Author: Anna Harris

Anna works an average 9-to-5 job as a Mechanical Engineer, but on the weekends transforms into a wilderness wandering mermaid. Combining her passion for aviation and wanderlust, she explores the world with unique adventures and has a knack for finding great travel deals.
Why I Joined the Peace Corps

Why I Joined the Peace Corps

Yes, it’s true! I decided to join the Peace Corps departing to Panama for 27 months in July 2017, and I’m ecstatic I landed the ‘Environmental Engineer & Water Resources Coordinator’ position. To some of  you it may be a surprise, and to others who are just curious, this is the story leading up to why I joined the Peace Corps.

In September 2016 I had a great job in the tech industry – amazing pay and benefits, an awesome team that I loved, able to take vacation pretty much when I wanted – but I wasn’t happy. 

I was sitting on the train during my 3 hour commute home and an older Indian man sits down across from me and we started talking. He asked what I do, and I replied, “I’m a mechanical engineer in the semiconductor industry in San Jose but I live in Sacramento.” His eyes widened, and I told him how I get up at 3:30 AM every morning to catch the 4:30 AM train, get to work at 7:30 AM, work a full 8 hour day without taking a lunch break, then catch the 3:30 PM train to get home at 6:30 in the evening.
 
He asked me, “Do you like what you do?” I shrugged, “Yeah, it’s a great job.” 
“But do you love your job?”
I was silent.
“Do you love where you live?”
I liked Sacramento, but I couldn’t see myself there forever.
He continued, “I have found that if you love what you do and you love where you live, you will be very successful. Don’t worry about the money – if you love what you do and where you live – the money will come.”
 
I had a tendency to go to bed pretty early because of my work schedule, but one night I woke up at 11 PM from a dream I had about a clean drinking water system and it sparked an idea. I grabbed one of my old environmental engineering textbooks and ran across the street to the coffee shop and started drawing and researching. And I realized, this is it. This is what I want to do with my life, but I had no idea how to go about it. 
 
The idea to engineer water resources in developing countries started back when I was 15 years old. My sister and I went to the Philippines with my mother to visit family when she abandoned us. The village my sister and I lived in didn’t have electricity or clean drinking water and the locals had to walk 2 miles with an arrowhead jug to fill up at a well. What stuck with me was how we take having clean drinking water for granted, a basic necessity of life. That was an experience that totally changed me and my outlook on life.
 
When I was in college I took an engineering class on computer aided design and we had to engineer a clean drinking water system for a village in a developing country. Using my past experiences, I decided to design a system based on the village I was in back in the Philippines. I hoped that maybe one day I could implement my designs in places that need it all around the world. 
 
After that night in the coffee shop scribbling down my ideas, I spent hours researching volunteer organizations that would allow me to design and implement water resources in developing countries with little luck. And then I came across the Peace Corps.
 
I looked into doing Peace Corps while I was still in college a few years earlier, but they never had engineering positions available so I gave up on the idea back then. This time around, however, they had the exact position I was looking for: Environmental Engineer & Water Resources Coordinator. I knew this was the experience I needed in order to eventually start my own business but I was a little uneasy about being away from home for almost 2 1/2 years. I applied anyways. 
 
It was a long process going through the application and interviews, but I knew this was a calling I had to pursue. I was so excited when I received my invitation to serve, but then came the next step: I had to quit my job. In my head I went back and forth of when to quit since I hadn’t received medical or legal clearance yet, so it was still up in the air whether or not I would be serving. Ultimately I made the decision to quit because I didn’t want to commute anymore; I was exhausted and it was taking a toll on my health. I then figured out how much I needed to save to be able to live on my own for 3 months unemployed along with extra money for emergencies and travel during my service. 
 
People were very quick to judge when they found out I had quit my job, saying things like, “that’s what’s wrong with kids of this generation” or “eventually you’ll come back and have to face the real world and get a real job,” but they didn’t understand my plan or what I wanted out of life. There are so many people out there who hate their job but don’t do anything about it because they’re afraid of change, don’t want to venture outside their comfort zones, or feel that right now isn’t a good time to pursue something else. But I believe that the best things in life happen to us unexpectedly, and following the unfamiliar leads us to the ultimate success. Because if you think about it, If you stick with the familiar and what you already know, you would already be successful, or at least know you’re on the path to success. And for me, I knew that I wasn’t utilizing my talents in the ways that they were meant to be used.
 
Through my service in the Peace Corps, I hope to gain the experience I need to work at an international level and to one day start my own NGO (a type of non-profit organization) to engineer and implement clean drinking water systems in developing communities around the world. I’m incredibly excited for my future ahead and I’m counting down the days (50 to be exact!) until I leave for Panama in July 2017!
Briland Blu

Briland Blu

Being an avid traveler and ocean lover, it’s so important for me to pack multi-purpose essentials for all my adventures. On my recent trip to the Bahamas I brought Turkish towels by Briland Blu that were so perfect during all my activities, whether I was lounging on the beach, diving, or heading out for the day to go fishing. 

During my visit to Staniel Cay, we had a full day planned to see the iguanas running around the beach on Iguana Cay, the famous swimming pigs at Pig Beach, snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto, and swimming with the sharks at Compass Cay. I grabbed my Solaqua Drip towel because of how light it was and how easy it was to fit in a small day bag. Being in the water all day, it was amazing to be able to use my towel after each activity and it was already dry, even in the humidity!

Other Turkish towels that I have come across in the past have always been stiff, but Briland Blu’s towels were so soft and absorbent. Cristina Covert, the designer and owner of Briland Blu, learned that the key to softness and absorbency is in the weave of the fabric. Using her fashion design degree she was able to create the perfect towel that becomes softer after each wash and dries incredibly quick. These towels were even inspired by Cristina’s love for the islands of the Bahamas! The Solaqua Drip towel was influenced by the views of the ocean from the Solaqua House in the Eleuthera Islands.

I loved taking my oversized Sands Hybrid towel to the beach, which was perfect to lounge with. On one side it has the incredibly absorbent peshtamal material and luxuriously soft terry cloth on the other side. It’s perfect that these towels are not only functional, but the designs are incredibly beautiful. The Sands Hybrid design was inspired by the stunning pink sand beaches of Harbour Island, but when I was on Staniel Cay I found the perfect little cottages to match each of the towels!

I’m so excited that I have such a versatile towel to take with me on all my adventures now! They’re perfect enough to pack in my carry-on, use multiple times in a day since they dry so fast, and they get softer with each wash. Be sure to check out Briland Blu and use my code ‘filipokie‘ for a discount on your purchase!

About Briland Blu

Briland blu is the manifestation of Cristina Covert and her intense love of the sea. Growing up in the Florida Keys and spending a lot of time in the islands of the Bahamas, Cristina was inspired by the vibrant beauty of Caribbean beaches and waters. After graduating with a degree in Fashion Design from International Fine Arts College, Cristina began designing Turkish towels for herself. She could not believe she had spent so many years lugging around bulky terry towels that never seemed to really dry. Wanting to share her passion for the ocean and vision of the beach aesthetic, the decision to start a company took shape.

Briland blu is a lifestyle brand that is at once luxurious and comfortable, chic yet unpretentious. The name refers to one of Cristina’s favorite places, Briland, which is what the locals call Harbour Island in the Bahamas. The island is known for its breathtaking beauty and unassuming nature, with gem colored waters and pink sand beaches. Harbour Island welcomes its visitors with a sign reading “Home of the Friendly People”, while displaying a breezy Continental style. All of these aspects represent the brand and boutique Cristina envisioned.

Every towel design is handcrafted by Cristina in her Miami home studio, staying true to the islands she spent so much time in. The colors and names of the towels all come from places or things native to the island, even the name of the company. Eleuthera, the chain of islands in which Harbour Island is part of, stands for freedom, which is how Cristina wants you to feel with each handcrafted towel; Freedom to easily pack, use and reuse, and to wash and dry in minutes. The Briland blu brand features products made with quality fabrics and designed with Cristina’s sense of tropical sophistication. 

Flying up the East Coast

Flying up the East Coast

This is a continuation of my previous post, Flying Across America! My dad and I are flying a single engine plane around the United States; in April we flew from Oxnard, California all the way to the Bahamas and left the plane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A few weeks later, we’re back flying up the East Coast!

Day 1: Fort Lauderdale, Florida to St. Augustine, Florida

It was Friday night when we hopped on the plane to take a red eye flight from LAX to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’m usually pretty good about sleeping on planes since I can pass out anywhere, at any time, but unfortunately taking a budget airline means no reclining seats, period, and leg room that’s barely enough for me (and I’m 5’3″!). Dad, on the other hand, took a different flight so he could get first class and have a nice bed to lay out on. 

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 5 AM and we headed to Banyan FBO (Fixed Base Operator; an organization that provides aeronautical services such as fuel, parking, aircraft maintenance, etc.) at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where the plane was situated. Banyan is probably the most luxurious FBO I’ve ever seen, with a cafeteria (and freshly baked cookies 🙂 ), bedrooms and showers for pilots, a movie theater – they have everything! My sister and I were waiting at the front counter for a solid half hour, ready to fly, but had no idea where our dad was. A woman finally said, “Oh, your dad picked up a towel and said he was going to sleep for a few hours.” Of course. Thanks for letting us know, Dad…

As soon as the sun rose, we were up in the air and headed to North Carolina for our first stop. Unfortunately we had such a strong headwind that after an hour and a half of flying we decided last second to land at St. Augustine, Florida for the night. I wasn’t really excited to be in Florida another night, but this town was unexpectedly a great place for a weekend getaway! 

St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, founded by the Spanish in 1565 and is filled with old Spanish colonial architecture and a unique stone fortress, Castillo de San Marcos. Not only does it have great history, but it’s a great place for foodies! For the second best pizza in the US, go to Pizza Time! The line is usually out the door but the slices are huge and freshly made right in front of  you. There’s also some great dessert places like The Hyppo that has super tasty but healthy ice pops (I got pineapple cilantro and my sister got avocado coconut) and also Peace Pie, which has ice cream sandwiches with a layer of pie filling in the middle (not so healthy but super good). 

Day 2: St. Augustine, Florida to First Flight, North Carolina

We hopped in the plane and dad let me take off in the Mooney for the first time! I got to fly the whole way up the East Coast for almost 3 hours until we reached Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers had their first controlled, sustained flight. You can see a giant monument on a hill overlooking the area dedicated to the Wright Brothers, and right next to the monument is now an airport called First Flight. We came in on final approach as if we were landing so we could get some aerial photos up close, and then did a “go-around” and ascended back into the sky to land at Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, about half hour from the monument. 

We drove half hour to First Flight to check out the monument and museum. The museum is still under construction but it was pretty cool to check out the monument and see the actual railing that the Wright Brothers used to guide their plane. There’s not much else to do in the town, so we hung out at the beach and grabbed dinner on one of the piers. 

Day 3: First Flight, North Carolina to Washington, D.C.

In order to fly into D.C.’s airspace (30 mile radius of the capital), you have to take a test provided by the FAA Safety branch. Because it’s the capital, it’s not easy to fly into the area but we were lucky to get the “ok” to fly! On final approach into Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, something went wrong and we started descending really fast. Luckily my dad was able to figure out that the vacuum pump went out and we had a backup in order to land safely. Not only do tall pine trees come right up to the beginning of the runway, but it’s also a really short runway. We were coming in hot – too hot – so dad had to do a go-around in order to land. With the vacuum pump out, incredible turbulence, and some serious gas someone passed – I was ready to get down on the ground. Luckily the airport we landed at also specially services Mooney’s so we chose a good place to land.

We rented a car and drove an hour west to Dulles Airport in Virginia to check out the Air & Space Museum. It was THE COOLEST and I enjoyed every minute, especially the Discovery space shuttle exhibit. Dad really like the Enola Gay and the SR-71 exhibits. I even had chicken nuggets in hand as I was walking through. Double cool. 

We stayed in the Georgetown University area in DC so I could meet up with one of my best friends the next morning. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been best friends since middle school, but I’m so proud that she just completed her second year at Georgetown Medical School! Since this trip was rather last minute, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see her because the time it takes for her to respond to text messages is usually one week… not kidding. Surprisingly, she answered, and she cooked breakfast for us at her cute colonial home and we got to catch up before I embark on my next journey! 

Jet Set Candy

Jet Set Candy

Having traveled all over the world, I love keepsakes that remind me of the places I’ve been. Recently I flew to The Bahamas and brought jewelry by Jet Set Candy that was perfect during my travels, whether I was dressed up for a nice dinner at the resort or hanging out at the beach in my jean shorts and tank top. 

Not only am I an avid traveler, but also being a future pilot, I absolutely loved their stackable rings while flying across the US. Their Flying Colors Stackable Rings come in all sorts of fun colors and wanderlust inspired sayings – I want to collect them all! My favorites include “Chase Adventure,” “Explore Dream Discover,” and the “Mile High Club.” Wearing them inspires and reminds me everyday my love for seeing the world.

Of course, one of the most well-known symbols of being a jet setter is the airplane, and they have the perfect ring to showcase it: the Homeward-Bound Adventure-Bound Ring! Like the traditional Claddagh ring, which shows where the bearer’s heart lay, this ring tells the story of you. Dreaming of adventure? Wear the nose of the tiny plane outward towards your fingertips so the words “Adventure Bound” etched on the side is revealed. Point it towards you and the words “Homeward Bound” appears on the other side of the ring. It’s a cute way to get excited about all the adventures you’re embarking on and it’s perfect to stack with the Flying Colors rings!

While I was in the Bahamas, I loved wearing my Nassau Bahamas Luggage Tag Charm necklace! Each luggage tag charm has the latitude and longitude coordinates of the city, the IATA (International Air Transport Association) code, the actual airport name, and a cute symbol that represents the city. They have over 400 different charms unique to each city, and they’re always creating more so you can personalize each of your trips.

Jet Set Candy has hundreds of charms you can add to your necklace or bracelet for everything you can think of while traveling to commemorate your special adventure! From monuments like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to symbols of the city like an Italian scooter, to overall wanderlust inspiration charms, they have it all. I paired my Nassau Luggage Tag necklace with the Mini Airplane Charm because of how much I love aviation and it also represents my love for exploring.

Mother’s Day is around the corner! What better way to show your mom some well deserved love than by gifting her beautiful travel-inspired jewelry that she will always cherish? All of the jewelry is made of precious materials such as sterling silver, 14K gold vermeil, and 14K solid gold that will last a lifetime. Jet Set Candy offers such a wide variety of jewelry and charms there is something to fit everyone’s style.

Even better, during this month of May you can use my code ‘ANNA10‘ for a discount on all of Jet Set Candy’s jewelry! Shop for fun wanderlust jewelry for yourself or for Mother’s Day!

XOXO

Anna

Flying Across America

Flying Across America

My biggest passions are traveling, flying, and the ocean, so when I get the opportunity to combine all three it’s the ultimate dream. After a lot of planning and consideration, my dad and I decided to fly his single engine plane across the United States to the Bahamas. 

Flying across the US is one challenge, but flying internationally in your own plane poses even more challenges with customs and paperwork. Fortunately, we had help from Air Journey, a concierge service that helps pilot tailor their dream trips anywhere in the world. Below is a day-to-day account of our journey from the Pacific Ocean in California to the Bahamas!

Day 1: Oxnard, California to Georgetown, Texas

Flight bag – check. Camera equipment – check. Bikinis – check, check, and check. It was crazy to think that in a few days I would be on the other side of the USA. Was I crazy? Maybe a little. I’m crazy about adventure, that’s for sure!

It was pouring rain when we departed from Oxnard, California but it was almost beautiful flying through giant puffy clouds. We had a killer tail wind, so we were pushing 240 knots (275 mph) all the way into Texas. Flying through Arizona and New Mexico we encountered some killer turbulence as well; it was so bumpy it was hard to press any buttons or keep my hands steady on the yoke. After a few hours of bouncing around, I was ready for a sick bag. Luckily we made it to Dona Ana Airport in New Mexico (super close to El Paso, Texas) after 3.5 hours in the air to refuel, eat, and check out the air museum. 

We took off in the early afternoon from Dona Ana, New Mexico to Georgetown, Texas (near Austin), which took about 2.5 hours. The flight was much smoother, but it was definitely a long day in the air. I asked a guy what was there to do in Georgetown, and in his thick Texas accent he replies, “Not much except some bars with old people.” Great. There was a Chili’s restaurant next to our hotel, so we had dinner and some drinks at the bar.

Being of mixed descent, I look almost nothing like my dad so usually people don’t think we’re related when we travel together. I struck up a conversation with two young guys at the bar and they asked how I know “that guy” sitting next to me. When I told them “that guy” is my dad, they said, “You mean like a father figure, right?” Dad overheard and has a tendency to get pretty vibrant after a few drinks so he exclaims, “No! I did the deed! I was there!” And goes into full explicit detail… Let’s not go there. 

Flying from KOXR to KGTU. Rings from Jet Set Candy.

Day 2: Georgetown, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana

I was really excited for our second day of flying since there’s a lot to see from the air, it’s a much shorter flight, and above all, the fact that we’re going to New Orleans! The flight was only 2 hours, and we arrived on a great weekend: The French Quarter Festival! All the streets in the French Quarter were completely closed off, and there were different stages set up on each corner playing classic jazz. 

I had no idea what to expect out of New Orleans since it wasn’t Mardi Gras, which is what most people go there for, but it was a giant party and packed everywhere. People drank in the streets, pizza and hot dog stands were everywhere, and Mardi Gras beads were being thrown from balconies; it was an awesome experience. And the food was incredible!

Day 3: New Orleans, Louisiana to Ocala, Florida

I’ve explored a lot of Florida so I really wanted to do a few activities that were “off the beaten path.” We flew 2.5 hours from New Orleans to Ocala in Central Florida and drove half hour west to a small town called Williston, home of Devil’s Den. Devil’s Den is an underground spring where you can dive or snorkel and see pre-historic fossils dating back to 7500 BC! The water was incredibly cold, but it was a mermaid’s paradise. We continued to drive another half hour to spend the night at Crystal River, home of the manatees!

Day 4: Ocala, Florida to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dad was not happy when I told him we had to be up at 6 AM to swim with the manatees. We went out on a little pontoon boat to the actual Crystal River and searched around for these sea cows. When we finally saw a dark figure in the water, we eased into the water and swam around. It was crazy to see how big these creatures are in person! They don’t do much, except float there and eat grass, but they’re pretty interesting looking.

Dad had enough after about 5 minutes and climbed back into the pontoon. I asked him what he thought of the experience and he shrugged and said, “They’re kind of ugly and they don’t do much – they’re like sea cucumbers.” I have a fascination with large sea mammals so I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I guess if you’re more of a party animal like he is then you might not have the patience for it. We drove an hour back to Ocala to depart to Fort Lauderdale, where my sister, Sharon, met up with us for the rest of our trip!

Day 5: Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Bimini, The Bahamas

Bimini is the closest island of the Bahamas to the US, so it was only a 20 minute flight out, which was awesome because I was so ready for some ocean time. From above, the island looked tiny with a single dirt road going down the center and totally covered in palm trees. We had to take a water taxi to the main part of the island and there were golf cart taxis lined up ready to take us to the hotel. Dad insisted that we could walk, but after about half hour of walking I insisted he look at a map. He took out the GPS on his phone and showed where we were, where we came from, and where we were going. We had hardly made any progress, so we waved down a taxi. The taxi driver laughed and said, “Man, the island is 7 miles long, you still got a ways to go!” Thanks, Dad. 

Bikini from Kokoh Bikini.

Day 6: Bimini, The Bahamas

Today was the first day we weren’t flying, which meant some much needed R&R. We rented a golf cart and drove around the island exploring all the different beaches; I love the white powder sand and the clear blue ocean waters of the Bahamas. We decided to take the water taxi back to the other side of the island and a guy rolls up in his beat-up truck and asks if we needed a ride, so we hopped in. He said he was going the same direction anyways, so he didn’t ask for any payment; the friendly locals are one of the main reasons I love the Bahamas so much. 

On the south island there’s a shark lab where they do research and conservation for sharks! We wanted to check it out, but the woman only allows tours in the late afternoon, and it was still pretty early in the morning so we went back to the main island. There’s a few food stands along the ocean where you can have fresh conch – Bahamian food is amazing! I love having conch salad, conch fritters, and cracked conch every time I go to the Bahamas. We tried paying for the meal with a really large bill and the woman says, “Just come back when you get change.” I was in disbelief that they have such a laid-back attitude. You really have to go outside the resorts to have the best authentic experience. 

Turkish Towel from Briland Blu.

Day 7: Bimini, The Bahamas

Bimini is known as the “Big Game Fishing Capital of the World,” so we decided to go fishing! We woke up early in the morning and there was a guy waiting in the lobby that walks up to us and says, “Hey, your dad said I could come fishing with you guys today!” Sharon and I look at each other thinking, Here we go… Dad has this amazing ability of making friends when he’s out at night and usually invites them with us somewhere and then random people show up the next morning wherever we’re going – it makes me laugh because he usually doesn’t remember that he does it but he’s still down to have them come along! 

The boat took us out early and we went out a few miles to sea, and it was a bright and sunny day. We were catching barracudas over and over, and then we finally snagged a fish that took about 15 minutes to reel in! Once it broke the surface, we saw it was a beautiful Mahi Mahi with rainbow colors and a giant sail. Unfortunately it turns to a green color after being out of the water, but it was still awesome to see that we caught a 30 pound fish! I was definitely sore after that. 

Day 8: Bimini, The Bahamas to Staniel Cay, The Bahamas

We climbed in the taxi to head to the airport and a local guy about 18 years old hops in too. Dad says, “You were the bartender last night! Where you headed?” The young man shyly says, “Last night you said I could see your airplane since I was taking flying lessons to become a pilot.” Dad totally didn’t remember but exclaims, “That’s right! Let’s go!” Dad showed him how to pre-flight the plane and all the controls on the inside, and you could tell that was something that young man would remember the rest of his life.

The Bahamas is a vast chain of islands, and it’s beautiful getting to see all the different shades of blue from the sky. We flew an hour and a half to Staniel Cay, one of my favorite islands in the Bahamas! There was a direct crosswind blowing 40 knots, and the wind sock was so erect it looked like it was about to rip off the pole. It’s never a good sign when the pilot curses while trying to land the plane, so it was a bit nerve racking, but we made it. 

As soon as we arrived, a local Bahamian was waiting to take us on a tour around Staniel Cay. Just steps from the airport was a dock and a boat, and we hopped in and headed towards Iguana Cay. The iguanas were all over the beach! The guides gave us bread to feed the iguanas, but they didn’t tell us that they are one of the most endangered types of iguanas in the world… I feel like a bad human for contributing to that, but I hope that whoever is reading this and plans on going doesn’t do the same! 

The next stop was the swimming pigs on Pig Beach! This is my second time seeing these pigs, but a few months ago some tourists poisoned some of the pigs so many died, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were still quite a few running around the beach, but there are so many tourists visiting now that the swimming pigs don’t really swim anymore since people will just park their boat on the beach to feed them and take pictures. Last time we went my dad asked how long the pigs can swim for. The guide responded, “As long as you have food!”

We headed to Thunderball Grotto, a giant cavern you have to snorkel or dive to, and there’s tons of fish and beams of light that shine through tiny crevices. This grotto was used as a major scene in the 1965 James Bond 007 movie, Thunderball. 

The last stop was supposed to be swimming with the nurse sharks at Compass Cay, but the guide was telling us that there is a $10 docking fee and the seas were getting pretty rough, but we can see the sharks at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Since he claimed it was the same thing and less money, I was down. Walking to the dock there were about 40 nurse sharks and 2 stingrays that were hanging out in this small area. There was a crowd of people standing at the edge of the water petting the sharks – I looked around and hopped in the water to swim with them. Since they’re nurse sharks, they’re totally harmless to humans, but people started screaming at me to get out of the water and cursing names. Once they saw that I was totally okay and the sharks didn’t even bother with me, everyone started jumping in the water too for pictures. I rolled my eyes. 

Day 9: Staniel Cay, The Bahamas to The Abacos, The Bahamas

We flew an hour and a half north to another chain of islands, The Abacos, and landed in Marsh Harbour. From there we took a taxi to a water taxi, and then it was a 20 minute boat ride to our final destination: Hope Town. Hopetown is a tiny island with beautiful picturesque cottages and shops, quiet deserted beaches, and a stunning bright red and white striped lighthouse. 

While Sharon and I were soaking up the sun on our last full day in the Bahamas, Dad was making friends as usual. We met up with him for dinner when he said he ran into a local buddy from 30 years ago when he visited Bimini, a lighthouse keeper named Elvis, who told him to come to the lighthouse at sunset to light it.

The Elbow Reef Lighthouse in Hope Town is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world, so to see Elvis in action was really special. This lamp burns pressurized kerosene oil with a wick and mantle and the Fresnel lenses concentrate the mantle’s light into a beam directed toward the horizon. Elvis uses a crank to wind up 700 pounds of weight to the top of the lighthouse. This weight slowly drops to the bottom of the lighthouse in order to smoothly rotate the 4 ton apparatus that holds the lenses and burner equipment, creating the circling light that you see from afar. Elvis has to do this every 2 hours during the night in order to keep it running, every single day. 

Day 10: The Abacos, The Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

From Hope Town, to Marsh Harbour, and back to Fort Lauderdale, we made the journey back to the US. Dad really wanted to try out Segways when we were in Fort Lauderdale, and the whole time I was thinking, I can’t believe we’re actually doing this. We’re THOSE tourists… The woman that was showing us how to use the Segways didn’t exactly explain how to turn off the machine, so Dad jumped off and the Segway just zoomed off and almost went through the window. It sure took the woman by surprise!

Flying across America and all the way to the Bahamas was an incredible trip, and I’m so glad I was able to make such fond memories with my dad and sister. These memories are ones I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

XOXO

Anna

Lake Clementine Dam

Lake Clementine Dam

About forty minute northeast of Sacramento, California you can find some really great hikes, one of which is the Lake Clementine Dam. It’s a great 4 mile out-and-back hike to do on a Saturday afternoon with beautiful views along the American River. 

The trail head begins at the Auburn State Recreation Area where you must pay $10 to park since it’s a state park. There are port-o-potties and picnic benches available overlooking the river so it’s a nice spot to have lunch even if you don’t go hiking! From the ranger station, cross the bridge over the river and begin hiking on the trail to your left. You’ll see the Foresthill Bridge 700 feet above you, which is also the tallest bridge in California, and then keep walking the gradual incline for the next 2 miles.

After 2 miles, you’ll reach the end of the uphill and see a forked road – one is paved, the other is dirt. Make sure you take the dirt trail another quarter mile to lead you to the dam! It’s a great spot to hang out, have lunch, and even swim! Since there has been so much rain the water was pouring off the dam like a waterfall and the river was really high. Hopefully next time I hike the trail it’ll be warm enough out to swim and float down the river!

Daffodil Hill

Daffodil Hill

Having only moved to Sacramento 7 months ago, I love exploring all the major sites in the area and around Northern California! Now that it’s spring, beautiful flowers are beginning to pop up everywhere. One place that I came across is called Daffodil Hill, a farm deep in “Gold Country” in the town of Volcano that opens its doors to the public for one month out of the year for this special event. You can guess what they’re open for… Daffodils!

Daffodil Hill explodes with thousands of yellow and white flowers blooming, attracting visitors from all over! They open their doors sometime in March every year, when 25% of their daffodils are in bloom so it really depends on Mother Nature. They close when there are only 25% left, so the best time to go is about 10-14 days after they open their doors for the season to see all the flowers in bloom! The rest of the year it goes back to a working ranch. 

It’s a fun place to check out, and you can see all the animals and have a picnic with your family and friends. Because it’s only open for a short period of time, it gets packed and crazy busy! It’s best to visit on a weekday, but if you can only visit on the weekend make sure you come right when they open at 10 AM. They’re also only open weather permitting, so it’s best to call ahead of time to make sure they will be open, especially since it’s about an hour east of Sacramento! 

Check their Facebook Page for updates! And who doesn’t love free parking and free admission? 🙂

Bali

Bali

It’s extremely rare for me to actually want to go back to a place that I’ve only recently visited, but Bali was absolutely incredible and I couldn’t get enough! Here are a few highlights from my recent trip to Indonesia!

Uluwatu

Uluwatu was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip! Relaxing on Bingin Beach with pitaya smoothies at the bar while watching the surfers at sunset was such a treat. I love going to places with a really relaxed beach culture along with great surfing, so Bingin was a bangin’ good time. There are also tons of unique lookout spots (Sal’s Secret Spot or Surf & Stay) where you can hang out in a hammock overlooking the ocean or your in own private open-air gazebo. 

One of my favorite sites was seeing the Uluwatu Temple from afar on the edge of a cliff with powerful waves of the ocean crashing below. Be careful not to become too mesmerized because the monkeys will pickpocket and snatch your belongings if you’re not looking! If you’re in the area on a Sunday, be sure to check out Finn’s Beach Club for their “Sunday Session!” It’s an insane outdoor party on a cliff overlooking the ocean with an amazing sunset, and it’s also a hot spot for Aussies. 

Photo By: Kat Gaskin

Foodie Scene

Now I’m not really into diets, but because of the Hindu culture in Bali, most places to eat are fully vegan and I was surprised to find how amazing and filling all the food is! Most of the time I hear about people “going vegan” as a fad and they don’t get all their proper nutrients. Because of the culture, being vegan is such a regular part of life and is actually sustainable. I actually felt a lot more energy waking up in the mornings and overall healthier. My favorite place to eat when I need a foodie call? Cafe Organic!

Photo By: Kat Gaskin

Nico Nico Mare Mansion

Working with so many brands on this trip to deliver the best content, we were fortunate enough to get to do a photo shoot at the Nico Nico Mare Mansion, designed by the artist himself! Each room was totally unique and had its own theme; a few of my favorites included the Japanese pop art room, the nautical room, which had a giant net as a bed that hung over the living room, and the “black room” – chains included (JUST KIDDING, DAD!). The mansion was so beautifully decorated, it was amazing to see how every single detail fit together so well. 

Mt. Batur Volcano

We had to wake up at 12:30 AM to drive to the base of this volcano and started hiking at 3:45 AM. I probably only got 2 hours of sleep and thought, “Why do I do this to myself?” as I was scrambling up rocks that would just disintegrate into volcanic ash. As I reached the peak, seeing the rays of sun glinting through the mist and bursting into vivid colors of magenta and orange, were so worth it. The guides cooked us a breakfast of bananas, eggs, and toast INSIDE the volcano. How cool is that?!

Photo By: Kat Gaskin

Ubud

Ubud is another city in Bali that I would have loved to spend more time in, surrounded by lush jungles and temples. There’s tons of cheap shopping and spas, like flower milk baths or gold facials, or it’s common to check out a spiritual healer. Of course, getting to see the rice terraces and the monkey forest is an absolute must, but we were fortunate enough to shoot some content for Kalamandu Hotel. Having a floating breakfast in an infinity pool overlooking rice terraces was something out of my wildest dreams. I couldn’t believe it was real life.  

Photo By: Kat Gaskin

Bali was absolutely incredible and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this entire experience. Like I said before, it’s one of the few places that I am actually looking forward to returning to and I cannot wait to experience the magic of Indonesia again someday. 

Tips for Hiking Joffre Lakes

Tips for Hiking Joffre Lakes

One of the most sought out natural attractions in Canada is to see the vivid turquoise lakes. Some of the most popular include Lake Louise and Jasper National Park in Alberta, but they can be hard to reach in a limited amount of time. Fortunately, if you’re on the west coast you can make an easy hour and a half drive from Whistler up to Joffre Lakes near Pemberton, British Columbia! 

  1. Unless you’re visiting in the heart of summer, pack winter hiking gear. Since you get pretty high up in the mountains, there’s a lot of snow on the trail even through May! Bring crampons or snowshoes since the trail gets pretty steep and slippery. It’s also wise to take a Winter Mountaineering class so you can be prepared.  
    Middle Joffre Lake

     

  2. Pick up a trail map. If you’re hiking during the summer, the trail is pretty well-marked but if making the trek during the winter, it’s easy to get lost on the trail. Take a picture of the map at the trail head prior to hiking or you can find some good information on Whistler Hiatus.   
    Upper Joffre Lake

     

  3. Each lake is more beautiful than the last. There are three lakes along the trail, and each lake becomes more vibrant and the scenery is even more beautiful than the previous ones. Reaching the final lake and seeing the magnificent glacier makes the long trek worthwhile. As an experienced hiker, I was able to reach Upper Joffre Lake in an hour and a half but allow at least 2 hours to reach the top!  
    Waterfall alongside trail between Middle and Upper Joffre Lake

     

  4. For the most vivid shades of turquoise, hike in the summer. As beautiful as it was in the winter, Lower Joffre Lake and Upper Joffre Lake were frozen over but you could see the bright turquoise waters through the cracks in the ice. Middle Joffre Lake was a stunning emerald color but I was wishing it were warm enough to jump in!

 

Props to my roommate from college putting up with being dragged all over BC 🙂
A Guide to the Islands of The Bahamas

A Guide to the Islands of The Bahamas

Out of all of the places I’ve traveled, The Bahamas is one of my favorite places to visit. There’s much more to this island nation than just Nassau and the Atlantis resort, and if you love remote island getaways as much as I do, then you’ll enjoy reading about my list of the top islands to visit. 

Harbour Island

This island is famous for its Pink Sand Beach, and the sand really is PINK! The sand gets its pale pink hue from thousands of broken coral pieces, shells, and calcium carbonate materials left behind by tiny marine creatures with pink and white shells. The sand is incredibly soft, the ocean water is warm, and the reef is teeming with life. Most of the resorts on this side of the island gets booked up months in advanced, so plan accordingly. To get here, you must fly into Eleuthera Airport, take a taxi to the docks, and then get on a water taxi to take you to Harbour Island.

You can see where the sand meets the sea that it has a little more of a pinkish hue, but it’s difficult to tell from the photo

The other side of the island caters to diving! There are so many dive sites; from giant shipwrecks to colorful tropical marine life, it’s a fun spot to explore the ocean. Most of the places to stay on this side of the island are like condos so you can cook meals to save some cash. Getting around the island is super easy because of how small it is, so you can rent a golf cart and get down to the beach in no time. Harbour Island definitely attracts more tourism than other islands but you really can’t miss Pink Sand Beach. 

Staniel Cay

Two words: SWIMMING PIGS. It’s quite a sight to see pigs actually swim up to your boat, and once they figure out that you don’t have anymore food, they swim to the next boat. This island has definitely attracted more tourism in the last year because of Pig Beach, so we weren’t able to find a place to stay on the island. Luckily you can see everything as an easy day trip, but it’s definitely a place I would love to come back to and spend more time. 

I know, you’ve been waiting to hear how to see the swimming pigs of Staniel Cay. This island is even tinier than Harbour Island, so when you fly into Staniel Cay Airstrip in the Exumas, someone in a golf cart will take you down the road to Staniel Cay Yacht Club. From there, you can schedule a day tour at their water sports counter. The day tour also includes snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto, where the 1965 James Bond film, Thunderball, was shot. Staniel Cay is also famous for its schools of nurse sharks that you can swim with. 

The entrance of Thunderball Grotto

Long Island

Last but not least, Long Island is my favorite island of the Bahamas. I stayed on the northern part of the island in Cape Santa Maria, where they also have an airstrip nearby. There are two beaches in the north; The Stella Maris has stunning cliffs with a rocky beach and is home to the famous Shark Amphitheater, but if you’re looking for a great beach where the water is warm and clear and the waves are virtually silent, then Cape Santa Maria is the way to go. Not to mention, your bungalow is right on the beach! The Shark Amphitheater is a dive where they take you down to 30 feet and the dive master is covered in chain mail and feeds these sharks – from Gray Tip Reef Sharks to the occasional Bull Shark and Hammerhead, it’s a scuba diving must. They only do this dive twice a week so plan ahead.

Last but not least, Dean’s Blue Hole on the southern part of the island is the deepest blue hole in the world, plunging to a depth of 663 feet. It’s a famous mecca for free divers, as it hosts the International Free Diving Competition every year. I was lucky enough to meet freedivers from Sweden, Japan, and Venezuela that were out there practicing. Without any equipment, they dive to depths of almost 400 feet in a single breath. Dean’s Blue Hole is about a 2 hour drive from Cape Santa Maria, but you can also fly into Dead Man’s Cay Airstrip which is about 15 minutes away in Clarence Town. 

If you decide to drive down to Dean’s Blue Hole on the Queen’s Highway (the only road on the island, by the way) I highly recommend stopping at Max’s Conch Bar for the best Bahamian food! Max cooks fresh caught cracked conch, plantains, breadfruit chips, and ceviche right in front of you.  

Harbour Island, Staniel Cay, and Long Island are some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and even though it may not be easy to get to these islands, I highly recommend looking beyond staying at a high end resort in the capital in order to experience authentic Bahamian culture.