like me :). We had a fun afternoon and got to see all of the Halloween decorations and people dressed up for the Halloween party that night. Some of the rides were changed too, like the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain. You can see my terrified reaction from the pitch black “Ghost Galaxy” version of Space Mountain in the front row in the picture below. My favorite part of the day was by far the World of Color water show at California Adventure. Somehow, I had never seen it before and now I understand the hype that Kayla had tried to explain to me- it was incredible! Clips from Disney films and Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse, who narrated the show, were projected onto the water screens. We got fast passes and still waited an hour to get good seats for the show, but it was SO worth it! If I was that blown away by the show, I can only imagine how little kids felt who were on their parents’ shoulders. Here are some pictures:

frozen     dland4

Tried to sneak a picture from an adorable family dressed up as characters from Frozen! The mom was Elsa, the dad was Sven, the young daughter (can’t see her) was Anna and the toddler was Olaf. So precious!

dland3     dland

Main Street and the Haunted Mansion looked awesome!

dland2   dland6

dland5

I spent three days at home, which mostly consisted of spending time with family, going to the Optometrist and catching up with my former boss, and going to the beach and shopping with Shannon (my good friend and LC from last year who lives in Orange County). It was good to spend a few days at home and change out my clothes before heading to much colder Vancouver!

I just spent a week visiting our chapter at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and had a blast. I met with all of the officers to discuss what is going well, areas of improvement, goals for the rest of the year and how they are going to prepare the next officers after elections. I also did a presentation in front of the chapter at their meeting, which was well-received. Overall, it was a fun, productive Leadership Development visit and I enjoyed getting to know all of our members at UBC. Outside of meetings and other work, I got a chance to try some of Vancouver’s amazing food. There are sushi restaurants on every corner, lots of neighborhoods to explore, and everything was very accessible by their bus system. Some of my favorites were gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup at Burgoo, funky sushi at The Eatery, and breakfast at Jethros, which included Nutella french toast (yum!). A few of the members gave me a tour of the beautiful (and huge) UBC campus and I also got to go to a UBC basketball game one night. During meals with members, I had a lot of interesting conversations and learned a LOT about Canada. I feel like I know a ton of random facts about Canada now- I can name all of the professional sports teams, how their healthcare system works, the different provinces and universities, a bit of history, and a few Canadian phrases (I now know the difference between a looney and a tooney!).

If you know me, you know how much I had rain and wind because I was born to be in the sun 100% of the time. Shockingly, I actually enjoyed the weather in Vancouver and decided it’s all about having the right clothing. I’m so glad I was able to go home to get some boots, an umbrella and my coat! It only really rained twice, but it was cold and wet the entire time. I actually expected it to be colder though, as it was in the 40s and 50s almost the entire week. Apparently, Vancouver rarely gets below 0 (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and they claim to have the best weather in Canada. All I know is I am determined to come back in the summer to visit Whistler, go bungee jumping, white water rafting, hiking and check out all Vancouver has to offer when it’s not raining. I will definitely be back at some point!

ubc8     ubc12

I love seeing leaves change colors, especially when they are Alpha Gam colors :). I also had to get a picture in front of the UBC sign, like I try to do at every campus I visit.

ubc    ubc1

ubc2    ubc4

   ubc3     ubc6

ubc7    ubc9

“The Nest” (a.k.a. the student union building) is brand new and was so cool! I actually worked at a computer station for an afternoon one day and loved seeing all of the students in their element. I also liked watching all of the water planes take off- reminded me of the movie “The Proposal”!

ubc10    ubc11

Downtown Vancouver is incredible! It was modern, full of nature, not as cramped as San Francisco, and right on the water. I absolutely loved it, especially driving through Stanley Park, which is actually larger than Central Park and definitely the most famous urban park in Canada.

ubc15    ubc14    

I was actually supposed to go on a Halloween helicopter ride (in costume of course) with my friend Lisa, who I met in Croatia this summer. She lives in Vancouver and knows a pilot, so we were super excited to go on a helicopter ride to a glacier and get a nice discount of course :). Unfortunately, we got rained out, but I decided to rock my “basic” cat costume anyways. I got lunch with Lisa and a few of the Alpha Gams there and then went to the Vancouver Aquarium. It ended up being a great day anyways and I loved the aquarium! Here are some more pictures:

aquarium2    aquarium3

The jellyfish and sea otters were my favorite!

aquarium4   aquarium5

aquarium    ubc13

On my last day there, I went to Flyover Canada, which is similar to California Adventure’s “Soarin’ Over California”, but over Canada. It was awesome and I felt like I got to go on an almost helicopter ride over the whole country :).

Who knows… after this visit, maybe I’ll end up moving to Canada! I am still trying to explore my options for after my contract is up in May. I know I’ll be going to San Francisco to visit my friends and go to Alexis and Bridget’s law school and grad school graduations, as well as doing a trip throughout Southeast Asia. After that, I’m not sure but I’m starting to put out my feelers and talk to a few professional connections about possible avenues to go down. I’m excited to consider all of the opportunities out there! That’s all for now :). Thanks for reading!

UCLA Update/Travel Thoughts

Me again! Just wanted to post an update from the past few weeks at UCLA, as well as share some recent thoughts I’ve had about traveling/my nomadic life. I am back at USC now until Thursday, when I head back to UCLA. Here are some photos of what I have been up to:

I was finally able to check out the UCLA campus! Though it is very hilly, it’s gorgeous. I also took some photos of the chapter at the famous Bruin Bear during their Polish Week :).

FullSizeRender (30)    1uclacampus

1bruinbear

The Sisterhood Coordinator surprised the chapter with a bounce house to take a break from recruitment training! I also surprised the USC chapter by going to their “Mac n’ Cheese with AGDs” philanthropy event one night :). Some of the UCLA members came too and it was great to see them all interacting. Big shoutout to Delta Alpha Chapter for letting us borrow some of the decorations for House Tours for UCLA recruitment. Perks of being in the same city!

1polishweek    1macncheese

Bucket List- check! I got to go to the UCLA vs. BYU football game a few weeks ago and even sat in the student section. It was a crazy game and it was really fun to pretend like I’m a student ;). I’m still on the quest to figure out if I was meant to be a Bruin or Trojan fan… not to worry though, I am headed to a USC football game in a few weeks!

FullSizeRender    IMG_7218

1uclagame

On a free afternoon, I went to the Getty Museum with one of my consultant friends, Mike, which was incredible! We went on an architecture tour of the property and I learned so much about how and why the buildings were designed. My favorite part about the Getty was seeing some incredible European paintings from the 18th century, especially a couple of paintings of Venice. I was just there a few months ago and I was able to see spots on the Grand Canal that I stood on in a painting from 1713– now THAT is a piece of history. Makes me miss Italy! The Getty also has amazing views from downtown all the way to the ocean, although the smog was so bad the day we went, we couldn’t even see the Pacific. The joke of the day came from our tour guide saying we couldn’t see the ocean because it was an “overcast” day. There wasn’t even a cloud in the sky! We definitely laughed out loud (#LAproblems). If you ever get a chance to go to the Getty Museum, do it! Parking is $15 but admission is free. Definitely a must-see in L.A. 🙂

FullSizeRender

getty1    gett2

getty3    getty5

1getty    1getty3

UCLA was my very last recruitment visit of the semester! This is Delta Epsilon’s decorated courtyard for Open House round and some of the decorations around the house :).

1fr   1fr1

1fr2   1fr3

Preference Round! My favorite is the last photo, where the Chapter President laid on the floor in relief after it was all over :).

1fr4    1pref

1pref2   1pref3

1pref4

Here are a few Bid Day pictures, including ones of the entire chapter and Delta Epsilon’s new member class (last photo). They extended bids to 67 women and I am so proud of their accomplishments already! They have been great hosts so far and I am really looking forward to getting to know the women at UCLA even better this year. My favorite part of Bid Day was the delicious food truck and watching the crazy dance party in the courtyard- they all had a blast.

1bidday   1bidday2

1bidday3    1bidday4

1bidday5   1bidday6

1bidday7    1bidday8

On a completely unrelated note..

I recently joined a Facebook group called “Girls Who Travel”, which is a group of over 10,000 women from all over the world who love traveling. It’s a unique community to be a part of and I have loved seeing all of the inspiring posts, pictures and conversations happening on this group, not to mention potential connections for the future. This group has gotten me thinking a lot lately about the traveling lifestyle I live. I have lived out of a suitcase for the past year and a half and still have another nine months to go. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job- it fulfills me, I meed incredible people, serve my organization, make an impact in many different areas and get to see lots of new places. As I have had time some to reflect, I’ve been thinking about the difference between my travel for work/day-to-day life versus when I travel for pleasure on my off-time. Some of my favorite memories while traveling abroad have been those crazy, spontaneous trips or funny stories that came along the way. When I have traveled in my free time, whether it be in Europe or even stateside, I have a much more spontaneous, adventurous attitude. This got me thinking…why don’t I try to live that way every day? I have been challenging myself recently to live with that same attitude and find something exciting about every single day. I can think of a handful of examples lately of things I have done that I wouldn’t have a few years ago and it has shown me how much I have grown in the past year and a half. It is so easy to get stuck into a routine, even when traveling full time (I can only imagine how things would be if I lived in one place), and really, life is so much more fun if we live as though each moment is an adventure. I think this new attitude will help me get through the monotony of being in L.A. so often this year, while allowing me to challenge myself to be more spontaneous (though I think I am already pretty adventurous..). Just food for thought! Here is one of my recent stories…

A friend I met in Croatia who is from Australia recently posted on Facebook that she had a long layover at LAX and had never been to the U.S., so wanted advice for what she could do. I could have made many excuses as to why I couldn’t make the effort to see her: it was the first day of Formal Recruitment at UCLA, I don’t have a car, I don’t know where we could go in a short amount of time, I don’t know her very well, etc. But I decided to tell Georgia I would pick her up and show her around the area. I woke up early, rented a car (thanks for the Enterprise discount, Erica!), picked Georgia up from the airport and drove to Santa Monica, where we rented bikes and checked out both Santa Monica and Venice Beach. She even got interviewed for the news on the street about the new iPhone (picture below), so maybe this will be her shot at stardom in the U.S.! Though it was short-lived, it was a lot of fun and I will always have the memory of the time I showed someone the U.S. for the first time. The funniest part for me was that she couldn’t wrap her mind around driving on the opposite side of the road or sitting on the other side of the car. It’s stories like those that we miss out on if we make excuses or aren’t willing to go the extra mile for others. I know that good karma will come back to me while I am traveling one day :). Staying in touch with people I meet while traveling is important to me and I know having connections all over the world will pay off! #memories

georgia2     georgia1

georgia3

Yesterday, I went to an event in Beverly Hills with my friend Daniella called Fluffball, a benefit for The Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, an animal rescue organization dedicated to helping animals who are victims of extreme abuse. I had no idea what the event was, didn’t have anything to wear (my suitcase is about 90% business attire clothes), am not particularly fond of animals, and didn’t have a car to get there. I Ubered to Daniella’s apartment downtown and we ended up having a blast! The event was hosted by the organization’s founder, Emmanuelle Vaugier, who has starred in CSI: NY, Two and a Half Men, Saw, and a few others. We also met “Becky” from the TV show Full House and spotted a couple of other actors/actresses. Not to mention several small dogs drinking water out of wine glasses held by their owners…only in L.A.! Daniella and I went out with some people we met at the event afterwards spontaneously, because…why not? Nothing like meeting new people and seeing new places to make your day :).

fuff    fluff

That’s all for now! I head back to UCLA on Thursday and will be there until October 20, then I’m off to visit my grandparents in San Jose to start off my vacation for the semester :). Can’t wait!

USC, ASU and UCLA!

Just wanted to post an update from the past month! Formal Recruitment season is all kinds of madness but in the best way. After my visits in Alabama, I returned to USC for recruitment training. So much was packed into three weeks that I don’t even know where to begin! You can probably see through the pictures below better than I can explain :).

Between Polish Week (recruitment training), officer meetings and a crazy Formal Recruitment, I managed to squeeze in a few visits with friends and family. Some highlights were going to lunch with my younger brother, Brian, for his 18th birthday right before he left for college at Northern Arizona University and meeting up with my stepsister, Hannah, when she was in the area. My Alpha Gam “little”, Carly, came down during recruitment to get lunch one day and I loved catching up with her! Hopefully I’ll get to see a lot more of her this year since she’s taking a few classes at UCLA :). I also met a friend in Croatia this summer from Australia who happened to be traveling through L.A. and messaged me to see if I was in town. I convinced him and his friends to come to USC to see Greek Row and tour the Alpha Gam house, which was hilarious. Four loud Australian and British guys touring a sorority house led to some confusion, but a great story! Needless to say, they were all perplexed and amazed by the Greek scene at USC and it was pretty funny that we met up again on the other side of the world a few months after we met on an island!

Here are some pictures from my time at USC:

fr1     fr2

Round 1 of Formal Recruitment at Delta Alpha Chapter and some photos of their bedrooms during House Tours!

fr3    fr4

USC-themed room and a cute photo board!

fr5     fr6

Beach theme and Breakfast at Tiffany’s rooms!

fr7     fr8

Fashion Week room!

fr9     fr10

Fashion week display and Beyonce room!

fr11     fr12

More of the Beyonce room and Beyonce cookies 🙂

fr13     fr14

President’s Room!

fr15     fr16

Study room

fr18

Setting up for Preference Round!

fr17   fr19

Some of Delta Alpha’s amazing alumnae and parents who we could not have done it without! My favorite is the Alpha Gamma Delta aprons proudly worn by the dads :).

bidday4    bidday7

Some of the members on Bid Day in front of the house and Kelley and me!

bidday2    bidday3

Hundreds of new members run down “The Row” on Bid Day to join their new homes! It was one of the craziest things I have ever seen! Complete with fraternity men streaking, guys dressed as matadors in white and red with Go-Pros filming the new sorority women running down the street, and lots of honking, yelling and music. Insanity!

bidday1   bidday6

On Bid Day, Delta Alpha had a cotton candy machine, a snow cone station, candy bar, lots of food, a photo booth, bounce house, and a bunch more! They all had a blast :). Here are some excited new members!

bidday5

#memories

Up next: Delta Xi Chapter at Arizona State University! I made my third visit to one of my favorite campuses for their Formal Recruitment again and it was a blast! The chapter made HUGE improvements in recruitment this past year and it was incredible to be a part of. Check out some of the photos of their recruiting space :

fr2    fr4

Their gold and white theme looked amazing!

fr5    fr6

Professionally-done photos make a huge difference!

fr7     fr1

Delta Xi’s President and VPR, Ari and Sadye, in front of their 3-D model of the Alpha Gamma Delta crest!

fr8    fr9

fr10     fr11

Delta Xi’s Recruitment Advisor, Sam, and me during Preference Round!

fr12

Panorama of their Preference space!

fr13   fr14

Delta Xi seniors and the chapter’s awesome bid cards!

fr15   fr16

Delta Xi Chapter at ASU welcomed 94 new members on Bid Day! Another senior picture on the right :).

fr17

They took double decker buses to a roller skating rink on Bid Day- lots of fun!

I flew back to L.A. last Wednesday and have been at UCLA helping our Delta Epsilon Chapter during their two weeks of recruitment training. This is my last recruitment visit of the season! It’s been a crazy two months for sure. I will be splitting my time this semester between UCLA and USC with one visit to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (woooo Canada!) in October. Though I will miss traveling, there are definitely worse places I could be! I am loving Westwood so far and how close I am to so many great shops and restaurants. I can walk to Target, Trader Joe’s, CVS, Ralph’s, and a ton of cute places in downtown Westwood, which is so convenient. I still have a lot to learn about UCLA (could not be any different than USC for being in the same city!) and I am looking forward to building relationships with the women here this year :).

Luckily, I have friends and family in the area, so I will never be far away from a friendly face! My stepbrother, Hyder, is a senior at UCLA (we plan to meet up soon) and I have been hanging out with my friend from college, Daniella, a lot lately. It’s been a blast! Karmen, another staff member at IHQ, flew into LAX last week and I was able to grab lunch with her to catch up. She lives in Iowa and hadn’t been to California before, so I wish I could have shown her around more! Shoutout to Karmen for being awesome :). I also went to dinner on Friday with Daniella in West Hollywood and actually sat next to Christina Aguilera! What are the odds? Delta Epsilon had the weekend off from recruitment training, so I took it upon myself to go to Disneyland while I could! My cousin, Kayla, is in the Disney College Program and has plenty of guest passes, so I went with Daniella and my other cousin, Mackenzie, down to Disneyland on Saturday. Nothing like a free trip to Disneyland to make your weekend :). Here are some pictures from UCLA so far and Disneyland:

ucla1      ucla2

Somehow, I haven’t taken any pictures of the Alpha Gam house at UCLA yet, but here is a picture of the Alpha Delta Pi house! On the right are the amazing donuts Daniella and I had at a trendy restaurant in WeHo this weekend. They even came with a mini milkshake!

 disney2  disney3

Cars Land and Paradise Pier at California Adventure

 disney5   disney6

disney7       disney8

disney9   disney10

Kayla in her natural habitat at the “Build Your Own Lightsaber” Station in Tomorrowland 😉

disney11

Such a fun day! I fulfilled my dream of getting a Dole pineapple whip and also go to see all of the Halloween decorations, which just got put up. I am going to try and go back during my vacation in October so I can watch the shows at night with Kayla (her favorite!).

Phew! That was a lot to catch up on. I will post another update after recruitment is over at UCLA in a few weeks. Thanks for reading!