Traveling to Antarctica: A Wish Fulfilled

Antarctica-iPhoneredo-4

I have officially stepped foot on all seven continents of the world.

As odd as it may sound, going to Antarctica had been on the top of my bucket list over the last decade. It started with my senior trip in high school, when I went on an Alaskan cruise with a group of friends instead of traveling to traditional teen destinations such as Hawaii or Mexico. For a California girl who hates the cold, I became oddly captivated by the remote, icy wilderness—untainted by people but a sanctuary for animals you would never be able to find anywhere else.

I wasn’t aware that going to Antarctica was a possibility until I was in college, after hearing a friend tell me about all the exotic places his parents would travel to, including Antarctica. I secretly added it to my list of “Things to Do Before I Die” which eventually became “Things to Do Before I Have Kids.”

Traveling to Antarctica isn’t cheap, especially if you actually want to step onto the continent. It’s not a journey that the typical cruise line makes, so Mr. Wonderful and I joined a company called Quark Expeditions, along with scientists, researchers, and other travel enthusiasts. It was a smallish ship of less than 200, with a surprisingly high number of passengers in their 20s and 30s, looking for an adventure and wanting to step foot on their seventh continent.

But what if Antarctica isn’t all that great, I wondered, as our ship set sail through the infamous Drake Passage. This was to be the biggest splurge of our Round-The-World trip and I was worried it would end up being a big waste of money. But as we made our first landing, and a little Gentoo penguin waddled towards me, Mr. Wonderful and I grinned at each other. This wasn’t just great. This was frickin’ awesome.

The wildlife on the trip was simply incredible. I loved that the animals were unafraid of us, as Petrels and various species of Albatross birds flew overhead, letting the wind carry them forward. Elephant seals drifted by as they slept on their personal icebergs. Orcas were spotted in the distance as immense humpback whales swam so close to the ship that I could count the bumps on its back.

Antarctica

But the highlight for me, of course, were the penguins. I had expected to spot one or two, but instead we saw entire colonies of these adorable birds and witnessed their various life stages as individual stories unfolded before us. Mating, nesting, battling for rocks, death.

Antarctica-penguin

Antarctica-penguin2

On a whim, Mr. Wonderful and I joined a climbing group and learned how to use an ice axe to make our way along the ridge of a mountain. As we paused near the summit, breathless from exertion, we took in the surreal landscape that surrounded us. Miles of white ice stretched out before us in every direction. Icebergs rimmed with turquoise floated serenely below. The world seemed so peaceful, so quiet, except for the occasional avalanche from the mountain next to us. With our fellow passengers looking just a millimeter tall from our perch, I suddenly realized how very small we were in this remote place. And yet strangely, so complete.

Antarctica-iPhone-3What is the next destination you would love to travel to?

What Does “For Better Or For Worse” Really Mean? (Part Two)

Marriage…this story is a continuation from this post.

Two years after my battle with depression, we had a marriage crisis. I don’t know that any marriage is immune from having one. I do have friends who seem like they never fight, and agree with each other on just about everything. Perhaps they’re just really low-maintenance. Perhaps they’re hiding from the truth. In our case, we were living in denial. We had been brushing things away, thinking they were no big deal, when in fact we were sweeping it all into an enormous pile that became the elephant in the room.

[Read more...]

Highlights from Mercedes-Benz Panama Fashion Week

After attending my first Fashion Week, I have a lot of respect for the fashion press who sit through shows all day, work all night to go through their photos and notes, and then repeat it all the next day. Sifting through the 600+ pictures I took during the three-day event was exhausting (and there were entire shows where I didn’t bother taking any photos!), but I’m thrilled I had the privilege to be part of the excitement.

Below are some of my favorite highlights. Since pictures speak louder than words, I’ll let them do (most of) the talking. Enjoy!

PFW-2The ever chic jewelry designer Melina Typaldos dancing down the runway. I love Panamanians; they’re always ready for a good time!

PFW-3

A glimpse of the front-row audience. [Read more...]

8 Funny Styles from Panama Fashion Week 2014

It’s not Fashion Week without some styles that are so strange, they’re hilarious. Not that I don’t appreciate creativity and artistry. There’s a reason runway shows are distinguished from ready-to-wear, because it allows designers to explore certain concepts that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. But I’m a firm believer that art needs to engage the audience, to provoke thinking, not befuddlement. If the viewer has no idea what the artist is trying to convey, then the dialogue is lost. If the emperor is naked, then someone needs to point it out.

Here are 8 styles that left me in confusion (perhaps you can lend some clarity?):

Chanel has the $12,500 grocery basket, and Anya Hindmarch has the cereal box clutch, so I guess it only makes sense we should sport nutrition facts on our wardrobe as well. [Read more...]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Dream!

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Panama? Who knew? When I first heard about it a month ago, I inquired the coordinators for a possible invite. Instead, I was offered a press pass. Wait, me? As I’m writing this, I’m standing next to a photographer with a camera lens three times the length of mine.

PanamaFashionWeeksphotographersNo joke. I’m still pinching myself that this is all real!

The event is for three days, with the runway shows from 5:30pm – 9:30pm. My first thought when I got the schedule was, wait, what about dinner?! Will there be food? Or is everyone expected to starve since it’s the fashion industry? To be safe, I had a hearty lunch of fried chicken and a chocolate cookie beforehand. No dieting for this girl!

I did, however, buy a last-minute outfit from Forever 21 and a pair of kitten heels from Zara. I had to explain to Mr. Wonderful why the travel clothes in my suitcase just weren’t going to cut it.

PanamaFashionWeek2014

[Read more...]

Best Shoes for Travel (that aren’t ugly)

It used to be that I would buy travel shoes with slightly more style than comfort. I survived multiple trips to Europe and Asia this way, bringing my Tory Burch flats and Sam Edelman Trina sandals that were so popular with fashion bloggers. Sure, my feet would hurt a bit after 10 hours of sightseeing, but it was nothing unbearable.

Last year, I wasn’t so lucky. In the middle of a trip to Copenhagen, my right foot started hurting badly. It turned out I fractured tiny bones in my foot pad, which sometimes never heals. My podiatrist explained it was simply one too many cobblestone roads in shoes with thin soles, and there was a price to pay. I now have chronic sesamoiditis, so wearing high heels and flats with thin soles can cause a lot of pain for me.

Now that I’m forced to err on the side of comfort over style, my choices are more limited. I spent the summer checking out shoes in stores like The Walking Company, Aerosoles and Clarks, in addition to selections offered at Nordstrom and Zappos. Some pairs, like the Adam Tucker brand I purchased from Nordstrom, felt heavenly when I first slipped them on and then gave me cramps after a few hours of wear. The problem is that we tend to fall for the “cloud-like” feeling of soft padding, but what your feet actually needs is firm padding with some flexibility. Thank goodness for Nordstrom’s satisfaction policy! When I explained my situation, they were more than happy to take them back.

After a few months of trial and error, I finally made some purchases based on the five criteria for purchasing travel shoes from my last post. Here they are!

[Read more...]

Five Tips for Purchasing Travel Shoes

travelshoes

Since I started traveling, some readers have asked me, “What is the most comfortable and stylish shoe for traveling?” It’s a tricky question, because everyone has their own style preferences and feet are as unique as individuals. I’m a size 6.5 with a slightly wider toe box and a high arch, so what works for me may not work for others. I did, however, literally try on over 30 shoes this summer in my personal hunt for the best pairs, so hopefully my upcoming reviews will save you some frustration and time!

[Read more...]

Where Are You From?

Creative

Where are you from? I frequently get asked this when I travel — by taxi drivers, supermarket cashiers, the random person sitting next to me on the bus. It’s a simple question, yet profound.

“I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area,” I say. “But I’ve always wanted to live in New York. I can’t help offering the extra information, even though nobody asked.

[Read more...]

She’s so lucky…and maybe, so are you.

IsabelMarantW

The most common reaction I received when I told people I was quitting my job and volunteering/travelling around the world was “Wow, you’re so lucky.”

The word luck makes me feel uncomfortable. I do believe luck happens, but people often attribute luck to good things that happen to other people, when it is really a matter of prioritizing your goals, desires and dreams.

[Read more...]