My Travel Bucket List

I’m a list maker–whether it be a shopping list, an ever-evolving to-do list, or my places to visit bucket list. As a travel blogger, this last list is one that I am constantly scheming places to add and later cross off. As I draft this, I’m currently at 39 countries visited, and soon, I hope to have seen more.

So, without further adieu or waxing eloquently (un-eloquently?), here is the shortlist of where I’d like to visit sooner than later:

  • All 50 U.S. state capitols: I currently have 9 left to hit.
  • Cuba: I am hoping to see Havana before it catches up to modern city.
  • Galapagos Islands: Turtles!
  • Peru:  Bring on Machu Picchu.
  • Brazil: After the Olympics this summer, I’m looking forward to Rio even more.
  • Antarctica: It’s the ultimate…and I do have a goal to hit all 7 continents.
  • Iceland: Air Iceland’s stopover package in Reykjavik sounds amazing.
  • Jordan: The historic architectural site of Petra seems unreal.
  • Egypt: I really want to see the pyramids…should have gone several years back when I had the opportunity!
  • South Africa: Friends went on an incredible safari…yes, please.
  • Cambodia: Angkor Wat is absolutely at the top of my list.
  • Vietnam: I’m curious to see the difference between Northern and Southern Vietnam.

With ever-growing inspiration and places I’d like to go, it’s almost impossible to want to revisit destinations I love. Yet there are places I want to be again. Places like Bora Bora, where we honeymooned, or Greece or Italy, which I’ve traveled to a couple of times but want to experience more.

As I pen this, I think of the Things To Do While Alive advertising campaign that struck me almost a decade ago when I lived in Sweden. Some items are checked off, and some of the items are still on my bucket list. I am thankful for these experiences, for the technology to capture memories (from my trusty Canon EOS! to Hipstamatic! and now my Sony and Instagram app), and for 5 senses to take in the world. Cheers to those places and people that have made impressions on me, and here’s to all of the adventures in store!

 

Advertisements

Nature Near Nevada

A dear friend who has visited me in Vegas multiple times is visiting this week, and I attempted the impossible: show her part of my beloved city that she has not yet experienced. She has already done many of my Las Vegas like a Local recommendations, including the Mob Museum, laughing our way through A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Smith Center, and multiple activities on the Strip. We did take in Rock of Ages this weekend—which has recently moved to the Rio—and we nostalgically belted out ‘80s anthems at the top of our lungs…another must-see if you’re so inclined.

Alas, there is not much else that my friend Brandi hasn’t experienced in Las Vegas, even though I am constantly proclaiming each visit her “best trip ever.” With that in mind, I decided that it was time for a road trip: on to explore nature-y sites in neighboring Utah and Arizona. If you’re looking for a fast-paced (read: crazy) excursion to accompany any time in Vegas, then this is your itinerary.

Day One: Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend

We started out around 9am from Vegas and drove approximately 2.5 hours on I15 to Zion National Park—and what an interesting drive it was! The road instantly started to climb when we crossed first into Arizona; then later in Utah, the topography became even more stunning. When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, we cruised through the quaint town, ignoring the many shuttle stops. After paying to enter the park and driving around mistakenly trying to find a spot, we turned around and parked in town and hopped a shuttle. The two shuttle lines were a very convenient to get around the park; we chose stop 5 to hit the Emerald Pools trail, and the online trail descriptions were most helpful in determining the right trail for two inexperienced hikers. We spent about 2 hours total in the park from start to finish, and while it is possible to spend—and enjoy!—so much more time in stunning Zion, we had to hit a very curvy mountain road to head to our next stop.

And that mountain road required some very active driving through canyons and a dark tunnel; approximately another 2.5 hours, and we made it into Page, Arizona, where we booked into the Best Western Plus. It was clean and adequate, plus had a nice hot breakfast. (Note: try to stay on top floor to avoid thunderous upstairs neighbors.) Not two girls to rest, we headed immediately to our next adventure: hiking about 20 minutes to see Horseshoe Bend. This is a magical place where the Colorado River has carved its way around a canyon—a spectacular view! Brandi and I caught the splendor and took photos before making the trek back to our car—mainly because we were worried that idiot tourists who were too close to the ledge would fall to an untimely death. Plus we were starved for dinner. Not much to feast on in Page though—the “Texas” BBQ place is most likely your best bet.

Day Two: Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire

Our second day started off bright and early with the aforementioned hotel breakfast before checking out and making the 10 minute drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour was operated by Dixie Ellis, and I highly recommend the photo tour. Picture this (pun intended): a quick walk in a small group, private canyon views, plenty of time to set up tripod and DSLR camera, and two hours of exquisite shooting in a place sacred to the Navajo. Pictures from another friend’s tour were the literal inspiration of this trip, and Antelope Canyon did not disappoint. Book the photo tour, bring your tripod, and plan to hit the canyons first thing in the morning. The Upper Canyon is famous for light beams, but we were more than happy with the imagery we collected. (One can tell the difference between the below tripod photos on the tour versus the others taken via iPhone.)

Page is a small community, but it was big enough to have a Sonic, which we hit before driving on the Glen Canyon Dam across Lake Powell (stunning and Hoover Dam-like!). Then, we hightailed it back to Nevada, crisscrossing across Arizona and Utah stateliness several times. It took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Hurricane, Utah for a quick break, then another similar time period before we pulled into the Battleborn State’s first state park: the Valley of Fire. One can understand why several movies (Star Trek, Total Recall) filmed their alien scenes here against the stunning red rock scenery. Nevada residents save $2 on entry at the information center, and a 6 mile one-way drive takes one through quite a bit of the park’s landmarks. It was too hot to hike at 113° F, yet it was a lovely drive and well-worth some incredible photos.

Another 45 minutes’ drive, and we were back to the City of Sin! Keep in mind that cell phone reception is often spotty at best in this part of the country. For this trip, I recommend exactly two tanks of gas, plenty of water and sunscreen, very comfortable clothes (and close-toed shoes…can’t convince myself to buy hiking shoes), a great camera with tripod, an excellent playlist, and an incredible friend with whom to enjoy the journey!

 

Travel Photo of the Month: April 2016

Image

Nothing says summer like midsommar in Sweden. Since we’re ending April and springing into summertime shortly, I had to share one of my favorite photos from 2007. This particular year, I spent the summer living in Stockholm, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. The travel POTM™ is a photo I took of the island Stadsholmen from my neighboring district of Södermalm. The Tall Ships had just arrived for that year’s version of the famed race, and I captured a gorgeous event moment of the skyline when looking at the ships. To this day, this photo is still the background wallpaper on my iPhone.Copy of DSC02421

Shannita en Ciudad de México

During my two years of high school Spanish classes in Texas, my nombre en español was Shannita. As much as I tried to pronounce the words and phrases in Spanish, I was never very good at it. Later in life, I also tried learning via the Rosetta Stone program. I picked up vocabulary words but speaking the language was not a strength. Little did I know how I’d use this knowledge recently on a business trip to Mexico City.

Aqui, I will share my picks for a quick trip to the capital city, one of the most populated in the world. Stay: I was in a southeast part of town in the stylish Live Aqua; it was trendy, very clean, and the amenities (Molton Brown and remote control curtains/lighting) were stellar. The lobby was decorated in books throughout, and the meals I had on property were lovely. It was close to Polanco, an upscale district with beautiful flowers and expensive villas.

Eat: attached to my hotel was Porfirio’s, and it was heavenly. I highly recommend the elote para preparar (done up nicely tableside) and the brisket tacos. The following day, my colleague was kind enough to give me an afternoon tour downtown, and we enjoyed a late lunch at Azul Histórico, which was in walking distance from many famous sights. The ambiance was quite lovely–candles strung up in trees–and the presentation of our tasty mole plates were deftly crafted.

See: no trip would be complete without a drive down the famous Paseo de la Reforma, which is often compared to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This was our thoroughfare into downtown, home of the Catedral Metropolitana (one of the largest cathedrals in Latin America) and the Palacio Nacional. Near the cathedral, once can see excavations to pyramids and architecture from earlier civilizations underneath, with reminded me of Rome. Lastly, a jaunt down a pedestrian street brought us to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which is a beautiful domed building that houses an art museum and theatrical performances.

My sixteen-year-old self would have been proud of the Spanish vocabulary I retained, yet she would have been even more impressed with the exciting, fast-paced capital city. Ciudad de México es muy seguro, moderno y muy interesante. I highly recommend a long weekend visit–hire a driver, and get out into the city!

Travel Photo of the Month: April 2015

Image

On a recent morning visit to Red Rock National Park, I captured several photos of my view. When I uploaded this iPhone shot to my computer, I was blown away by how gorgeous it turned out! This incredible view is only about 10 minutes away from where I live, so methinks I should head out to Red Rock and hike more!

Stunning Spring Day at Red Rock National Park

Stunning Spring Day at Red Rock National Park

Business Trip to Bangalore

Although I’ve had the pleasure of journeying to India before (you can read about my trip to Delhi here), I was thrilled to go on a business trip to Bangalore last month. Part of my excitement was visiting the tech hub of India, and after my previous visit to “Incredible India!”, I wanted to experience more. The similarities: the hustle and bustle of daily life, the kindness of the people I encountered, and the incredibly delish cuisine. Speaking of cuisine, I enjoyed some of my favorites–masala, paneer, dosas!–multiple times throughout the visit. I also learned to love Indian tea.

With a packed agenda of meetings and not much time to see the city after it took nearly two days for me to arrive, I hired a driver to take me into the city center on a Sunday afternoon. I visited the quaint Bangalore Palace, which had guided tours and quite a bit of history to learn about the families that lived there in the past. (Note: if you are vehemently against the shooting and displaying of wild game, I’d skip it.) My driver also took me to Shiva Temple, and he was kind enough to tour it with me to explain some of the Hindu traditions. It was there that I took the majority of my photos in Bengaluru, and it–along with some religious history from a kind colleague–I got the best picture of local worship.

The majority of the week was spent in cars going to and fro my hotel–the swanky Zuri Whitefield–and the many meetings I had. The negative side of the Zuri: I did take the opportunity to go to the hotel’s spa (where the masseuse asked me if I ever exercised…I cringed); and the positive:the kind waiters tried to show me which foods were spicy. The one late afternoon I had off, I got to explore a local mall and try on some fabulous clothes at Biba, where I bought a really pretty shirt.

The main difference between this trip and my 2011 trip to India was sadly time: I did not have near enough of it to explore as I would have hoped.

 

A Favorite Travel Photo

Image

Whether I have my hefty Canon EOS, my new Sony NEX-3NL/B, or even just my iPhone 5, I am always taking pictures of interesting things on my journeys. And not just of the famous sites…I like to find unique shots to capture the spirit of a destination. One of my favorite travel photographs was just such a picture: a beautifully colored building in the streets of Lisbon. Even though I was in Portugal for less than 24 hours on a business trip in 2010, this sight intrigued me. Now, four years later, it is still my desktop background.

What is your personal favorite travel photo?

Street Scene in Lisboa

Street Scene in Lisboa