3 months, 23 cities, and 29 hotels. What a whirlwind. A crazy, beautiful whirlwind. As I sit here taking it all in and enjoying the Florida sunshine with my pup back on my lap, I can’t help but get lost in my memories. Sean and I have gotten many questions specifically around our travel route and where we stayed in Southeast Asia. The biggest question we’ve gotten is: “Is it really that cheap?” and the answer is a lot of YES and a bit of NO. It depends on what you want to do, how safe you want to feel while doing it, and where you want to stay. I will dive into each country individually in future posts, but I figured I would start my virtual diary (in essence) explaining our travel route in hopes that it will inspire you to get out there, and step outside of your comfort zone! Although I had a preconceived notion of our timeline and cities we wanted to visit, we generally flew by the seat of our pants. The only accommodations we pre-booked were the flights into Singapore and our hotel upon arrival. This was the BEST decision we could have made, as our “plan” uncontrollably and drastically changed 5 days into our trip.
Looking Back: 2016, you were SO good to me!
Hello January 5, 2017! I never would have thought you’d arrive so quickly. It feels like just yesterday I was welcoming 2016, and looking forward to so much. Without a doubt, 2016 was the best year of my entire life.
As you will see in my prior posts, reflection has always played a huge part of my life. I feel the most gratitude when I slow down and take a second (multiple seconds) to realize how much I have to be thankful for, and how much I have accomplished. I did a lot this year: I married my best friend, I took a leap of faith, I traveled throughout Southeast Asia and Central America, I met wonderful people who taught me so much, and I fell in love with my husband over and over again. I also became more emotionally in touch with myself, and learned so much about WHO I am, and what I want to do with my life. I will no longer do anything I do not feel passionate about, and I will ONLY spend my time & energy fueling my creative passions, and making my dreams a reality. I’ve learned life is way too short to be doing anything that doesn’t make you smile from ear to ear, or nearly pee yourself from laughing. I’ve also learned to see a different side of love and happiness, and it does not include anything our Western bubble provides. It includes being mind- blowingly happy all the time, so happy no matter the situation, and so happy even when you have nothing. This is a life-altering experience to witness, and it puts so much into perspective. It is my mission to live my life the way I want to live it, and I have truly encompassed my favorite quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi
As far as New Years resolutions, I have always seemed to come up with a list in year’s past. This year I have not done that, and this year, I do not intend to. Why do you ask? Well, because I feel different. I feel like a changed person. I have a clear vision of what I want to do and how I will do it. For the first time, I don’t need a list to remind me. It is engrained in my soul.
These last 365 days have been so wonderful to me. Each and every month has taught me something, and I am so incredibly thankful! It is no secret that the best day of 2016 was the day I vowed to stand by my husband’s side for eternity. April 2, 2016, is a day that changed my life forever, a day that I would do over and over again alongside my family and friends.
I have decided to do something different this year. Sean and I traveled A LOT. We learned so much, and there are so many life lessons that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Rather than go through each month, and state what I loved about it, I am going to post one of our favorite photos (Gosh, that will be hard) from each country we visited and what impacted us the most, or taught us to think outside of the box.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hi Love Bugs! Wow, it feels good to be writing again. It has been way too long, and I am a few posts behind where I’d like to be. To be honest with you, my body has had an extremely tough time adjusting to Southeast Asia. Since leaving Singapore on the 8th, I have been very sick, sprained my toe, and been focusing on my health. I finally feel well enough to update you on our travels! I know you are all wondering what the heck happened to me, so for the sake of time and bearing you the gritty details, the enviornment here has taken me a long time to get use too. The cities in Malaysia are very hazy and polluted. I only expect this to get worse or stay stagnant as we make our way through Southeast Asia. I’ve noticed through traveling people are always sick (coughing & sneezing all over the place, close to food, and/or on public transit), so my immune system could not keep up, and my sinuses went horribly out of whack! As for the toe, the streets are very uneven here, and often have metal slabs sticking out of the cement. If I have learned one lesson, it is to constantly watch for your next step! I kid you not, yesterday [while in Kuah, Langkawi] Sean and I were walking home from dinner, and he almost stepped in a 1- foot hole, and 150 yards later, we saw a random 3-foot hole just chilling by the sidewalk ready to break someone’s leg. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way by stubbing my toe very hard into a metal casing sticking out of the sidewalk, and I went flying. Needless to say, I AM A-OKAY!
Singapore by Night
Well we made it to Malaysia! I am blogging to you from my bed looking out at the beautiful Kuala Lumpur skyline, and famous Petronas Twin Towers! Sean and I decided to take a coach bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. This journey at max should have taken 5-6.5 hours with traffic, two stops of immigration (leaving Singapore, and entering Malaysia), and one potty break. Prior to booking our tickets, we were told it should only take 5 1/2 to 6 hours, and boy were we in for a surprise! More to come on choosing the right bus for your long haul journey across Southeast Asia. Let me just tell you, you get what you pay for, and apparently we paid for 9.5 hours of traveling with multiple unnecessary stops. By the time we made it to KL, we were delirious to say the least, starving, and ready for a shower!
Back to Singapore, our favorite city thus far. I could live in Singapore. I would honestly contemplate it if it were a city in the U.S., and closer to my family. I highly recommend everyone taking a visit to Singapore at least once in their lifetime. I love the colors, culture, food, structure, and ease of navigating. I also love how the country is on the forefront of technology. Singapore is an incredibly Western city. If you were dropped off in the middle of the city, without anyone around, you would absolutely think you were in the U.S. One of my favorite things about the city is the night life. Singapore truly comes alive at night. Whether you stick around Marina Bay to watch the twice nightly laser show, or you take the MRT to Clarke Quay for a night full of live music and dancing, there is never a shortage of things to do.
My absolute favorite night activity was walking the OCBC skyway through the Super Tree Grove. The OCBC skyway is a suspended bridge connecting the fiber optic super trees giving you the best views of Marina Bay Sands and the city. It was truly breathtaking!
Watch Singapore come alive in the video below:
Singapore, and my First Impressions.
Well we made it! We have officially spent our first few days in Southeast Asia frolicking amongst the locals of Singapore, or at least trying too! In order to obtain the honesty of this blog, I must report that we have fallen into TWO tourist traps in our first few days here!! LOL we came out unscathed, nonetheless! LOL just a few dollars shorter than we would have liked to spend on food/drinks!
Many times throughout these short 72 hours, I have stopped in my tracks and thought, “Am I really here? Am I actually this far from the people I love most (besides my sweet hubby standing next to me of course)? Well yes, YES I am, and GOD IT FEELS GOOD!! IT IS SURREAL. Let me rephrase, it does not feel good that I am far away from my family and friends ( I LOVE YOU GUYS VERY MUCH AND AM CONSTANTLY THINKING OF YOU), BUT MORE SO that I am dropped in the middle of the world 100s of 1000s of miles away doing what I love most, EXPLORING, diving into culture, tasting new food, reading about the history of a place I know NOTHING about. It feels really good sitting here writing this post and looking out my hotel window at the skyline of Singapore. This is what I love, this is what makes me happy, this is what I am meant to be doing.
South East Asia is CALLING…See you in 2 days! :)
The time has FINALLY come, and we could’t be more excited!! Sean and I have decided to, once again, pack up our stuff, put it in storage, and FOLLOW OUR DREAMS. This time our dreams are taking us across the Pacific to beautiful South East Asia!!! We will be traveling for four months, and upon our arrival back to the states, we will be relocating back to our hometown of Sunny South Florida!!!
We are so excited for a number of reasons:
1) We are following our hearts!!
2) We are exploring the world!!
3) We are reuniting with the best family and friends a young couple could ask for!!
Why are we leaving San Diego you ask?! It was a very tough decision, and something we struggled with for a long time. The truth is, we ABSOLUTELY LOVE San Diego. Let me put it to you this way, if San Diego was a city in Florida we would live there in a heart beat! However, it is not, and with that sad realization, comes the fact that we are thousands of miles away from our family, friends, and people we love most. This leaves a constant un-fillable hole in our hearts. San Diego, was however, the BEST decision Sean and I could have ever made for our relationship! We had 2 beautiful years in the height of our relationship as a newly engaged couple transitioning to newlyweds. We built a great foundation, and I am eternally grateful for that.
During our time abroad, we plan to visit:
SINGAPORE, VIETNAM, THAILAND, INDONESIA, PHILIPPINES, and HONG KONG!!! As of now, we do not have return flights scheduled, or a set itinerary, so all we can count on is strong wifi connection, each other, and our backpacks!! Don’t you worry though, you guys know I am a HUGE planner, and have a pretty good map of where we will be headed, in true Christina fashion.
I will try to post as much as I can while I am there, so you can follow our journey across one of the most gorgeous areas of the world.
See you on the other side.
Sting Ray Helmet Dive: Moorea, Tahiti
Tahiti is a beautiful place. Sean and I were so shocked to see the vibrant & drastic blues of the water. What shocked us even more than the crystal clear water, was how abundant the sea life was. Not only was there so many fish and sting ray, but the way the sea life interacted with human beings, was absolutely mesmerizing! Our tour guides treated the animals like pets, and need I mention, these animals were NOT pets, no where near it. In fact, they were wild animals in the middle of the ocean. What was truly astonishing was the way the animals reacted when they saw our tour guides. It was also amazing to witness the tour guides navigate and find their favorites rays, eels, and fish in the middle of the deep blue.
Sean and I chose to do our Helmet Dive with AquaBlue in Moorea, and we are so glad that we did! We loved it so much, we plan on getting scuba certified (more details to come). I will admit, I was incredibly scared to do this dive. I could not wrap my brain around how the water would stay out of the helmet. Needless to say, it did, and we all survived. The helmet was weighted, so it allowed us to walk on the sea floor amongst the wild life. The sting rays came right up to us, along with other fish, and they were all so majestic. They are soft, yet slimy. Very curious little creatures. One of the rays was over the moon in love with our tour guide! She would not leave his side, and even tried to get in the boat with us after we left. The loyalty reminded me of our dog, Tucker. Isn’t that a crazy thought?
My FAV EuroEats…Hello, delicious!
I don’t know about you guys, but one of my favorite things about traveling is having the opportunity to EAT my way through a new country. Who else gets super excited when they think about all of the yumminess they are about to experience before going on vacation, or traveling throughout a new country? Grabbing drinks and bites is the best way to meet new people, and probably one of my favorites. Whether we speak to someone who works in a restaurant, or the table directly besides us, I have found it is one of the best ways to meet new friends, and discover fun things to do in a new area.
SO, without further ado, (this list was very hard to consolidate), my must haves and FAVORITES in EUROPE, in no particular order, as they are all very equal.
These slices are coming to you from Nice, France, and Florence, Italy. We found that pizza changed throughout Europe, and our favorite slices varied greatly. We were shocked to find the most delicious pizza, and our favorite in Nice. We met many friendly locals in Nice who educated us on “French food.” They told us specifically that there is NO such thing, and the French adopt recipes from their neighboring countries. Naturally, Nice had great pizza, since it boarders the Italian Riviera. We were also told that consuming your own personal pizza is a right of passage in Italy. Families order their own pizzas, rather than share. Seriously?! That is my kind of place! I was in heaven.
3 of the slices are thin & crispy, from Nice, and the other 3 slices are simply perfection from Florence, where the sauce is sweet, and the mozzarella is fresh and decadent.
My LOVE/HATE relationship with Barcelona, Spain.
There is no doubt that Barcelona is an absolutely gorgeous city! I mean Gaudi did wonders to the culture, look and feel of the city. To be honest, I really did like my time there. However, when you visit so many other gorgeous cities in Europe (like Amsterdam, Paris, Santorini, Venice, for example) Barcelona (to me personally) falls short. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I visited the busy city prior to hitting up so many other places in Europe? In fact, I wouldn’t visit Barcelona again unless I went FOR FREE (if it’s free, it’s for me). It was unfortunately disappointing, and left us underwhelmed beyond belief. There are simply way too many beautiful places in the world I need to visit before I ever even think of going back to Barcelona.
5 things I absolutely LOVED about Barcelona (in no particular order):
1) The ARCHITECTURE
2) Gaudi Gaudi Gaudi. Did I mention GAUDI? I mean did you see Parc Guell?
3. Barceloneta Beach
4. La Boqueria
5. FC Barcelona Futbol
5 things I absolutely HATED about Barcelona (in no particular order):
In a world full of hate, it is easy to find kindness.
You hear it all the time, and I definitely wont be the first or last person to bring up what a sad time in history it is. With all of the darkness in the world, especially now, it’s hard to think love and kindness can be found in someone you do not know. A stranger, to be exact. We are all guilty of judging others. I unfortunately know I am, especially while traveling. It’s like you’re always second guessing yourself: Should I talk to that person? Will they like me? Are they nice? Will I be safe? Can they speak English? Can I say that one phrase I’ve been practicing well enough? Are they going to think I am a dumb American? These thoughts are normal, and a huge part of exploring abroad because traveling makes you vulnerable, and that is the beauty of it.
Traveling also causes you to get lost… a lot…which I highly recommend. Get lost willingly and purposely, get so crazy lost, you have no choice but to ask a local, and THEN find your way!! AND while you’re finding your way, you’ll find yourself, which ends up being the absolute best part.
Sean and I have been awe struck at how many times complete strangers have shown kindness to us while traveling abroad. Whether we asked, or not.
During our first extended travel trekking through Europe, we found kindness in Paris, and then it happened again and again and again.