Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Photo of the day - Egypt

Fruit stand in Alexandria, Egypt
Alexandria, Egypt is one important city in Egypt that you must have in your travel plans if you happen to travel to Egypt now or in the future. Just a 2 hour drive from Cairo and worth it. The city has a Mediterranean feel but that crazy night life that is just a little different than Cairo. But also known to have many historical sites here. A very important city to explore and get a feel of the past. During the day, Alexandria is just a normal everyday city but at night, the people are out and about, cars everywhere, and don't even attempt to try and cross the street!

I just loved how among everything moving around, there was this fruit stand just sitting still and calm. A true site to see and one that I appreciated. Egypt won me over. And it will win you over too.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Machu Picchu

As promised from Throwback Thursday (and part because I LOVE reminiscing on past adventures!), I thought I'd show some of my favorite pictures from my time in magnificent Machu Picchu. :)
I loved capturing the site during the different times of the day and showing how the sun hits differently over this incredible world wonder. From sitting down and taking it all in to wandering around and exploring the site to climbing up Machu Picchu mountain, this day I will never forget.

PS. What is the one world wonder/world site you have always wanted to see?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Throwback Thursday - My Journey to Machu Picchu

Today I thought I'd go along with Thursday's usual theme: Throwback! I decided to repost how I made my plans back in 2011 to leave Bolivia and head out to Peru and arrive to the magnificent Incan site of Machu Picchu.

I didn't know how even more special our time was when we went to Machu Picchu until we found out while waiting to enter the World Wonder: We were there at the anniversary of Machu Picchu's discovery 100 years ago! Not only did I live a dream of mine, it was amazing to be apart of their countries celebration! Even got a cool anniversary stamp in my passport! I would love to return someday for a more deeper experience there. Machu Picchu is one of those places that will leave you pondering about life.

Although if you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, I recommend planning ahead of time due to space and maximum requirements to enter the site but as I mentioned below, it is possible to make it there last minute....if you are daring like that! ;)


So my original travel plan was to head to Bolivia with some time set aside to go back to Chile to check out its Northern side. I also wanted to go to Peru but I feared not having enough time to really take in the culture and see everything that I wanted to see in the time period that I had. So in the end, I had decided to hold off on Peru because I really wanted to take my time there and truly appreciate my experience in that wonderful and lively country.

...........So long story short............
Plans changed! I wanted to stay longer down in Uyuni, Bolivia but the weather was beyond freezing that it wasn't recommended due to some deaths having occurred out there because of the temperature. They also closed the Bolivian-Chilean border due to the weather conditions so there was no way of heading back to Chile at that time. So I decided to push Uyuni back until after I figured out what my new plan would be.

What to do now?
After talking with some friends I had made in Bolivia about Peru and if I should do it or continue on in Bolivia, they pretty much convinced me with this: "Go to Machu Picchu. You are here now. When's the next chance you'll get to go to Peru? What if you never get the chance? It's worth it."

That was it for me.
I immediately emailed my friend Nora, who I met on a layover in Lima, who had told me she was going to be in Cusco for six weeks, told her not go to Machu Picchu without me because I was heading there! She was excited to hear she wasn't going on her own or having to find a travel bud to go with and right away she let me know where she was and lets go!

I booked the bus tickets right away. The next morning I left La Paz for Cusco with some time in Copacabana/Lake Titicaca and Puno. Arrived at midnight and went on a search for her. Luck on my side, I ended up getting a bed in the room she was in and she was happy to see me, sticking to my word! Always. Right away we got busy.

Had to figure out how to get there and get our tickets. They only allow 2500 visitors a day to enter Machu Picchu. We had wanted to go right away but we soon realized that we wouldn't be able to go for almost a week. So I had extra time than I had anticipated and really got to check out Cusco. So much history there, it's unbelievable. We quickly jumped on our tickets to Machu Picchu before we figured out how we were going to get there! :-p

Luckily found two spots left on the train from Ollantaytambo--Aguas Calientes--Ollantaytambo. We jumped on those tickets right away! So so so lucky. This whole trip was luck! Then we just had to figure out our way from Cusco--Ollantaytambo and Ollantaytambo--Cusco. We found a 'mini-bus' that makes the trip from Cusco--Ollantaytambo--Cusco at the bus station. Paid, I believe, $10,00-15,00 Soles ($3-5 US) and sat back for one 'wild' ride to Ollantaytambo, a cute little town with amazing Inca sites to see. Wandered around to find a good place to stay for the night. Next day tried to see as much of Ollantaytambo that we could and somehow found the way up to really take in the Incan sacred site, Pinkuylluna.

Headed to the train station and road for about an hour to Aguas Calientes. Before we left, we made friends with a taxi driver who took our names down and promised to take us back to Cusco as soon as we got back to Ollantaytambo so I could catch my bus back to La Paz---very tight! They said it was most likely going to be impossible that I would make it on time---boy were they wrong! Made it with 10 minutes to spare! Woo hoo! --Just imagine how fast the taxi driver was going! Wheeeeeeeee.

Don't forget to try Inca Kola in Peru! Does wonders with Peruvian ceviche. :) Grabbed it for the train ride to Aguas Calientes.

Aguas Calientes. Very small touristy town full of people everywhere. They say it has no purpose other than housing tourists heading to Machu Picchu but if you delve deep there, you may find a few things in store.

Everything was booked and everyone was busy. We searched and searched and finally found a place to stay..AGAIN..it was all luck. First thing we did was, well we wanted to find somewhere to eat but had to take care of business! Went on a search to find the bus station to pay for a bus ticket to go from Aguas Calientes--Machu Picchu--Aguas Calientes. Made it there 1/2 an hour before it closed! Without the ticket, no access to the buses and no day spent in Machu Picchu.

We were finally able to relax a little, found a place to eat some good food for an early dinner--knowing that we'd have to get up at 4 in the morning, and listen to beautiful Peruvian music. I could listen to it for hours. :)

Called it a night. Literally got everything ready so that when we woke up at 4 am, we could just get ready and leave! We lined up around 4:45 am waiting for the buses. Brrrr was it cold! We bought mate de coca from a lady selling to those in the bus line to warm up and as we all had waited patiently. Next time, I'll probably head there earlier because the line sure does get long!
And there we were...off to Machu Picchu!
And there you have it folks! If the timing is right and you have luck on your side, you can make it to Machu Picchu in a safe and crazy way! And not spend nearly as much as you would if you booked a tour/train/etc. Of course this was without hiking the trails but that can be arranged my next visit there!

I'd also like to answer my thought at the beginning of this entry with this: Peru is just incredible. And it is worth it to go now, for a day, for a week, month, or as long as you'd like. I'm glad I had some time to go there. I made the right decision. I've had a taste and I want more!

*Tip: If you want to hike Huayna Picchu, make sure you look for that option when you book your Machu Picchu ticket. It costs $10US dollars more but its worth it. You can hike it at 7am or 10am. We missed out on that opportunity but we did end up hiking Machu Picchu mountain, which was free and with breathtaking views! Next time, I plan on hiking Huayna Picchu and then spend another day there really just taking it all in and relaxing.

**Tip: Being in shape is a must! The altitude was fine for me because it's NOTHING compared to being in La Paz, Bolivia, but for those who aren't used to it + hiking up a mountain + the thousands of steps and things to do there = you will be tired! Adjust to the high altitude for a few days (or just go to La Paz ;), be in shape, and take it easy!

***There's a straight forward website where you can easily get Machu Picchu tickets/print them out. Email me and I'll send you the info.

Oh Machu Picchu, such a fascinating site to see.
To go along with the Throwback theme, stay tuned for Machu Picchu pictures on the way! Oh how I love reminiscing on my past travels that I hope to make again in the future. :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top Posts of 2013

2013 was the start of Love a Traveler and even though I began mid-year, I'd still like to post the top 10 most read posts of 2013 here! I still consider it looking back on the past and reminiscing on what I've done and what I strive for in the future. :)

***If you haven't taken a peek yet, here are my top 20 most read posts up from 2008-2013 from my food blog: Peace. Love. And Blueberries. You will see posts that I wrote from way back in the day! It's amazing to re-read what I experienced so many years ago. And some great recipes too. :)

Without further adieu, here are the top 10 most read posts of 2013:

1) Photo of the day - Brazil
Grab a coconut, a beach towel, sun tan (or block!) lotion, and plenty of water when you spend most of your day at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro!

2) Are you really safe with a tour guide?
My Galapagos experience with the tour guide Jhover Alvarez. Just because you are on a tour, it doesn't mean you can let your guard down..

3) The best thing I ever ate in....
Some of the best dishes I've had so far in all of my wonderful travels.

4) Photo of the day - Peru
One of my top favorite countries!

5) Photo of the day - Galapagos Islands
For those who are huge nature lovers, these islands are perfect for you!

6) Galapagos Islands
Here are plenty of Galapagos pictures to make you smile! Of course this was the post following my Tour guide story (mentioned above).

7) Misconceptions of a solo female traveler
Probably my favorite post. Standing up for all female travelers. We should not be afraid to travel this incredible world alone!

8) How do you pack for an adventure?
Here's my list of what I bring along and can fit in my backpack!

9) Pros vs. Cons of hostels 
Why staying in a hostel is not such a bad idea.

10) Health, Holidays, and Travel
How to stay fit and eat what you want while on an adventure or vacation.

What would you like to see more of in 2014? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions! :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Taking it back to 2013

What a year 2013 was! From deciding to restart my blog to leaving a job of 8 years to start planning my dream life and everything in between! The ups and downs, old and new experiences, and cannot forget the terrifying aspect of going jobless!

2013 was the year of change for me.

I'd say I changed a lot --in a good way. I finally stood up for what is right ---both at a job that I loved but came with unfair pay and constantly feeling exhausted. Friends who made me better and ones that went their own way in life. Even stood up for me and took better care of myself -- the inside and out. I've learned a lot that I am a giver. I give, give, and give some more. Maybe too much. I knew in the past but even more now, I've felt like I give more than what I get back. In life, I definitely need to give more. It's more of giving to those around me who may take me for granted. I never expect anything in turn but sometimes I wonder why I always have to be there for everyone but when I'm going through things, it just doesn't feel the same. As 2013 slowly came to an end, I realized what I needed in life. And I made it happen.

I took a step back from almost everyone in order to reteach myself these values I've always had but needed to learn how to put myself first. I realized that I didn't want everyone whom I haven't really seen or talked to in awhile on Facebook to see what I've been doing in my life so I changed that. I deactivated my account a few times and it felt great! I baked and cooked a lot more to bring my passion back. I took a Cross Country job to save my love of running, which I had missed so very much. I did say I'd be at the beach more often too but that didn't happen. :)) And I realized the value of friendship even more now than before, which allows me to surround myself by positive people who I love to be around.

When it came to money, I decided this year that I didn't want to be so self-reliant on it. Truthfully, you really can't do anything today without money, but I want to live a life without feeling so dependent on it. I think that would make the world a better place!

Basically, I changed a lot! But still remaining true to myself. :) That is the most important thing to me.

I really am looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings! Today (1st of January) may not have started out wonderful...to say the least but I am still hopeful for a better year.

I don't really have a resolution but I have a list of things I want to continue to build on this year:

1) Maintain better eating habits.
2) Keep my running going and finding ways to work out, especially when the weather here in SoCal starts to warm up---basically all year!
3) Buy a plane ticket!
4) Finalizing travel plans within the first couple months of this year.
5) Try dating again and putting myself out there. I'm ready!
6) Spending more time with the friends that mean the most to me.
7) Putting myself first.
8) Keep up on my Mandarin lessons! And continue to improve on my Spanish. 
9) Go to the beach more often.
10) Get fancier in my cooking skills!
11) Get a massage every month.
12) Consider facials too or at least every once in a while.
13) Post blog posts here more frequently!
14) Make new blogger friends. :)
15) And give more to the community.

 What are your resolutions for 2014?