Colombia South America

As I stood on top of broken glass, sawdust, rocks and garbage, I rested my arms on a bar that was covered in dust, tree limbs and graffiti. I looked out at what was once the most popular nightclub in Armenia. I imagined black Cadillac’s escorting politicians and celebrities up the hillside to a resort that overlooked the mountains. I envisioned them walking in to a dimly lit club with live salsa music and waitresses serving fine champagne and bottles of Aguardiente. I could almost smell the smoke from cigars and marijuana cigarettes.

In less than forty years, everything had changed. The roof was caving in, the glass was broken out of the windows, the walls were stained black from fires that homeless people lit within the building and the air no longer smelled of herbs and tobacco. Instead, it smelled of urine and spray paint. This was the Hotel Posada Alemana of Carlos Lehder; a hotel built by one of Pablo Escobar’s partners.

The Main House

The VIP Corner inside the club

On every mountain and in every corner of each city there is evidence of misery and corruption, of heartbreak and disaster, of war and evil. But like this hotel, the foundation of Colombia that was built by drug lords and murderers, is crumbling. In its place there are escalators and cable cars being built to connect the low income communities in the mountains to the city of Medellin. The graffiti painted along the walls tell stories of peace and healing instead of death and destruction. Police officers stand on the side of the roads and hold out their hands with their thumbs up to tell you that you are safe, they will protect you. You can feel change in every corner. You can feel hope.

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I did not know what to expect when traveling to this country. People told me that it was dangerous, that I should be cautious and be on guard. I was prepared to get lost, be confused and even scared. I had no idea the kind of beauty I would find amidst all the wreckage. I did not expect to fall in love. The food, the coffee, the music, the different landscapes and especially the people were better than anything I could have imagined. I will return to this place because even though I just left, I can already hear Colombia calling for me to return.

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Travel Tuesday-Cruising

Travel Tuesday-Cruising

Cruising is not for everyone. I know a ton of people who love to cruise. I am not one of those people. Here are my main reasons:

First of all, I don’t like anything that starts off with ropes and long lines. This is why I’m not a huge fan of amusement parks. As a teenager I would be the one “mooing” in the line while being herded like cattle. Now, as an adult, I just “moo” and “baa” in my head.
After you make it to the end of the line, instead of a thrilling, adrenaline packed roller-coaster you get to fill out a questionnaire. The first question, “Have you experienced any vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?”

Secondly, I get motion sick. After discussing my bowel movements with complete strangers I then walk a plank onto a ship that has a constant sway. It’s not easy on my stomach and it’s very claustrophobic. To make it even worse the ships normally smell like a hospital (another thing I don’t care for). They’re drenched in bleach, disinfectant and sanitizer in an attempt to prevent norovirus. So if you’re feeling a bit woozy or uncomfortable, you better hide it. They can quarantine you if they think you’re contaminated.
Third, once you’re all checked in and settled into your room, it’s time to relax and enjoy the money you’ve spent, right? Wrong. The first day is crowded with people trying to sell you stuff; drink packages, specialty dining, specialty coffees and specialty ice cream because apparently the money you already forked out isn’t worthy of specialty.

Fourth, if there is anything I hate more than hospitals and herding, it’s buffets. Buffets make me realize why there are ropes in the first place, because people are idiots. I’ll be standing, politely and quietly in line hoping that no one gets the last piece of French Toast before I make it up there and then someone will cut right in front of me, skip the tongs and use their fingers and take my piece of toast. And this will happen over and over again until I sit down and all I have on my plate is an apple, a yogurt and some gray slop because these were the only things no one was crowding over like vultures. So unless you want to feel like you’re a part of the animal kingdom, skip the buffet.
Lastly, I just don’t like feeling like a tourist on a schedule. The basic principles of cruising don’t work for me. I don’t like having to scan a card to get on and off the ship. I don’t like feeling accounted for. I don’t want to go into the tourist towns that are bogged down by things made in China because I can find that right here in my local wal-mart (another place I don’t go). I prefer venturing out on my own, getting lost in the woods, finding waterfalls that hundreds of Americans didn’t pay an excursion desk to bring them to.
Basically, I want my vacation to be filled with adventure not people, secluded destinations not floating cities and cool local restaurants not buffets.

How do I still sell cruises? Some people are not nearly as snobby and uptight as I am 😉

Travel Tuesday-Alaska

Travel Tuesday-Alaska

I’m not sure where to begin. Alaska was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I am in love and in awe and I’m wishing I was still there. This is definitely my favorite destination so far. I found myself on more than one occasion wanting to bust out in Pocahontas songs because I have never felt so connected to nature.

Kenny and I decided we would try to see as much of the “real Alaska” as we could without paying money to take tours and be herded like cattle with 50-60 other people. We didn’t have much luck with this in Anchorage because we didn’t have a lot of time. We did find a cute little place to have breakfast.

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I would recommend this spot to anyone passing through. It’s called “The Sandwich Deck” on K Street.

We spent the next two days sailing through glaciers. This was incredible. We enjoyed most of the views from our own balcony. Anyone who is going to the coast of Alaska should take a glacier tour. We went to Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park.
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(The good)

Our first port was Skagway where we ventured off on our own to take a hike. Hiking in Alaska is not the same as hiking in South Carolina or even New York for that matter. People kept saying “everything’s bigger in Alaska!” Well, that’s true; everything is bigger, including their hills and mountains. After the first mile and a half the trails stopped. Who needs a trail when you can tie an orange ribbon to a tree and watch people stumble over giant roots, climb over boulders and play hop scotch over creeks? It was rough and it was painful and there was no big “aaahh” moment at the end that made it all worth it. In reality, the most beautiful views were the ones we saw at the bottom. Here are some photos from bottom to top.

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(The Bad)
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 (The ugly)

We went to Juneau the next day. Our plan was to take the city bus to Mendenhall Glacier for $2 and go hiking AGAIN! We were trying to do it the “local way” by not taking the $10 per person shuttle from the cruise ship up to the glacier. We got on the local city bus and tried to pay. She said “don’t pay me, we’re not going far” and then dropped us off two blocks up the road. We decided we sucked at being locals and didn’t want to hike again anyway. We hung out in downtown Juneau and did some shopping. We found an awesome restaurant called The Hangar on the Wharf where we watched planes land and had delicious crab meat sandwiches.
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Our last stop in Alaska was Ketchikan. I set up a tour through Southeast Sea Kayaks to go kayaking in Orcas Cove. I liked this company because they only took out 6 people at a time. Unfortunately you cannot control wildlife so we did not see any whales. We did however see a ton of starfish, bald eagles and jelly fish. I stopped myself from being disappointed by looking up. The views, at all times, are breathtaking. They also fed us the best smoked salmon that we had in Alaska. If you’re ever in Ketchikan look them up!
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After kayaking we went to Creek Street which is Ketchikan’s version of Venice. Here there’s a ton of cute little shops and a great place to get reindeer, moose and caribou sausage.
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Finally, we ended our trip in Vancouver. We wandered around most of the day. We ate a lot of food. We found a crepe place for breakfast, an Italian restaurant for lunch, and said “bon voyage” with a sushi cone.

I’m not going to lie, I still don’t consider myself a cruise person but I can see why everyone loves the Alaska cruise. I can not wait to go back and see more. Alaska and I are not finished yet.

Travel Tuesday – Jamaica

Out of all the places I traveled to last year, Jamaica was by far my favorite. Everyone was so laid back and happy (or maybe high 😉 ) and incredibly welcoming. I have a lot of couples come to me who want to go to St. Lucia but can’t afford it. I always recommend Jamaica. Their landscape is very similar to St. Lucia with mountainous regions, waterfalls and beautiful beaches. On top of that their music, food and attitude is simply irresistible.

A few of the fun things I learned while I was visiting;

There is a KFC in Jamaica and the locals call it “Keep From Cookin” or “Keep Fat Comin”.
Jamaicans really do say “Yeah Mon.”
According to everyone I asked, Scotchie’s (pronounced scotches) in Montego Bay has the best jerk chicken.
If you don’t want to be in a tourist destination then Port Antonio is the place to go. It’s also supposed to be the most beautiful location on the island (I didn’t get to go while I was there but I have every intention of going one day).

The Jamaican bobsled ride is a blast!
 
Do not judge Jamaica by it’s cruise port! Multiple people have told me that they don’t like Jamaica because the people are pushy and rude. Unfortunately, this is the way most sales people are when you’re stepping off a cruise ship and you should not judge an entire country/island by it’s port.

Here are a few of the photos I took during my visit.

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In Response to 23 Ignorant Ideas

I’d like to respond to a recent blog that’s gone viral. The very insightful list of things to do before getting engaged. I have read other responses to this already but I promise mine will be a little different. I just want to touch on a few of her key points. Not all 23 of them, just the ones that really bothered me.

If you have not read the blog post yet, here it is: “ 23 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF GETTING ENGAGED BEFORE YOU’RE 23

The first point I want to address:
“Because at the age of 22, I have no idea who I am, what I’m doing, and who I’ll be doing it with for the next year… let alone for the rest of my life. And that’s awesome.”

Speak for yourself, not every other 22 year-old in the world. I’m 22 and I’ve known who I am for quite some time. At 14 I did not say to myself “I’ll get married by the time I’m 25” or “I won’t get married till I’m 30”. And during college my thought process was the same: that I would get married whenever the right person came into my life. And he happened to come into mine at a young age. So be it. The fact that you don’t know yourself and still need time to explore who you are does not mean that every other early 20 year old has the same issues as you.

The second point:
“I have begun to notice a common thread amongst all these young unions: inexperience. Inexperience with dating, traveling, risks, higher education, career direction, SEX, solitude, religious exploration, etc…”

This “common thread” is not attached to me. Maybe you should take a second look at your facebook friends and see what kind of people you associate with. I have more experience in a lot of those areas such as traveling, risks, career direction, and religious exploration than some 50 year-olds I know (who, by the way, have been happily married for 35+ years! So obviously their lack of experience didn’t cause their almost guaranteed divorce). Saying that people should be more experienced in SEX is really not good advice. Eventually you’ll have to sit down with the guy who finally does propose to you and tell him your numbers. That is not going to be a fun conversation. Instead you could get more experienced sexually with your life long partner without the concerns about who they’ve slept with, whether they’ve been tested lately, or what you’d have to do if you accidently got pregnant.

And as for the list of 23 things… I just wanted to comment on a few with a little better advice:

2. Find your “thing.”
How about find multiple “things”. Who’s to say there’s only 1 out there for you. Or better yet, who’s to say you haven’t found your “thing” yet? I’ve found multiple things in my mere 22 years and none of them have anything to do with whether or not I should be married.

3. Make out with a stranger.
Or don’t. You don’t know if that stranger has a wife, or if that stranger is your sister’s new boyfriend that you haven’t met yet, or a million other awful scenarios that could come from that one small action.

8. Explore a new religion.
Sure, explore religion. But if you’re already religious and you’ve made your mind up that your religion is right for you, then you should MASTER your religion. Learn every aspect of your own religion because there are probably a million things you don’t know about it, and haven’t ever considered. Master your religion, than “explore” the others.

9. Start a small business.
Start a small business if you have the financial support and a business savvy partner, because starting a small business in your early 20’s could be a sure fire way to ruin your credit, which is something you have to spend a lot more time fixing than you did ruining.

11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.
This is just gross. And reveals what a shallow person you really are. Before you do this, think about explaining yourself to the one person that comes along that you fall in love with. When you get to the point in a relationship when you want to share all, and think about how he or she may think differently of you when you explain this situation and that you did it “just to do it”. You were an adult when you did it, not an adolescent, or a confused pubescent teenager. Everyone has to take responsibility for their life at some point. Is this really worth it?

15. Disappoint your parents.
If you’re an adult in your 20’s and you still want to disappoint your parents, this is a problem. This is the point in your life when you should start regretting all the times that you’ve already disappointed them, start apologizing for all your selfish and bad decisions, and start building a better relationship with them. By now you should have grown up and realized that they have great advice to give because they’ve lived through most of what you’re going through and lived a lot longer than you. Your 20’s are not when you start disappointing your parents, it’s when you start a friendship with them.

16. Watch GIRLS, over and over again.
If you like soap operas, sure watch one. OR… you could watch an educational miniseries, endless documentaries on Netflix, read a book. OMG I’m totally saying you should like watch something, like educational, and not like mind numbing!

17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.
That’s nasty. Instead, think about the fact that you’re getting older and that your body is changing, and you can’t eat what you used to be able to eat. Start looking into healthy recipes, have some dark chocolate, and don’t make yourself sick eating an entire jar of anything by yourself.

18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.
Again, you’re an adult or you’re on your way to becoming one… Depending on how you plan to do this, the consequences could be severe, and I don’t think your parents will be bailing you out, you’re not a minor anymore.

20. Hang out naked in front of a window.
And end up on the news talking about how you don’t know why your creepy neighbor thought you were interested in him, you certainly weren’t sending any mixed signals!

22. Be selfish.
You spend your entire adolescence being selfish, immature, and completely ignorant to anyone else’s feelings. If anything, this is the time in your life to start realizing how your actions affect other people and start caring about it. My advice would be, become a little more selfless.

And this my friends, is my two cents…

But who am I? A girl who will be 23 in March and have my first wedding anniversary in May. Because of this one decision I must be naive and inexperienced. My college degree is useless, and all the places I’ve traveled mean nothing, because I married young… I’d like to give a big thumbs up to all the twenty somethings that think this is good, sound advice and who will try to do all 23 things. Enjoy being a selfish, dissapointing, permiscuous girl sitting naked in your window, watching soap operas, eating nutella, and being alone. Sounds like I’ll really be missing out. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to meet you in China because I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary in St. Lucia with my amazing husband. But I’m sure I’ll be there wishing I wouldn’t have gotten married so young.

Enjoy your 2014!