I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Follow me as I try to balance "real life" with exploring the world, all while trying to conquer a wickedly ironic case of homesickness.


Mahalo, Maui

I always thought the word
was overused to describe the Hawaiian Islands, but now I understand why. It's such a perfect balance of weather, natural beauty, wonderful people, fascinating culture and mindblowing activities. This was simultaneously one of the most relaxing holidays I've ever had as well as possibly the most stressful holiday I've ever had. I definitely got my wish to go somewhere warm and experience a level of much needed peace. However, I also faced many fears and pushed myself past many things I used to view as limitations. It was overall an incredible experience!

The Hyatt Regency Maui on the south end of Ka'anapali was spectacular. The flawlessly landscaped grounds did much to surround you with the island splendour. There are parrots, penguins, koi, hammocks, oceanfront massages, delicious food, plumeria and palm trees galore. And their pool area has been called the best on the entire island, with a huge main pool, a separate kid's play area, a rope bridge, a hot tub, a waterslide and a grotto bar. The food was superb, and the eating options are plentiful and add to the experience. There is even a mini shopping area with a Macy's. The Hyatt Regency is not by any means cheap, but we found it to be worth every penny.

We hired Maui Magic for our catarmaran snorkel trip, and we loved them! You can tell they enjoy their job, even when torment/teasing Jenny about being uncomfortable with sea life. They even managed to get me, terrified of deep water, out snorkeling by myself above the reef for a good ten minutes. We saw fish, coral reef, sea turtles, the most recent lava flow on Maui and teeny Molokini. It was my favorite of the activities we did in Hawaii.

Another vendor we used was Goofy Foot Surf School in Lahaina. I'd never even touched a surf board before, but I'd always wanted to try. And even though I really don't have a future in surfing, they did keep their word that I would ride a wave. I actually rode part or all of four waves, and I was the one that had to take a break! Their photographer snagged some fun shots of all of us, and the instructor was very patient with a newbie like me. But be prepared for major physical exertion!

The final vendor we used as Skyline EcoAdventures ziplining above West Maui. Now that I've done it, I can say they run a decent operation. But they don't provide much info beforehand, and that uncertainty didn't help my massive anxiety. For that reason, I intend to write up a detailed tip specifically on that vendor in the near future to help others that have or may book with the company to know more of what to expect. All in all, ziplining was just crazy! I'm not one of those that got such a rush and don't plan to do it again, but I'm glad I accomplished it and have that incredible experience!

Other than that, I can highly recommend wandering down the Ka'anapali beachfront boardwalk, shopping at Whaler's Village, open air markets and art fairs under the banyan tree in Lahaina and watching the sunrise over Maalea Harbor. There is so much of Maui we didn't have the time to see, I can only imagine Wailea, Haleakala and the road to Hana. And that's not even touching the other islands! Maybe next time.

Many people have asked me, "Which do you like better: Maui or London?" First of all, they're not even remotely in the same category; comparison is a little unfair. But to answer the question bluntly, I continue to feel like belong in London, city girl that I am at heart. But I overwhelmingly appreciate Hawaii for what it offers: stars twinkling above pink sunsets, the constant sound of ocean waves, the smell of plumeria trees, the call of the tropical birds, eating breakfast next to a waterfall, the warm breezes at night, the kindness of the people, the gentle slack-key guitar music everywhere... Aloha and mahalo, Maui. What an amazing week!


A thankless job

I've often watched flight attendants in wonderment at how stressful their job must be. I never traveled much when it was a coveted career to have; all my travels have been after the 9/11 downfall of airline quality. From my perspective, flight attendants are glorified babysitters or referrees constantly deflecting a mass riot in the most stressful circumstances possible. And all at 35,000 feet in the air. I could never, ever do what they do for a living. Not ever.

So I found this article to be very fascinating peek into just that. My heart goes out to them; they're stuck between their companies, pinching every penny possible, and their customers, being pinched.

In fact, I think I'll tip my attendant on my flight this week...


Ride the Seattle Ducks

Okay, confession: we native Seattlites make fun of these things. I mean, look at 'em!

However, a friend recently admitted her daughters have always wanted to ride one. And I figure it fits quite well into my Tourist In My Own City endeavour. So, I think I'm actually gonna ride The Duck.

And really, I might as well make a day of it, 'cuz I've never actually done The Underground Tour, either (though I have heard the rumours about the smell). But what a great opportunity to practice photography, as well!


No passport?!

Somehow, and I'm not sure how this happened, I've forgotten how to travel domestically. Sounds pretentious, right? I agree! Which is why I'm totally befuddled at my own confusion.

We fly to Hawaii in a little less than a week, and I've just started that pre-packing assessment. (Translation: just how bad is the mess I shoved into my suitcase and out of my sight upon my return from my last trip?) And it has only recently occurred to me that this is the first domestic flight I've taken in six years. SIX YEARS! All my trips since have been either international or very local. Even the LAX layover we had 2 years ago was en route to Mexico, so we still had to go through customs.

Fast forward to today; I'm going through my normal list of pre-flight to-dos and I keep finding all kinds of things that simply don't apply. I'm downright confused that I don't have to bring my passport with me on this trip at all. There's no need to find country calling codes or order currency. I'm totally insecure to arrive at the airport any later than 3 hours prior to our flight. And I can't quite wrap my head around not having to acclimate to insane jet lag.

I've actually forgotten how to travel domestically.

I am excited, however, that Hawaii still has a very different culture, language and food to experience. It's kind of the best of both worlds, and that's pretty darn cool.


Flight 001 travel boutique

I wish I had an irrational amount of money to blow at Flight 001.

That's it. Back to your regular blogging.



Our November Vegas trip is my first experience booking with Travelocity, and so far I like 'em! We're flying with a local airline - Alaska Airlines - that has caused me issues in the past, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to test Travelocity's allegedly fabulous, keep-you-ever-aware customer service.

Alaska did not disappoint; they've already changed our flight. Let's not get me started on Alaska Airlines. The point is, Travelocity has kept me up to date and informed every step of the way. The direct vendors of all the extras we booked through Travelocity have also already contacted me directly and confirmed our reservations and pick-up times. I only booked a week ago, we don't leave for over a month, and I already have everything I could possibly need for my trip, including a map of all the Travelocity kiosks all over Vegas where someone can help me directly if I have a question or concern while I'm there. Impressive!

So at this point in the game, I'm a big Travelocity fan, and not just because I love the roaming gnome!

(Just don't tell the few friends I have that work for Expedia...)


6 months = nothing

Interested in an update on my London estate agent fiasco? Well, here ya go: NOTHING.

Yep, that's right. Robin Larkins of Real World Rental Co. based in Fulham still owes me £750. Not only has he not wired it back to me 6 months after it was due and promised to me, he has stopped answering his mobile, while the girl at the other end of the office line continues to play completely unaware.

To add insult to injury (and something I never thought would be negative for me), the dollar is gaining a teeny weeny bit of strength back against the pound. So if he were to miraculously and ethically wire my money today, the deposit into my account would be $1,326. That's opposed to the $1,582 I originally paid and would have received back if he had wired it when he promised, the time frame stated in my contract.

Though losing $250 is better than losing $1500.

Originally, I thought perhaps the company was struggling with the estate market declining as it is. I actually would have understood and been satisfied with some sort of trade or credit arrangement with them if that was the case. But I just received a note from an anonymous person that was about to book with Real World before she read my warning. So they're obviously still in business, and I still haven't received so much as a phone call.

I feel helpless. I can't threaten him or even question him if he won't answer the phone. I'm 4800 miles away, so I can't just pop into the office and throw a grand American fit. I've tried looking into Her Majesty's Court services to file a complaint, but I can't use them if I don't have a UK address. I certainly can't afford a solicitor, especially with the exchange rate. I've been scammed, and I'm really, really, really cheesed off about it.

Robin Larkins, I hope you find this post and feel totally horrible about what you've done, or not done in this case. $1500 is quite a bit of money for us; we don't just want it back, we need it back.


Parenting for Wanderlusters

Now this is parenting plan I can get behind! In fact, it's already on our we'll-probably-be-parents-within-the-next-decade list of priorities.

In fact, if there are any parents that have continued to travel - especially internationally - with their kids in tow, please, pleeeeeease share your stories, anecdotes, financial advice, anything! I'm so open to feedback, you can see right through me!

The Telectroscope

How did I miss this? It seems, several months ago, there were enormous telescopes next to both London's Tower Bridge and NYC's Brooklyn Bridge, designed specifically so people on both sides can see and silently communicate with each other. Googling "telectrosope" will take you to many humourous stories of New Yorkers and Londoners (and most likely a whole lotta geeky tourists like myself) engaging each other nearly 4000 miles apart. I also think there's something really cool about giving people this new perspective of others, as well.

And seeing that our early 2009 travel list includes both NYC and a return to London, I wish it would have remained for another run. I really would have liked to mess about with that. Oh well...


Airline caste systems

When airlines started announcing their baggage fees, I wasn't surprised and took it in stride. These are tough times and the travel industry is struggling. I was all ready to do my part to band together, keep companies afloat, rah rah rah sis boom bah and all that.

Until I read page 36 of the September '08 issue of Travel and Leisure. It seems United (one of the first to initiate the above mentioned fee) is now partnering with Westin Hotels to provide oversize down blankets and hypoallergenic pillows.

Oh, that's nice, you think. They seem to be trying to make our experience a little bit easier, maybe a thank you for continuing to fly despite the fees, maybe trying to make our extra money seem worth it. Wait, what's this? To business and first class flyers only?

Yes, that's right. The elite group of people clearly not flying on a restrictive budget that are exempt from the additional fees are being pampered even further while economy class only continues to worsen in relation.

United Airlines, I work hard for every penny I earn. I forego many luxuries in order to get on your aircraft and endure 10+ hours of economy-class struggles in order to fly to other destinations. I'd weep with joy to fly in any class where I can actually move my legs while seated, but I simply can't afford it. So while you pamper the rich, this obviously expendible economy flyer will be taking her hard-earned cash somewhere else. And that goes for any other airline that does the same.

Visions series

In my humble opinion, some of the best armchair traveling DVDs are the Visions Series. Hour after hour of high quality aerial footage of many different European countries.

Yes, the accompanying music isn't the best I've ever heard, and sometimes the accent of the narrator comes into question. But I don't watch these films for those things.

I watch to escape, to step into a country I don't have the time or money to visit properly at the time. I watch to remember my holidays and to get ideas for future trips.

These DVDs have a sedative, calming effect, as well. I love to keep them playing in the background whenever I'm cooking or cleaning. They're perfect for Wanderlust sufferers everywhere! (If you want to call it "suffering", that is...)
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