Greetings my friends from around this incredible world! I hope everyone is spending time with their loved ones during the holidays. Whether traveling with them or spending quality time at home. :) With the holidays finally here, it got me thinking...and I started to look back at the times when I traveled during the holidays.
There have been a few times when I traveled during a holiday, whether around Christmas time or during a countries own holiday at another time of the year. I've had some pretty interesting experiences! But I also learned what it's like to celebrate in another place other than my home.
I celebrated Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Christmas in Panama City, Panama, and New Years in Montezuma, Costa Rica and Tikal, Guatemala. Here are my thoughts for traveling during these times of the year in these countries just mentioned!
Carnival - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Oh Rio! What to say about you? :) If there is only one party you can attend your whole life, it just has to be Carnival in Brazil. The colors are so vibrant! The festivities are EVERYWHERE....literally. During the day, there are beach parties but at night is where the action is at.
Just drop by any street party. You are welcome anywhere! It's not about doing all those 'bad' things you think of when going to a party at all. The vibe there was living a good life, being surrounded by friends, and dancing the night away! My kind of party. Though I've settled down a lot since then! Never really was a party kind of girl. I prefer adventure!
Besides all the fun street parties going on, you also can attend the Samba Parade at the Sambadome, along with thousands enjoying the festive floats, costumes, and excitement all around!
You can find tickets online to attend one of the Samba Parades held by all the Samba schools OR you can take a chance and dare I say it...purchase a ticket on the Black Market? Probably the scariest thing we did on that trip! Or maybe it isn't on the Black Market? I'll never know!
The tickets online go for around $80-100 or more and we were not going to pay that. We ended up buying tickets from someone in front of the Sambadome. I believe we ended up paying $15. SCORE! The festivities go on the whole night. We left around 4 am. Just make sure you are careful and grab a taxi! Do not wander around.
The low down?
It is NOT cheap to travel to Brazil at this time. Keep that in mind as you are planning your adventure. You'll need:
A Brazilian Visa (for those living in certain countries that require it for travel to Brazil)
Book your hostel or hotel room months in advance!*
Extra money/Another form of payment**
And other necessities you usually have for travel - Make sure sun block/sun tan lotion is on that list!
*If you DO NOT book your hotel or hostel in advance, be prepared to scramble OR pay way more money than anticipated. Hostel prices jump HIGH during this time. Let's say a typical hostel costs $15/night. During Carnival, it'll be $75+/night! If you don't book, you may be lucky with finding a room here or there but usually it's only for one person. If you are traveling with others, this means you may be separated. If you are not a planner, somewhat like myself, you don't have to plan this trip but just around Carnival, it is highly recommended you just plan this part of the trip so you don't have to worry about it then!
**Extra money/Form of payment if you do not book anything during Carnival. And to anticipate higher prices around that time. Taxi drivers will overcharge you. Trust me on this.
Bem vindo ao Brasil!
Christmas - Panama City, Panama
Oh how I loved Panama! I haven't been everywhere in this world yet but Panama is definitely on the list of places I would consider living or retiring in. ;) Just a beautiful country all around and I hope you'll put it on your list of places to travel to if you have yet to go there!
The sounds of gunshots...oops I meant FIREWORKS are heard every night --from days before Christmas and almost up to New Years! The first time I heard the loud fireworks, I won't lie, I was kind of scared!! :))
I found out about the importance of Christmas in Panama on my own. How?
Well, I was super excited to walk to the fish market the day before Christmas to pick up some seafood that I was allowed to cook in the kitchen at the hostel I was staying at. All the thoughts of what I was going to make on my mind. YUM! Well, when I finally made it to the fish market, everything was deserted. Not a fish in sight! Not even anybody there. My heart was crushed.
I started to wander around to find something else to do and it was then I realized that everything was closed! Christmas is extremely important in Panama. Not only was everything closed on Christmas, there were no stores open the day before as well. Those days were for sightseeing and getting a feel of Casco Viejo, which I appreciated very much.
And what I appreciated even more was that they did not cater to us travelers just because we were there at that time. If they had, that would have meant some people were not spending time with their families.
The next day, everything was lively again and my new friends and I enjoyed walking along the streets, making bargains with the sellers, and eating delicious street food!
The low down?
Christmas is important to the Central American countries. Just plan ahead. Make sure you have enough food, water, and a place to stay and you'll be just fine. :) Whether you are a solo traveler or with a partner or group, take that time to appreciate your surroundings and the area you are staying in.
As for finding a place to stay, I had no problems and the prices, to me, didn't seem to increase around this time. An all-around good experience.
Wait till you hear how I spent the day after Christmas before bargain hunting! That'll be my next post! :)
New Years Eve and Day - Puerto Viejo and Montezuma, Costa Rica
Spent the majority of New Years Eve at a black sand beach in Puerto Viejo. It was a calm, cloudy yet beautiful day and great way to end the year.
In the evening, there really wasn't anything too happening before the clock struck midnight! We learned that in Costa Rica, New Years Eve celebrations aren't a huge deal over there.
But what about New Years Day?
The first day of that year, we hopped on a bus from Puerto Viejo back to San Jose. From there, we took a taxi to another bus station and got on a bus that took us to Puntarenas, where we took the ferry to the Caribbean side, and hailed a 'taxi' or whatever it was (LONG STORY! I'LL FILL YOU ALL IN LATER!) to Montezuma, an hour away from the dock.
We had no reservations to any hostel and we figured that would be okay because it was the 1st and all the celebrations would be over. We. made. a. big. mistake.
You see, New Years Eve may not be a huge thing to celebrate there, but New Years Day IS! Every. single. hostel. was. booked. We had no place to stay and it was around 10:30 pm at night. We even tried to grab a hammock for the night and even they were all taken!
We found one more place that we surprisingly must have missed it on our search. We decided that if it was fully booked, we were going to miss out on Montezuma, and try for another beach town. We walked up to the manager, asked for an available room, and to our surprise, he said he had plenty open. We were excited! We weren't going to sleep on the street that night!
It didn't occur to us why he had so many available rooms while everyone was booked until after we got the keys and paid for the night...
The room was disgusting. Little bugs walking all over the walls, huge ants on the floor and door. Even the bed was just a huge piece of foam with a lot of loose 'white' pieces all over it. Most definitely the worst hostel I have EVER stayed at. Oh I wish I remembered the name of it to save you all! I'll have to do some research!
Long story short, we didn't get a good nights sleep and decided the next day to check out as soon as possible and if we didn't find a place to stay, we would just leave Montezuma with no exploring. Luckily, a room opened up at this nice little hotel and to my friends surprise, I agreed to it! It was not a hostel, but after that experience, even I recognize that it is an 'adventure vacation' that I was on and I should treat myself just once!
We spent time at the pool, went to the beach, and ziplined with a fun swimming treat in between the adventure! By the way, for the best ziplining, I highly recommend Costa Rica!
The low down?
While New Years Eve is not really a big celebration in Costa Rica, New Years Day IS! Or at least, gets booked up fast! If you plan on traveling around this time of year, I would highly consider booking in advance to make sure you at least have a place to stay that day! Trust me on this. You do not want to stay at a hostel like the one I stayed at in Montezuma. And don't worry, I will try my hardest to figure out what the hostel is called!
New Years Eve and New Years Day - Tikal, Guatemala
Before I get into details, I will say I left LAX on Christmas and arrived in Guatemala the day after that. The day after Christmas in Guatemala was exactly the same as in Panama. No need to worry about a place to stay around that time.
I left Antigua by bus on the 30th and arrived in Tikal the next day, the last day of the year. Spent the whole day exploring Tikal and the magnificent Mayan pyramids while waiting for our hotel room to be ready. Just incredible here. Let your mind wander as you are exploring these mind-blowing structures.
Since Tikal is considered mainly a 'touristy' spot, though you will find Guatemalans there looking at their countries history, you should book in advance. Especially because there are only three hotels total in the park. If you cannot book one of the three hotels, you will have to book a place outside of the park and make the trek early to get there if you plan on going for the whole day.
It's my opinion to just try to book a hotel in the park to save that money on taxis and just be able to not only take in the pyramids, but to even just wander around the jungle!
Of course since it is a touristy place, they did have a New Years dinner celebration at all three hotels. I'd say more about the experience but that was the night I got sick, which you can read more here: Sleep Deprivation While Traveling
The best part of spending New Years Day in Tikal?
An empty jungle of course! Better pictures and all to yourself while everyone else is sleeping! Though to do this, you do have to wake up super early. 4 am that is! But listening to the sounds of the jungle and watching the sunrise...PRICELESS! To keep the sunrise magical, I have not posted any pictures of it. :)
Forewarning: The first few pictures are somewhat blurry but it's to show you the change from 4 am to before the sunrise.
The low down?
I may not have spent the end of the year and beginning of the new year in an actual city of Guatemala but I spent it in the jungle and you still need to book in advance if you want a place to stay! Tikal was full of people throughout the day so I knew then that we would have not stayed at the park had we not booked in advance.
NOTE: There are NO drivers on New Years Day. We were so lucky that the van driver on the 31st offered to pick us up in Tikal and take us to Flores. If you do not have a driver on the 1st, you'll end up staying another day in Tikal or maybe you'll get lucky and find someone. Either way, it's Guatemala and Tikal and you'll love wherever you end up! Just depends on what plans you have and if you need to be anywhere or on a time crunch.
As for traveling anywhere outside of the jungle and rural areas, I can assume you should easily be able to find a place to stay.
I'd also like to add that Guatemala is beautiful, full of culture and like Panama, one of my favorite Central American countries. I also found the people there to be extremely friendly. This is one country you should put in your travel plans!
What are your experiences traveling during holidays?
I wish you all Safe Travels, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! :)
Lovers dancing to the beat of the drum. Ferry at Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
Hand in hand on Florida Street. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
My German friend Tina and her boyfriend taking in the gorgeous view of Tortuga Bay Beach. Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos.
Young love walking together. Panama City, Panama.
You can love your best friend too! Isabela Island, Galapagos.
Having fun with a big screen in the airport before departing. Benito Juárez International Airport. Mexico City, Mexico.
Soulmates taking a stroll. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
I don't know what's gotten into me lately but love has been on my mind more often than usual. And it's making me think twice about what I'm actually doing today and how it coincides with my travel plans coming up. Should I stay here and wait for love or if I leave and live abroad, will that ruin my chances for love?
I guess the more I think about it, the more it's starting to scare me. I've been ready for awhile now but I don't know if I'm making the right decisions. Of course I want to see the whole world and live abroad, but I think I want to do that with someone else! I don't want to be alone. And it doesn't help when you have a mom that is constantly telling you that you need to get married before your eggs shrivel over!! I'm definitely not old! I'm 28. Not old but at the age where it is time to somewhat start to figure things out.
It's not that I need someone to take on this journey because I have always been independent and tend to rely on myself more than anything but I keep thinking about all the memories I'll make that I won't have to share with someone special. I completely enjoy traveling by myself but is it time to bring someone in?
A few years back, I let someone in that I knew was going to hurt me bad (it's the ones you really like that make you vulnerable) and that's exactly what happened. I don't know if it had to do with me, but all I knew was that he was the first person I came across that came pretty similar to me --and that is rare! From travel to food to everything in between, I finally was happy to know that I would be understood in that way.
I've dated other guys, tried relationships out, making sure that they either want to travel or if they'll let me keep my traveling ways, but nothing comes close, they don't work out, and they don't last long. It's just not the same. I don't know how to describe how I've been feeling but I do know it's affecting my love life and what I want for my future.
I guess I've but nothing but time to figure out what direction I want to take...
Am I the only one that feels this way? What are your thoughts about love, life, and travel? I really would like to know what your opinions are!
My wonderful friend and SMC partner from a few months ago, Jenna over at Jenna in Abu Dhabi, nominated me for a Liebster Award!:) The Liebster Award is for up and coming bloggers. According to the rules and Jenna, I need to answer questions related to my blog and I get to nominate three up and coming blogs that I love to follow! :) I would have definitely nominated Jenna but someone got to her first.:) She is so kind and I love the friendship that we've built though we have never met and we lived thousands and thousands of miles apart! Check out her blog about living in the UAE!
What does blogging do for you? My blog is a way of expressing myself and about the way I love travel and how it has changed my life. It also allows me to to let others in and to be more understood. I feel like I've lived most of my life so far constantly looking at things differently and never really felt understood by those closest to me. The thoughts, actions, and I things I see daily in my hometown are completely opposite than what goes on in my head! And to live like this for a long time before finally figuring out what I want in life is the BEST feeling in the world.
I am allowed to express myself here and I finally have the opportunity to have people: family, friends, and new understand me. There really are no words to express this great feeling!
What blogger(s) feed your soul? I can't name just a few bloggers! I love delving into multiple blogs of all kinds! Each blog I follow teaches me something new each day. Everyone brings their own perspective into the blogging world and I appreciate everyone I follow!
I will say the first blog I did lay eyes on when I first started blogging many years ago with peaceloveandblueberries was Alex and Mina's blog: http://sending-postcards.com! They inspired me to stick to blogging and I enjoyed following them from dating life and traveling to engagement to running away and getting married here in Los Angeles and traveling the world for their honeymoon! All the things I dream about....someday soon. :) Check them out if you haven't yet! What is your favorite subject (category) to blog about? Travel AND Food! :) I enjoy posting anything from simple pictures, adventurous stories (ones that scared my own parents!), opinions on solo female traveling, and I love love love good food! If I can inspire anyone to try something new, explore this wonderful world more, or even just get hungry from looking a food pictures...now that is an amazing feeling!
What post of yours means the most to you and why?
Everything from getting hungry in South America: The best thing I ever ate in... - I am absolutely passionate about food! I will eat EVERYTHING! Or almost anything. ;)
To standing up for Solo Female Travelers out there: Misconceptions of the Solo Female Traveler - YOU as a female CAN travel and be safe! It's important for me to express to everyone, especially the females, that we should not be afraid to explore our world! It's truly an amazing place to see. :)
Showing my huge love for adventure: Danger Ahead - Part II - Probably the most thrilling and dangerous thing I have ever done in my life! The first thing my mom asks me whenever I see her after an adventure --- So how many mountains did you climb while you were in (fill in the blank!)?
Why did you first start your blog? I started it when I felt I knew that I was ready to. I have a previous blog (http://peaceloveandblueberries.blogspot.com) that I have since changed to a food blog. Before that, I felt like I was too scattered and not really connecting with anyone. Now that I feel ready and have more ideas and thoughts, I am still scattered but it is solely on travel now! Th main reason why I started this blog is for a place to write about my feelings and thoughts. And a way of inspiring others to go out there and live their lives to the fullest! I am not about telling anyone what to do. I merely enjoy showing others to take their own paths in life, to not be afraid, and maybe even keep the places they've seen on my blog on their travel itineraries if they happen to go to the same country!
What do you hope your blog will someday become? I hope my blog stays the same. :) I would love this to be a great place to look back upon in my elderly years of life and see what my crazy self did when I was younger! Even show this to my own future kids one day when they are ready to do their own exploring...if they choose to do so! Hopefully, to others, it will be a blog to inspire and to look upon if needed or to just allow me to transport you to another country for a day!
What are you most passionate about? I'm passionate about people. Life. Travel. This world. Pachamama (Mother Earth to the Peruvians and Bolivians). History. Our future. World Cuisines. I will forever put people and life over things any day. I appreciate what I have here in life - both in my surrounding area and throughout this whole world. There is so much more to life and I will forever be a student for life. Grateful to be taught anything from both the people closest to me to the ones I have met on my travels and those I hope to meet in the future.
If your writing were discovered a hundred years from now, what would people learn about you, today’s world, and your interests? I would hope that these people in the future would learn that there are still humans in this world who want more to life than the usual taxes, jobs, and materialistic things. To continue to be inspired about our incredible world. And to continue the traveling cycle for many more years to come.:)
Who do you most want to read your blog? You mom? The president? I welcome anyone to my blog. :) Whoever allows me to inspire them just as much as they inspire me. For that one person who grew up with similar circumstances like mine who need that push to help discover who you are as a person. Whether you are an expat or vacation once a year, I would like to inspire anyone that I can reach in the world. Can I say I'd like Adam Levine to read my blog? :) Angelina Jolie???? Johnny Depp? ;)
Now here are my three nominees: 1) Bri over at http://chaiandbri.blogspot.com! She contacted me over twitter one day months back and we turned our conversation over to email and wrote pages back and forth to eachother! She truly is a sweet girl living the life in South Korea! Check her out!
2) Sarah over at http://thewanderblogger.com! She is so kind and I love reading her blog about wandering around Europe! And from talking to her a couple times and the vibe I get from her, she has a good heart. Go and say hello to Sarah!
3) Amy over at http://tidethatleft.blogspot.co.uk/! I love reading her stories in Africa! Her blog transports me to wherever she posts about! :) Head to her blog and see where she is right now!
If you accept this wonderful nomination, please fill out the questions I filled above and nominate 3 of your favorite up and coming blogs! Make sure to let them know you nominated them! I love this award to support other bloggers out there!
There are all these posts I have in mind that I've been wanting to write about but I have to memorize a long page of Chinese characters for my oral final exam coming up in my Chinese class, so for now I'm posting a wonderful picture of SNOW in the Andes!
I am also currently working on a post for "Things you have found on your travels that you must have but can't get in your hometown!" Please contact me if you fall under this category! :)) There must be something you have found that you loved but can't get it anywhere else! I'm posting your response in a future blog post so it's a win situation for YOU and a free ad! :)
Flying into Santiago, Chile, I managed to capture a beautiful picture of the snowy Andes mountains.
For the people living above the Equator, winter is HERE and I might add, early, for us Southern Californians not used to these freeeezing temps! I am in love with this weather! Rain. Clouds. Cool temperatures. Snow is falling everywhere...EXCEPT where I live! But I figured what better picture to show during my favorite season. :)
Although I am not a snowboarder or skiier....more like an avid snow player, :) Chile is known for good fun with their mountains full of snow for those who are interested in these types of activities. Maybe something to consider this coming summer? Remember, their winter is June-August so plan wisely and get out there!
La Nariz de Indio - Indian Nose, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
The year is coming to an end and I thought it would be great to post a picture from Guatemala, since I was there around this time last year! This is me on top of the Indian Nose mountain watching the incredible sun rise while sitting on a very unstable deck on top of the mountain! Yikes!
Norrmally I do not like taking guided tours, but when it comes to any sort of nature activity, I put my likings aside and I go with a guide -- who happens to be taking other people too! I'm known to trip and such so I'd say it's wise of me to make the smart decision to go with a guide!
The guide picked me up around 3:45am and we walked through the empty and calm town of San Pedro to meet up with the others, grab a bus, and go to the bottom of Cerro Cristalino. It is freezing around that time and pitch black! Bring a flashlight --- I repeat ---- bring a flashlight!! For some strange reason, I left my flashlights in my bag back at the hostel because I don't think I would need them...it was a foolish thing to do!
Bring warm clothes, snacks, and plenty of water. The hike is about 1 1/2-2 hours to climb. I think it took us under 2 hours total. It actually went by quickly. The mountain is really steep and unsafe if you do not bring a flashlight! The guides and a couple others had flashlights so I tried to remain near someone who had light but it was still a difficult climb when you cannot see.
The walk down the mountain was the most surprising because it's light outside and you realize that you were very lucky to not have fallen when you see how small the path was! I'd say anyone can do this hike, in-shape or out-of-shape. Just take your time and you'll be fine.
As for the sunrise, it was magical. And just so incredible to see overlooking the other volcanoes and the wonderful Lake Atitlan. You literally just sit there and stare at it --mesmorized by its beauty. If you ever head to Guatemala and Lake Atitlan, I highly recommend this hike up to the Indian Nose.