What do you do when you have an extended layover? Me? I get out and explore. We stopped off in Istanbul on our way to Spain and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to see what Turkey had to offer!
Turkish Airlines provided a complimentary hotel stay due to our 24 hour layover. We arrived in Turkey around 5pm, nice hotel and nice view of the city.
You can’t come to Turkey and not see Salt Bae, right? We made reservations at Nurs Et – yes, reservations are needed! The wait is bananas even with one. However, this was the BEST experience I ever had at a restaurant. The owner made us feel so welcomed and appreciated. Definitely 10/10 – recommend!
The prices were very reasonable and everything we ordered was delicious! My favorite thing on the menu was the baklava, which was delivered to our table for FREE. Make sure you get it with ice cream!
After our bellies were full and satisfied – it was time to get out and see what the nightlife had to offer! First stop was MOSS Lounge. The lounge had a cute entry, second level, and a very cool rooftop restaurant. On cool nights, the restaurants offers blankets and heaters.
The rooftop offered entertainment, hookah, and very nice views of the city. Not to mention some of the best hot chocolate.
Lastly, we decided to walk the area near Moss Lounge and found some nice photo ops and views. If you find yourself in Istanbul Turkey for 24 hours, how would you spend it?
Costa Rica is truly an amazing country, full of beautiful beaches, lush greenery/rainforest, volcanoes, natural parks…. & MONKEYS!!! Lol, clearly see my favorite part.
I spent 7 days in this beautiful country, it was packed with adventure, culture, and a broken toe! Let me take you on a weeks’ journey through my lens…
Before we get started here are a few things to know:
Renting a car is expensive! The actual car will only be roughly $50-100 for the entire trip, however the insurance is $1000-$1500. This is at pretty much all locations unless you find an independent hustler on the side of the airport.
Navigating through the mountains is whew, an experience! From San Jose, traveling to any tourist area will take roughly 1.5-4 hours one way.
Very few people speak English – only about 10%. Be prepared to use Google translate if you can’t speak Spanish.
Get cash before you leave the United States, finding an ATM was difficult. They had one in a pharmacy and Walmart. Some locations wouldn’t accept our credit cards. We attempted using Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.
Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica on day 1 we were instantly greeted by these beautiful people and fast-talking hustlers. While walking through the streets to attempt to find an ATM were able to really get an up close and personal look at their everyday lives.
Street Fruit Market (best pineapples EVER!)
While we know most of the areas rich in culture and unbelievable scenery is often times has a struggling economy and most poverty stricken citizens. One thing I have always found intriguing is their ability to preserver in-spite-of their current circumstances.
Let me be very clear, this is not true for all areas in San Jose. We stayed in a beautiful high rise “penthouse” which was very different from what we consider a penthouse in the US. It was still very nice.
Jaco Beach! We were excited to get out the next day and explore and this was our first stop! Jaco offered dark sand and beautiful blue water. Perfect place to relax and unwind or surf, hike to the waterfall, Zip-line, birdwatch, and try out the ATV’s.
We opted to…. Zip-line!
Parque Nacional Volcán Tenorio was on of my Top 2 places we visited while there. This is a MUST see, but let me warn you, bring walking shoes and endurance! The hike is rewarding once you finally make it to the top but…the journey to the top is a challenging one!
The first waterfall was my favorite, there were 4 different ones. Although, the first one didn’t allow you to be able to swim in it. The others at the top permitted that. After leaving there we wanted to just relax in the water so we headed to the springs across the street… & this is where I BROKE MY TOE!
You can see the “self-made” bandage
I slipped on the rocked and jammed my toe into a rock in front of it. The blood begin to gush everywhere and I couldn’t move it, I knew then it was broken. As much pain as it was, I didn’t want to leave all this beauty… I made myself a bandage and laid on the rocks.
Tabacon Hot Springs in Alajuela Province, La Fortuna offered all the relaxation I needed after breaking my toe! Now this was my #1 spot, it was well worth the drive. Tabacon hot springs is attached to a Resort and Spa. The entry was approximately $60, this gave you access to a person locker, towel, pools, and the HOT SPRINGS!!!!
The hot springs several pits to sit to let the hot water massage your entire body, you won’t want to leave! Trust me.
Broken toe or not, I was ready for some adventure! What is more adventurous than ATVs and Horseback riding through the mountains? Vista Los Suenos offered just what we needed! We booked this excursion in advance, we were tired of driving and wanted to be chauffeured for a change. We paid roughly $150, it included ATVs, Horseback riding, and roundtrip (2 hours 1 way) from our Airbnb to the location.
First up… ATVs! I will warm you, wear something that you don’t mind getting ruined and water shoes are a must.
We rode the ATV’s up the mountains for about 2 hours to see views that aren’t available by vehicle. After the adrenaline of the ATVs it was time to slow down and ride the horses to another water fall.
After an adventurous day, we spent this day seeing what San Jose had to offer. We visited that was consider the “downtown” area. Here we hoped to experience more of their culture and some good eats.
As our trip was coming to an end, we wanted to ensure we saw the Volcanoes and spend the day relaxing on the beach, so we did just that at Rincón de la Vieja. Rincón offers 2 volcanoes, rivers, streams, hiking, horseback riding, hot springs, and swimming.
But nothing is better than this right here….
Whatever you decided to do in Costa Rica, it is sure to be an amazing time. I hope this will help you plan your perfect itinerary. Like this blog? Check out Thailand
Planning to visit Cape, Town South Africa? Let me be your guide through this amazing place. We set on a mission to see Cape Town in all it’s glory, poorest of areas to the richest. We wanted to experience it all.
So what is it to do in Cape Town? The first piece of advise I would give you is wait to book any excursions until you arrive as you can get better deals there. We purchased the premium pass which gave us access to the CitySightSeeing Cape Town hop on and hop off buses and which included several attractions. Well worth the $250 USD. This can be purchased at the V&A Waterfront, everything happens on the Waterfront.
First stop was conquering Table Mountain. Although you can hike Table Mountain, due to the amount of time and heat we decided to take the cable car to the top.
Fun Fact: Table Mountain is one of the new 7 wonders of nature.
I mean the quickest way down is to jump off the side of the mountain, right? Right! We decided to jump off of Signal Hill, paragliding. If you are there it’s a must you experience this. Earl with Fly Cape Town jumped with me and he was amazing! The video and pictures were included in the price.
Next up, the Scratch Patch. I was really excited to visit here. It an open area full of stones. You pay by the bag and you are allowed to pick out unique stones that speak to you or your experiences.
Boulder Beach was next on the list to see the Penguins. Boulder Beach honestly for me wasn’t worth it. You can only view the penguins from a distance, you are not able to interact with them.
Sea Point is full of great spots to eat and a beautiful beach! On the beach you will find a lot of the people from the Townships using their talents to make money for their families. We spent our time here eating and relaxing.
Who knew South Africa was known for their Vineyards? Although I don’t drink, nor did I sample the wine, it was a very interesting tour and so many great things to see and learn. Groot Constantia was first, then we visited Eagle’s Nest.
Bo-Kaap was different to say the least and didn’t really live up to the pictures I saw online, lol. It was a neighborhood of colorful houses, that’s it. The museum was a local artist paintings, not much to it.
Kirstenbosch surprisingly was one of my favorite areas to visit. The views were picturesque and there was information on each of the flowers to learn about their benefits.
Haut Bay was the MOST beautiful place in Cape Town. The water, the mountains, the atmosphere. It was breathtaking and the best way to unwind after such a busy day. Best beach to visit.
Aquilla Safari was the most anticipated excursion we planned. However, I would suggest to wait to book when you get there. We booked online prior and could have saved $200. I would not recommend staying on the reserve as the Safari can be done in 1 day.
I would recommend visiting all the museums such as South African Museum and visiting Robben Island (the jail where Nelson Mandela imprisoned).
There is no possible way I could have posted all the amazing pictures and the experiences while there. It is truly a place you must visit. Take your time to explore and really dive into the culture. Check out my blog on Imizamo Yethu, it is the true identity of South Africa and why Nelson Mandela fought so hard.
Thank you for taking this journey with me! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Planning a trip to Jamaica? Get ready for one of the best experiences of your life! Jamaica has some of the most beautiful people and with the most amazing outlooks on life. So let’s start! Where to stay?
We stayed in Riu Montego Bay. It was an all inclusive resort, jammed packed with activities, music, food, and FUN! The staff quickly became friends. See pictures below from the actual hotel’s site.
The resort is safe and does not allow any locals. However, you will see a local or two in their personal boats trying to sell you weed. They are quickly push away by security.
Although it rained most of our time there, we refused to let it stop any fun. Our first day we decided to enjoy a day party on a boat and snorkeling. On board they offered free mixed drinks, lots of RUM punch for the drinkers and nonalcoholic drinks for people like myself.
Side note: These activities can be booked in the hotel lobby.
Next stop, Dunn’s River Falls. Make sure you have your water shoes, waterproof case for your phone, and your energy! This was a guided tour to the top of water falls, rocks, and cold water! You can go by yourself or with a group, I suggest a group.
The next day we decided we would go swim with the dolphins! We took a bus to the from our resort to the location. This was also booked through the hotel lobby for about $75 USD. We quickly became really cool with the staff so we were able to do a lot more than just see the dolphins.. First stop, the camels.
After the camels, we went swimming with the dolphins. The have life jackets available and instructors that will assist you if you are scared. The pictures were not included but available for an additional $45, well worth it to document the experience.
After swimming with the dolphins, our friends took us behind the scenes to interact with he dolphins like the trainers do. We fed them, rehearsed tricks, and just bonded. Honestly one of the dopest experiences, ever.
If crazy adventurous isn’t your thing, you can always relax by the pool, lay out on the beach, or visit neighboring areas. Negril, isn’t far and it is absolutely beautiful. There are guided tours that are offered that are easy, informative, and you may even learn a little Jamaican along the way… but whatever you do, enjoy yourself! Ya’mon!
Cape Town, South Africa!!! I will start with my favorite part of visiting Cape Town, Imizamo Yethu.
The Townships was by far the most humbling experience ever. When I visit again, I will spend more time with these beautiful people volunteering my time and money. They were so welcoming and loving. No amount of words or pictures can or will ever describe the impact they had on my life or the gratitude I have for them opening up their homes and hearts to me.
We were greeted by our beautiful guide, Thobeka. I really have to sing praises to her because she was absolutely amazing. Although employed by the company we booked the visit with, she lives in the township and lives in the same poverty.
When we arrived at Imizamo Yethu we noticed the people going through trash searching for things that can be used for the people in their community. Cape Town is experiencing a water shortage right now and Thobeka stated that the people in the townships can go several days without running water.
While there I was informed that although Nelson Mandela in his great work made segregation illegal the city is still very much segregated. They are separated by the Rich South Africans (predominately white), poor South Africans (black), and the colored (I am considered colored there, lol) The rich and poor are literally separated by a street.
We were allowed to tour their houses and the above picture is the inside of one of the houses that would be considered the “best” of all. Most houses do not have running water or windows. This home above had both, huge luxury there. Below is what the typical homes in the townships look like.
Most kids live with their grandmothers, as the their outrageous number of teenage pregnancy, HIV, and rape.
Above is the pre-school and the daycare center for babies/toddlers. There can be as many as 60 kids per class. During the summer months there is a group of teachers that volunteer and helps the children in areas they struggle.
Most of these people make as little as $11.68 per day. Although there are government assistance programs in place, they can only receive $400 ($30USD) rand a month. Needless to say, this isn’t enough to live on for any family. Meals consist of foods that are cheap, filling, and can feed a large amount of people.
Cape Town has a water shortage right now so these people can go up to several days without water. As previously mentioned, most homes do not have running water so they share a water spout.
The kids are so talented and some of the most genuine souls I ever met. They asked if we were their cousins because most black foreigners don’t visit. This community has received help from some different countries and Thobeka made it known that they do not receive any money or help from the money donated to these large corporations. It is best to give directly or connect with one of the local churches/schools.
I even managed to get a few smiles by handing out some treats.
If you plan to visit South Africa, the biggest tip I can give you is spend the majority of your time here.
“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes. “
On our way to Thailand, we decided we would make a quick stop in Shanghai, China. We made it Shanghai around 10pm that night, so we knew we wouldn’t have much time and needed to decide what was most important to us to experience. The next morning we exchanged our money and took the subway into the city.
I would advise to exchange your money at the airport the rate is free as opposed to the city. The transit was about $3USD. The 1 Chinese Yuan converts to $0.15 USD.
We quickly realized that just as fascinated as we were about the sites, the people were just as amazed by us. Everywhere we went people were taking videos, pictures, or just staring. Let’s say, I would never want to be famous. Cause’ although it was flattering we couldn’t do anything without a flick of people watching and recording our every move.
Once we arrived in the city, we decided we would do the typical tourist things and sightsee and it was beautiful. Although it was beautiful the air quality in Shanghai is awful. We seen several people walking around with mask over their mouths to protect themselves as much as possible.
This picture was taken around 2pm. It was a very sunny day, although the pollution made it seem as though it was cloudy.
We decided that for $18 USD we would walk on a glass ledge 1,115 feet, 88 floors above ground with no handrails. It is said to be the world’s highest walkway without rails only a harness. It’s glass ledge adds to the intensity.
We did it and it was one of the most liberating experiences. It’s something about being on that ledge that made you feel free.
Not many people can say they have walked on the sky walked 88 floors high with no handrails… but WE DID IT!!
One day we are in the gym and my cousin says, “Flights to Denver are only $60 round trip, we should go!” Next thing you know, we are on a flight to Denver in February! It’s 14 black people, on a flight to Denver… to ski! Hmmm! Lol! Here we go.
We rented this beautiful house that seems a bit rustic on the outside but, on the inside was complete luxury. There was 3 stories, 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a game room, hot tub, and all the essentials needed for some good ol’ fashion fun in the snow.
We rented our ski clothing from MountainThreads.com and it was a very affordable and smart decision. The company dropped the clothing off at our house and picked it back up when we were done. The jacket, pants, gloves, and goggles were only around $30 a day. Trust me, it is WORTH IT! We rented the ski boots, sticks, and skis at the resort.
We attended “Ski School” to learn the basics before hitting the slopes alone. There was a lot of gliding and falling. The snow was very soft, so thankfully we were not aching the next day.
Snowmobiling was one of the highlights of our time in Breck. Although, I may or may not have fallen off the snowmobile in a tight curve.
Prior to heading out on the route the instructors take you through a brief training to ensure everyone is comfortable. There are some tight curves and pretty steep climbs to the top of the mountain.
Once we made it to the top we were allowed to look around and pose for several photos. The views were truly breathtaking.
Dogsledding was offered at the same location of the snowmobiles, but were sold out when we tried to book. I would suggest booking all excursions in advance as they fill up quickly. Planning is essential if you are anticipating large group.
Not as adventurous as others? Try tubing! Tubing was low impact fun that a big or small group can enjoy. Although it didn’t require much, it packed a big punch! The instructors allowed you to go down as a single, group, or ever race one another.
At night we enjoyed a few local lounges, however the Escape Room proved to be the most stressful. 10 people working to figure out how to Escape the cabin before the avalanche hits. Of course we made it out!
If you are looking for good free fun, then step right outside your door and enjoy nature. We played in the snow, had snowball fights, sled down the hills, and just simply enjoyed the views.
Breckenridge offers fun for all ages. The views were immaculate, the adventures spoke to the adrenaline junky in me, and my tribe, well I wouldn’t trade them for the world!
Drink plenty of water before your trip and during and pack headache medicine. The altitude can cause dehydration and headaches so it is advised. (Keep alcohol to a minimum and utilize Oxygen bars or rentals to help adjust – altitude sickness is no joke!)
If you have never hit the slopes before, ski school is needed.
You can Uber/Lyft or utilize “Breck Free Ride” bus system to any area. A rental car is not needed
Thailand has so many amazing things to do that it can become a bit overwhelming, but be quite rewarding for your bucket list. I mean let’s be honest, Thailand is known for its opulent beaches, ancient ruins, and picturesque temples
Elephant Sanctuary– Gentle Giants! We rode the elephants, bathed them, and for an extra 100 Baht (Approximately $3 USD) you can feed the Elephants. Feeding the elephants was the highlight of my experience. I never imagined them having so much personality! This Elephant Sanctuary also allows you to visit the tigers and floating market. http://www.tigertemplethailand.com
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Damneon is one of the more well known Floating markets and although it sits about an hour outside of Bangkok it is one of the most popular floating markets in the area. One of the things I admired most about this market was the vast majority of women working and providing for their families by selling various goods, foods, and/or services. As you travel through the market in your long tail boat, be prepared to bargain and don’t be bashful about it! If you don’t do anything else, try the coconut ice cream! It was delicious! http://www.tigertemplethailand.com
Tiger Kingdom – Phuket, Thailand Once in a lifetime experience!! This was by far one of the best experiences on my trip. For approximately $60 USD you can have an up-close experience with Tigers of all sizes and ages. The younger tigers were sedated due to their unpredictability and the older tigers were very well trained. They have photographers available for an additional fee, approximately $20 USD. https://www.tigerkingdom.com/phuket
Scuba Diving in Phi Phi Islands – Have a adventurous side? Try Scuba Diving in Phi Phi! The instructors were very nice and made sure you were comfortable the entire time. We paid approximately $45 USD to Scuba Dive for an hour. I mean look at the scenery, who wouldn’t want to?
Khai Nai Island– There are excursions that offer an Island tour. The tour consists of Phi Phi, Monkey Beach, and Khai Mai. We stopped for a swim in crystal clear waters in the middle of the ocean, snorkeled, or just floated in complete bliss.
Unicorn Cafe- A restaurant that is all things Unicorn? Sign me up! Unicorn cafe is a quaint cafe, located only in Bangkok, that serves all their food with a unicorn theme and a SUGAR OVERLOAD! Although it is small it leaves a BIG impression with the great customer service, fun atmosphere, and side of nostalgia.
Temples – The country has some of the most impressive temples in the world. An entire day if needed to see them all and fully enjoy. If you are interested in learning about different religions, this is a must see place for you. Due to the history and significance to their culture, I refrained from taking pictures as a personal choice.
Patong Nightlife – Patong was different from what I expected. There was numerous bars, massage parlors, blowjob bars, and LADY MEN. Lol! Before visiting Thailand, I kept being warned to watch out the Lady Men. If I am honest, Thailand had some of the most beautiful trans women I have ever seen. Sex is heavily solicited and these Lady Men are waiting at every corner to fulfill whatever desires men tourist have.
If you are thinking about visiting Thailand, just do it! If you have a trip planned, I am so jealous of you. There are so many interesting places to see and things to do. Immerse yourself in the culture, buy the excursions, see the temples, eat the food, make friends with the locals… don’t cheat yourself out of the experience!
When I started traveling it was because I was feeding the adventurous adrenaline junky in me, little did I know that these departures and arrivals would teach me more about myself than I ever imagined. Below are the things I learned on this unknown journey to me.
To step out of my comfort zone
Nothing good happens there, right? Isn’t that we are always taught? It’s a new culture, new people, and a new country… I am forced to try new cuisines, talk to strangers, struggle to speak a new language, and more importantly learn to enjoy life without my core group of friends and family.
That I enjoy experiences over things
I am a shoe-a-holic, whew! I mean I have it bad. However, what I have realized buying shoes, clothes, bags, or any other expensive items have never gave me the LASTING joy that traveling has. I have experienced life on a level I never imagined in my wildest dreams.
That my purpose is to help children
Traveling helped me find my passion and purpose, to mentor young women and give them the gift of travel. Arise Travel and Mentor was birthed because I wanted to expose young underprivileged women to the world, show them things to help imprint change in hope in a world that seems hopeless.
Life doesn’t have to progress the way everyone tells you it should
We are told you must get an education, get a job, married, have children, put God first, and die… there is so much to life and it doesn’t have to be lived in the traditional format. That concept is limiting and quit depressing honestly. I am the author of my own life! I don’t have to be ashamed that while me friends are attending their kids’ dance recitals, I am jumping out of planes, playing with tigers, or being carefree floating in the middle of the ocean.
“Enjoy the ride and stop worrying where you are; you will get to where you need to be. Every detour and shortcut is there for a reason.”
Be more appreciative
There are so many luxuries that we have in the United States, literally everything is at our fingertips. Traveling to different countries you are forced to make do with the things around you. Often times no air, limited food choices, no transportation, and language barriers. I promise it will make you appreciate all the things you have back home. Traveling allows you to experience living conditions you never thought you would survive nor appreciate.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I learned to not sweat the small stuff and enjoy the beauty all around me. So what you phone stops working in the middle of you trip to Tanzania, right? Lol speaking from personal experience and allowing myself to nearly ruin my trip. So what it rains the entire trip, the locals rip you off… trust me they will, or you wait an hour in the cold and rain for the lights on the Eiffel Tower to come on and they never do! None of those things matter, I have never remembered a trip by the tragedies only the amazing experiences and people.
More importantly, I learned to be me… UNAPOLOGETICALLY ME! I care not to be a people pleaser and I don’t care as much what people think about me on social media or in real life. I only desire relationships and friendships that fully feed my soul, equally supportive, and people who force me to level up. I desire to teach people and show people the world through my pictures, stories, and experiences.
The entire time I thought the journey was the plane rides, the experiences, the people… unbeknownst to me the journey was to me this entire time.
32 years old, wow! I am 32! I remember being a kid and my mom being this age and thinking my mom was old. The journey to 32 has been full of many ups and downs. At 32, everyone around me is either married, engaged, pregnant, or has kids. Then there is me… the aunt of 4 that finds peace in traveling the world, photography, and fitness.
31 and 32 presented some of the most uncomfortable growing pains I ever experienced. During this time I learned so much about myself and life. As this year draws to an end and 33 staring me in my face, I am focusing on loving, expanding, and sharing.
Learn to love the journey
Do what makes you happy
Think before you speak or react
Happiness is a state of mind
Allow love to find you, don’t run!
Buy the ticket, the dress, the shoes, etc
Protect your peace; at all cost
Don’t compare yourself to other; especially on social media
Keep in touch with family and friends
Find a way to stay active
Express your emotions
Invest in your dreams
Pursue your passions
Learn to listen, even when it hurts
Let go of the past
Live below your means
Failure is good
Your aren’t always right
Change is scary, but good
Gratitude is the key to happiness
Self honesty is freedom
Worry is worthless
Your gut is always right
Money doesn’t buy happiness
Don’t take yourself too seriously
It is NEVER too late! Whatever you desire to do in life, do it now.