Barcelona, Spain – Julian Marley on Plaça de Catalunya

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In honor of Bob Marley’s 70th birthday today, I decided to post this video of his son Julian Marley playing “Redemption Song” on the plaza in Barcelona, Spain I lived on for a few months during the Spanish Revolution. The lyrics to this song are so powerful for the setting that he played in because they synchronize so perfectly with the reasoning for the revolution there in the first place.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.”

 HAPPY 70TH BIRTHDAY, BOB!

San Diego, California

IMG_4044For the year of 2014 my older sister Emma was listed as my “significant other” for my flight benefits. Unfortunately work and mom duties kept her from traveling but we were able to make it to my favorite US city for a few nights! She has never been to California so it was awesome to be able to show her why I am so obsessed with it. We spent the first day in Ocean Beach which is the known to be a bit more of a hippie area in San Diego and the next day rented a car and went to La Jolla. Below are a random collection of photos from our sister’s in San Diego bonding weekend!

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Ocean Beach, San Diego!

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SO grateful my big sis finally got to experience California!

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La Jolla beach.

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La Jolla Cove – a gorgeous cliff area jam packed with seals. Just be ready for the awful smell!

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Love this hotel’s outdoor pool area.

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View out the room.

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Milan, Italy – When travels don’t go as planned

IMG_4316 This post on my time in Milan comes with a bit of a wild story with it. I hope that this story will inspire other travelers to realize that even when your travels don’t go as planned, roll with the punches and take every experience with a sense of adventure and many times things end up being more exciting anyways! It all began when I awoke on what I was planning on being my last day in Cinque Terre to a downpour. If you read my post on Cinque Terre HERE, you know that it is a city that really is meant to be experienced outdoors so I truly had no other options than to head to Milan a day early.  However, I had no plans on getting there yet so I assumed it would be a long, rainy day of public transit. I went to return my room key and met a Swiss girl named Petra doing the same. Petra is one of those people you meet while traveling whom you know you will never forget! If you would have told me upon our first meeting the craziness that the day ahead would hold I would have never believed you. Petra told me that her traveling friend and her were headed to the train station in Genova which was over an hour drive in their rented car and invited me to join. I jumped at the offer! I couldn’t believe how great my luck was.

We got to the train station with no problem and said farewell to her friend who was off to the airport to some other European city. This is when Petra realized she had left her phone with her train ticket on it in the car. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if she had the login info for the e-mail to the ticket she had bought or funds available to buy a new ticket. Long, long story short we got stuck in the creepiest area of Genova in search for an internet cafe for her to try to get her ticket. It was quite an afternoon! She missed her train but somehow after a few hours stuck in Genova, she was able to get a ticket to Milan with me.

The lovely hostel I had booked for the night in Milan had many open rooms when I had booked it, so we decided to have Petra just go with me to the hostel and spend the night there. Well, after hours of traveling and searching for the hostel we finally arrived to find that there were no open rooms. It was already pretty late and we were both hungry and starting to become frustrated as we attempted to find other hostels for her to spend the night at. Most were filled up but she found one pretty far away but before she left we decided to get a nice dinner together. We found a local place with outdoor seating and after our stressful day, our evening quickly turned into one of my favorite evenings of my entire week in Italy! Our delicious dinner was accompanied by a long conversation and many laughs. We ended up staying until closing time and given free drinks, compliments of the chef. Petra and I decided to walk back to my hostel before she left where we met another solo traveler and we impulsively decided to all go out on that Wednesday night for a drink. We ended up making so many Milano friends and chatting the night away! Petra ended up sleeping at my hostel after all and sneaking out at sunrise. It was such a crazy and unexpected day but I wouldn’t change a minute of it!

The following day was one of my last in Italy and I realized that I had spent almost every waking minute with other travelers. I decided to decline an offer to go explore with another girl at the hostel just to be alone for the day and do some reflection on everything I experienced the past week. I truly adore experiencing new cities alone, getting lost and taking all the new sights in at your own pace in without the need to worry about being social. I spent the entire day wandering about the streets near the Milan Cathedral known as the Duomo. It was breathtaking and just as lovely as all the photos I have seen of it. So, even though my time in Milan truly was quite unexpected – as you can see, it turned out to be quite an adventure indeed! As Marley says…

Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright.

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Meeting Petra in the downpour in Cinque Terre.

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En Route to Genova.

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Genova – I hope I never get stuck here again!

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Hooray! We made it on the train to Milan, finally!

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The beautiful Milan train station.

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Milan train station.

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The backyard of the hostel I stayed at in Milan. Hostels get such a bad rap for people who have never stayed in them. They are perfect for solo travelers! Just make sure to read reviews from a place like hostelworld.com.

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Loved the open doors and little patio in the hostel room in Milan.

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At dinner with Petra!

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The great restaurant we found. I love finding local spots away from the touristy areas.

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New friends from Milan from our evening out!

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What a fun night we had.

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Start of day 2. Wandering about Milan alone taking in the beauty of such a magnificent city!

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Milan LUSH! I love this store so, so much.

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When you buy a drink in Milan, you get to enjoy a huge buffet of little appetizers. Most places offer this deal but I think I made the right choice with this cafe.

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The incredible Duomo.

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Never let anyone lead you to believe that traveling solo is any less magical. It can be such a time of great personal discovery and such a growing experience.

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I hope you enjoyed this post on my time in Milan! Remember – stay flexible while traveling and don’t stress out over the small stuff. You ARE going to get tired. You most likely WILL get lost. Things will not always go as planned but it is all part of the adventure!

Keep on traveling, my loves! xx – Kate

Tulum, Mexico

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During the BPM Music Festival in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico during the first week of 2015, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to Tulum which was about a 30 minute drive from our hotel in Playa Del Carmen. I am so glad we did because this place was absolutely incredible!

Tulum is a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city which served as a major port. The ruins are in the state of Quintana Roo situated on the beautiful clear teal waters of the Caribbean Sea. Tulum is popular with tourists because it is one of of the best preserved coastal Maya sites and one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayas. It was at it’s height in the 13th and 15th centuries.

For a few dollars you enter the historic archaeological site and walk thru the ruins to get to one of the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. I highly recommend making the trek to Tulum if you are ever in the Cancun area.

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Cinque Terre, Italy

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IMG_4032After getting my flight benefits – the first place I wanted to go was this magical looking little known about place in Italy I had found out about from Pinterest. I kept seeing these pastel colored houses against cliffs jetting out into the sea and imagined myself there almost daily. Actually making it back to Europe was a dream come true and making it to Cinque Terre made it all feel so surreal.

Cinque Terre is a stretch of five towns along the Italian Riviera that looks like it is straight out of a storybook. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are the names of the 5 towns, all with a bit of a different flair to them.

Italy has declared the entire region a park in order to preserve it. It is in northern Italy between Pisa and Genoa. The 5 tiny cities are all connected by train or boat but many people prefer to hike among them along the rugged coastline.

Cinque Terre forces you to take on the relaxed vibes of Italian culture because quite frankly, there is not much else to do there but relax. There are no cars allowed down in the towns which makes it an even more unique area. Unlike other popular Italian destinations, there are no museums or clubs. Perhaps it is for this reason some backpackers choose to stay for only a brief time while others choose to stay to relax longer since it is a great place to recharge if you have been traveling for a while.

It doesn’t take long for the vibes of Cinque Terre to win you over to the slower paced way of life. My favorite memory there was spending an afternoon laying out marveling at the beauty of the coastline and jumping off the rocks for a swim. Evenings were spent strolling about after a delicious meal of pesto pasta paired with a glass of the region’s own wine.

If you are interested in visiting Cinque Terre, check out what my man Rick Steves has to say about it as well – when it is one his favorite places, you know it has gotta be good!

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There is no such thing as too much espresso.

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Intriguing art in unexpected places everywhere you look.

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The view outside the room I rented the last evening. One nice thing about staying in Cinque Terre is that you will always be a very short walk to the ocean’s edge no matter where you stay.

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Yay gelato!

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The view outside the hostel I stayed at in a town of 400 near Cinque Terre. The landscape was so breathtaking and peaceful!

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Dreamsea Costa Rica Surf Camp

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One of my biggest goals is to really learn to surf. This is a frustrating goal since I don’t currently live next to the sea to be able to go out everyday to practice. I rent a board often during my layovers in San Diego but I wanted to go to a place where I could get unlimited hours of practice day after day for an extended period of time. I didn’t discover until recently the amount of “adult surf camps” that exist, but once I did I rushed to find one that was both affordable as well as in a country that was on my list of places to visit.

Many of these surf camps are extremely expensive but for what was included at Dreamsea Costa Rica, I feel that the price was fair. It was probably less expensive due to the fact it was “glamping” for accommodation and not a hotel atmosphere but for me, sleeping in tents sounded like much more of an adventure anyways. It took me quite a bit of researching different camps but once I found Dreamsea, I was there at the camp from Wisconsin 20 hours later!


//my daily schedule at camp

5:30AM : Wake up for (hopefully) a brief time to the sound of monkeys in the trees over your tent. I started sleeping with earplugs so this didn’t happen everyday but these monkeys sounded more like a mix between gorillas and lions.

8:00AM : Wake up again for breakfast! The huge breakfast buffet was amazing. It always included an enormous bowl of cut up fresh fruit beautifully and meticulously arranged in a large wooden bowl, strong coffee and fresh fruit juices as well as a variety of other options which would change daily. Everything at camp, including the dinner tables and kitchen area was outside in the fresh air.

9:00AM : Shower time. The cold, outdoor showers I actually truly enjoyed. It was 80 degrees at camp and after being outdoors 24/7 – I actually looked forward to shower time and found them extremely refreshing. Sometimes I looked around and realized that a frog or lizard was staring at me which was A-OK just as long as I didn’t look over to see a scorpion staring at me! I heard the showers were where they liked to hang out so I would always do an in depth scan of the shower stall for them before hopping in.

10:30AM : Everyone who was headed to the beach for the day loaded up in the big open jeep for a wild, bumpy, exhilarating ride there. I loved hanging off the back, basically holding on for dear life! (Not dangerous at all…) ;)

11:00AM to SUNSET : We spent the whole day at the beach. Everyday we went to a different beach in the area and set up in the shade. Some people did slack lining, yoga, surfing, some day drinking, napping. I was so blessed to have one-on-one surf lessons almost all week which isn’t the norm. Even if you do not have one-on-one lessons, the size of the group will always be enough for the instructor to give you a decent amount of help. The surf lessons were 2 hours long. The waves were pretty crazy for a beginner but I gave it my all and can’t wait to keep going! I did get stung by a jellyfish for the first time – and on my butt of all places. Everyone else there seemed completely undaunted when I told them what happened so it helped me get over quickly and not be a little wimp. The sting lasted for about 40 minutes and then I was out in the water again.

Some of my favorite memories are from being out in the ocean during sunset while the waves were uncrowded just sitting out there watching the fiery orange sun disappear in the horizon surrounded by a watercolor sky. After sunset, we packed up the surf boards and headed back to camp. I always took another cold shower as soon as we got back – I seriously miss those outdoor showers!

8:00PM : Dinner! Being in the sun all day while being tossed around by some pretty powerful waves sure does make you work up an appetite. I have no clue how the volunteers at Dreamsea were able to prepare such epic Costa Rican feasts at a little outdoor kitchen but man, dinners were always delicious. There were always tons of vegetarian options and every night was something different.

9:00PM to BEDTIME : Nighttime was always different. Some nights, people would head into town to go to the bars in town or just chill out in the tree house listening to music and talking. One evening we got to celebrate someone from the camp’s birthday in town with the most amazing fire dance performance I have ever seen! There were 3 girls who were crazy talented and had a long show they performed on the beach outside a popular outdoor bar on the sand. Another evening we had salsa lessons and a party at the camp. It was always good times even if we just hung out and didn’t do much.

BEDTIME: OK, full disclosure here – bedtime alone in that tent REALLY freaked me out. For some reason my phone didn’t get internet service on it at my tent and I was farther off to the side then most of the tents. During the day the privacy and silence was beautiful but walking down that trail in darkness I hated. At night the camp dog would bark and bark and I never knew what he was barking at. Was it some wild animal moving in? The dogs in the surrounding area also barked viciously for 10 minutes on end and it was terrifying. I knew I would be alone and have to throw out some pretty huge bugs once I got inside. As the days went on, my tent was less full of them though and I got less freaked out by them. However, the rustling sounds I never got used to. The last day I saw a HUGE iguana in the tree right outside my tent so I hope that is all it was that I heard moving around out there the previous evenings, I guess I will never know though…

Do one thing everyday that scares you

This line kept going through my head during the whole week I was at Dreamsea because it wasn’t just ONE thing that I was facing that scared me everyday, there was something at every corner! If you want to be thrown out of your comfort zone and really grow, go live in the jungle in a tent alone in Costa Rica for a week! Don’t get me wrong, the experience was completely amazing but I sure did face some fears head on. You can only imagine the size of the weird insects I saw during that week.IMG_3552

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Exhausted on my last night in Costa Rica out in Tamarindo.

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The tree house in the center of camp where everyone went to chill together.

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series: beauty must haves! day 1

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I have learned that all you need is just the basic makeup products IF they work magic. It is awesome to have just your top beauty items to be able to apply them as quickly as possible and get on with your day! I have finally found the products that I am 100% happy with.The price, staying-all-day power and application of the products I will share with you over the next few weeks are my only beauty must haves!

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I have been obsessed with the wing look and applying my eyeliner with a wing since 2008. The past few years, I have tried almost every brand and type of eye liner but realized the BEST and only eye-liner you need to achieve the look is the Revlon ColorStay Liquid eyeliner in Blackest black. The tip is the perfect size and it drys and stays put all day – no matter how hot it is outside! I still sample the new eyeliners at Sephora sometimes, but even the more expensive brands don’t do the trick like this gem.I wish someone would have told me about it before I tried so many others!

Series: How to see the world for (almost) free! Post #2.

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See the first post in this series here.

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I hope that this little post will do Couch Surfing justice. I am worried that a simple blog post will not suffice for how much I LOVE Couch Surfing.

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In my personal opinion, couch surfing is the best thing that ever happened for travelers.

http://www.couchsurfing.org is a place where you fill in a profile with photos and personal information and then you are able to connect with hosts in the country you are traveling to or you are able to host travelers.

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Many people ask me how I ever could find joy in sleeping on a stranger’s couch or feel safe doing so. Here is some information on the TRUTH about Couch Surfing and some important tips for C.S. newbies!

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First off, Couch Surfing is NOT just a free place to crash – it is a way to discover a culture on a level that staying in a hostel will never allow you. It is a way to find lifelong friends with locals in a country where you may not speak the language. It is a way to connect with the most beautiful, free spirited and giving people. I still stay in contact with many, many of my couch surfing hosts.

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I have couch surfed both abroad and in the states. In Barcelona I stayed with 3 different hosts, in San Diego I stayed with 5 different hosts, in Chicago I stayed with one host. I have gone to Couch Surfing events in San Diego and in Chicago and have met marvelous people at both.

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If you are a little scared to make the jump to couch surf; here are a few of my tips for first-timers:

1.) Fill out your profile as extensively as possible. Don’t just post random facts, post information that is as deep and real as possible and shows people who you really are. Think of what you are writing from the perspective of the person who will be reading it to host you – for example, hosts are not going to want to invite someone into their home who has not taken the time to even fill out a profile. Don’t only state that you like Chinese food and sunsets! ;) Get a bit more personal and let your personality shine.

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2.) MAKE SURE THAT YOU REALLY LOOK INTO YOUR HOSTS BEFORE SENDING THEM A COUCH REQUEST! I want to make one thing clear – not everyone in the site is awesome. The majority of REAL and experienced couch surfers are, but there are creeps on most sites. It is extremely important to make sure that your host is not some creep who has never before hosted someone or used the site. One time, I almost sent a request to someone when I was in a rush and in a bind before reading his whole profile. I am so glad I did because I found out that it was a “shared sleeping arrangement” and he had listed some other creepy and strange info on his profile! If you are new to couch surfing, stay with VOUCHED FOR hosts. This means that a certain amount of people who stayed with them in the past (I think it has to be 3 or 4…) verified that they are who they say they are and they are great hosts!

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3.) Post lots of (true-to-you) photos. The best photos to share on your profile are ones that actually look like you and ones that will serve as conversation starters when you meet your hosts! Couch surfing is not a dating site. So don’t post lots of edited pictures in your Sunday best or partying garb! A lot (if not most) couch surfing hosts are travel junkies, so it is a great idea to share photos of your own travels. If you have not done much traveling yet, post some photos of your hobbies.

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4.) Join groups  on the site. Couch surfing is a community of all types of people. (Not just hardcore travelers or “hippies”!!) I am in many groups and change my groups depending on where I am at the moment. For example, while I was in Paris I joined an “Expats in Paris” group. Hosts will look at these groups when they check out your profile and it is an easy way to share a bit more about yourself instantly. There are many different groups to join which range from hobbies, languages and even groups to find hitch hiking buddies in different cities!

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5.) Send a good request message. “Popular” hosts get many travelers messaging them to stay at their place to make sure that your message stands out! Hosts can tell when you just copied and pasted a generic message to a bunch of different hosts. I recommend writing something interesting about the host you are writing to in order for them to know you actually read their profile! Also, even though you have to fill out the dates that you are asking them to host you for in the request, it is great to fill in some info on what time and how you will arrive as well in the couch request message so they can have an easier time making a decision if it will work out in their plans to host you.

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6.) Don’t expect too much… (or too little): Let me explain. New Couch Surfers get confused about how to use the site sometimes. Couch Surfing is NOT ONLY A FREE PLACE TO CRASH but it also is not free access to a local tour guide! Don’t expect too much: Do not make your hosts feel like they have to show you all around their city or spend every waking minute with you. On the flip side, don’t make your couch surfers feel like you are only interested in them upon arrival for a place to sleep. EVERY SINGLE HOST IS DIFFERENT. Some may be working a lot or busy when you are staying over, but some may expect that you will want to spend dinner time cooking together or really want to show you all around their city! It is good to learn more about what hosts will be expecting by reading their references. It is best to expect to spend some time with your host just out of courtesy – If you know that you will not have any time to spend with them, let them know your plans in the first message to them so you don’t come off as being rude.

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7.) Make sure that you read references about your host. These references are EXTREMELY important to look over. Ladies: Make sure that if you are staying with a guy he does not only host (cute) girls! This is a RED FLAG CREEPER ALERT!

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If you have any questions about Couch Surfing, leave a comment below!

WELCOME TO THE BEST COMMUNITY OF

OPEN MINDED,

FREE-SPIRITED

TRAVELERS -

THE C.S. COMMUNITY!

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