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A Momentary Pause

My apologies for being a little MIA this past week. I took the liberty of using my birthday as an excuse to finally take a week off from my hectic schedule to relax and unplug. A pseudo vacation when I can’t afford to vacation almost. It was just what I needed.

But don’t be fooled! Even though I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean things haven’t been going down. On the contrary, last week I got some amazing news that will greatly change the dynamic of the upcoming year as well as Let’s Take The Scenic Route. It makes me want to jump up and down for joy and also bite my nails in nervousness at the same time – now that’s a good sign. I cannot wait to share that news with you in the coming weeks.

 

 

Stay tuned for most posts about the concrete jungle that is NYC…

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Ruin is the Road to Transformation

For H

There was something in the air on Saturday. Some kind of eerie tri-fecta with it being Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby and the super moon all on the same evening. The day started out a bit rough, and with a slew of bad things happening along with it being a sad anniversary of the passing of an old friend, I was ready to call it an early night entirely. However, I was caught in the super moon’s orbit and after a night of too many of Pravda’s Sake-tinis I found myself glued to the tv watching Eat Pray Love at 2am…

“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it along with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked around at this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

Eat Pray Love

I love this book/movie because it hits so many crucial areas: love, finding yourself, spirituality, exploration… etc etc. This instantly reminded me of how many of my friends are unhappy with how things have turned out and feel trapped in their current circumstances. My cousin Prem and I even had a similar conversation a few years back when we both felt stuck in a rut. That rut is what got me to change big things in my life. But the real problem isn’t with being unhappy where we currently are, its what happens if we choose not to do anything about trying to fix it. Ruin is indeed a gift – it gives us the courage and the ammo we need to start over. Dory, one of my close friends in California, recently left her job after being miserable for several years; hearing from her today and how she is having an amazing time pursuing a new career venture brought me back to how I felt when I had just left my previous job and had taken time off to travel. Trying a new job, taking part in some long-term traveling, moving to another country… these are all very different things but can be quite terrifying but give us that same high. And for many of us, we won’t get to that point of rediscovery until we have been pushed to our limit with how much we can endure in our current situation.

Everything in our lives is fleeting. Today’s success and happiness may not be there tomorrow, but same with today’s worries and feelings of inadequacy. And if you are feeling like a mess, or well, just stuck, then I hope that you are able to channel that energy and use it to propel you forward in the right direction. Or maybe just any direction. You’ll figure it out.

Because this is a travel blog after all, I would like to keep it relative. If you are nodding along reading this and feeling like you need to make some changes in your life, perhaps consider taking part in some work exchange/volunteer programs in other countries. It’s relatively affordable, you’ll be able to visit amazing places, and you’ll find yourself working odd jobs that you would never have seen yourself doing before. A girl I spoke to that did this for a year and had jobs like shucking oysters for pearls, working with sea turtles and herding sheep. Sure its a little atypical, but the positive impact you make with the work you do just may give you the kind of inspiration you need to make some positive changes in your own life.

Work Exchange/Volunteer Resources:

Wwoof 

Help Exchange (HelpX)

Workaway.info


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Here’s A Major Workout For You

So with another birthday looming and the start of the summer around the corner, I have painfully tried my best to up my workouts. This last year of traveling has been amazing for me mentally, but its been a little detrimental for my waistline. One of the hard parts of extended travel is keeping up with a daily workout regimen, but this guy seems to have gotten a handle on the situation. You may have already seen his video since it went viral (its currently competing with Nike, but we always root for the underdogs) but Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness spent 18 months traveling all over the world and ::gasp:: EXERCISING. While I was sipping cappuccinos in Italy and eating far too much soba in Japan, Steve was doing jumping jacks in China and push ups in New Zealand. Hey, it sure beats the gym. Way to make me feel guilty, Steve, but your video is still pretty rad.

Check out Steve’s Nerd Fitness website here.

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Close Encounters in the Amazon

I was recently asked to write about one of my most memorable travel experiences. That’s kind of hard to narrow down, seeing as how there’s so many incredible places in the world. So I decided to write about an unforgettable furry friend I met while in the Amazon, who still continues to haunt me…

One of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited has to have been Peru. Sure, I visited Machu Picchu and was absolutely in awe of its beauty, its sheer size and incredible history, but this is not about my time there. Instead, I would like to tell you about another part of that trip that I will never forget: my time in the Amazon.

My family and I went to a part of the Amazon so remote that we had to take a boat ride for several hours to get to our campsite. When we arrived at camp, we were greeted by a host of friendly and courteous locals that worked there and they showed us to our rooms. And when I say rooms, I use that term very loosely – rooms typically suggest privacy, and in this case we had very little. Not only were the walls made of tree trunks that you could see between, but the back wall was completely missing to ensure that you were truly one with nature. Furthermore, there was no electricity in the camp, and you had to use lamps in your rooms and when walking around at night. After coming to terms that my hair would not be straight for the remainder of my time there, I embraced it all and started to really enjoy this eco-friendly lifestyle in the jungle. Meals became more intimate by candlelight, the small and cozy size of the camp enabling more interaction between other guests staying there, and soon it felt like we were one big family. Each night I fell asleep to the sounds of crickets and other animals outside my room, enjoying the natural soundtrack but also praying that they were at a comfortable enough distance from my bed. And for the most part they were… until one night when I met a new roommate.

It was the end of a long day and my sister and I were in our respective beds with the mosquito nets tucked in. I had just finished reading, and needed to take my contacts off before I could get some sleep. I realized that I had left them in my bag on the other side of the room and, since I’m a little afraid of bugs, I was not happy about the fact that I would have to leave the safety of my net. Grudgingly, I got out of bed, reached for a flashlight and started rifling through my backpack. There was a ledge right above where my bag was, and suddenly something caught my eye. I raised the flashlight and to my absolute horror came face to face with the largest tarantula I have ever seen in my life.

“Big…

spider…

furry…”

I was so scared that I could barely get any words out. I can’t even handle regular house spiders back in the States, the last thing I’d want to be near is a furry tarantula. In my state of shock I started slowly backing up from the spider, not taking my eyes from it in fear that it would leap onto me and bite down with its massive fangs. Meanwhile, my sister is in her bed, ignoring me because she assumes that I am getting scared by some trivial insect. Only once was I back under the safety of my mosquito net was I able to collect myself and actually verbalize what I just saw. We eventually were able to get someone that worked there to come, and even he gave a low whistle when he saw the size of the tarantula, admitting that it was one of the bigger ones he’d seen. And then, to my utter amazement, he fearlessly chased down the tarantula and captured it in a plastic bag so he could set it free on the other side of the campgrounds. When I asked what would have happened had I been bit, he nonchalantly responded, “We have anti-venom. You would be okay.”

The next day we had a beautiful day in the wild. We went bird watching and saw different species of birds including the beautiful macaw. We visited a medicinal garden and met a shaman, and learned about the different uses of some of the plants there. Our guide also stopped to tell us about the different types of insects and spiders on our trails, including one tarantula that was crawling out of a hole as we walked by. I remember looking at it blankly and just thinking, “You are tiny compared to the friend I made last night.”

While coming face to face with a tarantula was not one of the most enjoyable travel experiences I’ve had, it is definitely something that I will always remember. The great thing about traveling is that you find yourself in unique situations all the time and as a result you walk away with amazing stories to share. And of course my close encounter did not ruin the beauty of the Amazon; I loved my time at that campsite and enjoyed learning about the fascinating culture of the locals. I hope to be able to return someday and have more incredible adventures in Peru, just maybe next time without spiders being included in the story.

My new roommate

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The Soapbox Chronicles: Self-Reflection & Rediscovery Through Travel

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Albert Einstein

This week was the birthday of one of my closest friends. She, like many of my friends, is unhappy at her job. However, she’s having a difficult time grasping the work and as a result its really affected her self confidence and professional capabilities. The above quote reminded me of her.

I remember going to a few happy hours with coworkers while at my last job. The conversation eventually turned to real estate (I worked with a bunch of brokers) and I always felt tongue tied or that I didn’t have enough to offer. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to do my job well – I was there for several years and felt that I was pretty darn good at what I did if I do say so myself – I just wasn’t able to be engaged by the topic. I remember feeling that I must just really suck at networking.

Fast forward to 6 months later where my life has become a little different. I left that job and spent a few months traveling, having the time of my life, and doing some major self-reflection. During those few months I also started engaging in the travel community through my blog and in other ways, and I realized that I wanted to pursue travel as more than just a hobby. When I returned to New York I wanted to hit the ground running and look for new opportunities in the industry. I connected to a few travel related events in the city, and I soon found myself wrapped up in long, fascinating conversations with people I had just met. The problem wasn’t that I was bad at networking or talking with people, but that I just hadn’t found an area where I could really shine.

I’m still learning a lot about the travel industry, but what’s important is that I found something that truly sparks my interest and where I can connect with others in a way that doesn’t seem, well, like so much work! The truth is that if I hadn’t taken a chance to step outside my comfort zone and explore other sides of myself while traveling, I may never have figured that out. And if you are in a job that doesn’t suit you then chances are you may have some doubts about your potential as well. If that’s the case, then I hope you’re not afraid to step off the beaten path and search for what’s right for you, or to take a career break, explore some other options and get your hands a little dirty. Hey, an around the world trip is just one way to find some inspiration – I can personally attest to that.

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Volunteer While You Vacation – A Look at an Eco-Friendly Resort in Vietnam

If you haven’t already read the many travel articles urging you to visit, it turns out Vietnam is the new big hotspot for travel. And why wouldn’t it be, with its beautiful scenery, intriguing culture and insanely delicious food – not to mention the friendly exchange rate! Well, if the urge to visit hasn’t struck you yet, Condé Nast Traveller wrote about one luxury hotel that is giving you an extra incentive to stop by. Last year, Six Senses Resorts in Vietnam offered an eco-volunteerism project to prospective hotels guests: if you were staying with them for 3 days and signed up to volunteer for a few hours a day within their community, the hotel would comp you an additional 3 days. Uhh, 6 days at a fancy hotel for the price of 3, AND you get to do community service in a foreign country? Sounds awesome to me! Apparently the response was good because Six Senses in Ninh Van Bay is continuing this offer during select months in 2012. And lo and behold, it turns out that my good friend Alexis stayed at this resort when she visited back in November. While she was unable to take part in their volunteer project, she did tell me about her fantastic stay as I sat there wide-eyed, adding “oohs” and “aahs” to every amazing detail. Like how the resort is accessible only by boat. And that when they arrived, the entire staff was at the dock to greet them with big smiles on their faces. And how they had to walk 126 steps to get to their hotel room each day (which was the most remote villa there) and felt like they were the only guests there the entire time due to the amazing layout of the resort. Yeah, you wish you were there right now too, don’t you. Check out some of Alexis’ photos from her stay there:

Through the eco-volunteerism project, you would spend 4 hours each day between helping out a local orphanage, doing clean up at a coral reef/beach, and working at an aromatic garden. With the clean up you even have the option to snorkel – wow, even their volunteering is luxurious! I know four-star hotels aren’t usually on a typical backpacker’s itinerary, but for those out there looking to splurge for a week this sounds like a pretty good way to do it. Volunteer vacations (aka voluntourism) with hotels isn’t a new concept – many hotels have always been environmentally aware and take note that guests are interested in giving back as well. If you are interested in this sort of thing but just don’t know when you’ll be in Vietnam next, you may be able to find some closer alternatives. For instance, last year RockResorts in the US/Caribbean had a similar program called “Give & Getaway” that offered discounted room rates as well. Next time you’re looking to book a week stay somewhere, make sure to check out if the hotel you’re staying at offers volunteer opportunities. Or do some research and see if there are any ways to get plugged into local volunteer efforts on your own. You’ll come back with some great stories that extend beyond lazing at the pool, I guarantee that.

 

Fun Fact (courtesy of Alexis): Six Senses in Ninh Van Bay is so exclusive that it even has its own timezone!

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New York, New Site!

Thank you California for a relaxing few weeks of sun and fun day trips. It was the perfect way to unwind after 3 months of hopping all over the world. I’m now on my way back to home base in the heart of it all: New York!

In keeping with the tradition of making resolutions and changes for the New Year, I have been busy plotting, planning, editing and re-editing my old Tumblr account in order to move it to a new domain. And here we are now, with www.letstakethescenicroute.com hot out of the oven! I am very excited to continue my blog on this new site, and look forward to what I hope will be a very promising and adventurous year for all of us.

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Cheers to a Great Year

2011 started off very rough for me. I never would have imagined how things would turn around. The lows I experienced this past year made me stronger and really pushed me to do things I never would have had the guts to do before, which includes leaving my job and traveling for 4 months. I am grateful for the adventures I’ve had and the people I’ve met, and I am so excited to see what’s in store in 2012. I hope we are all able to take some risks this year and be amazed by what we can accomplish when we aren’t afraid to go against the grain.

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January 1, 2012 · 5:43 pm

The Soapbox Chronicles: Save The Postcards!

While browsing through some travel articles, I came across one that said that postcards are a dying breed and that people prefer to send texts or photo messages when traveling. It made me sad to think that so few people send postcards anymore – the only ones I seem to get nowadays are from my parents (which I still love, please don’t stop sending!) I sent out a good amount of postcards when I was traveling, but now that I think about it I wish I had sent out a lot more to all those people in my life that I care about and miss. A postcard is usually what, 50cents, maybe £1 or €2 if you’re in a tourist trap and getting ripped off, right? Note – never pay €2 for a postcard, unless its voice activated or something ingenious. But how exciting is it to get some snail mail with an awesome international stamp in your real life mailbox! I know I love it. So one of my goals for 2012 is to send more postcards when I travel: infiltrating my friend’s homes one fridge at a time. And please feel free to send me a postcard on your next getaway! It’ll get a front row seat in my kitchen and I’ll think of you every time I get a craving for some Ben & Jerry’s Fro-Yo, I promise.

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Crazy, Cool, or Just Plain Creepy?

KLM Airlines is using social media to let you choose who you sit next to on their flights. So, is this a push for business networking, or a way to have that great “I just met the love of my life on a flight” fairy tale ending? Not sure what I think about this, especially because 95% of the time I fly I just want to crawl up against the window and catch up on sleep that I missed out on while traveling. Wake me up only for meals or a Pixar movie, please. Then again, if it could keep the screaming babies away…

 

PS – Is it just me, or does the newscaster eerily resemble Shia LaBeouf?

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