Tags Posts tagged with "Travel"


A place of peace, serenity, and hope. I felt all of these – and a gentle wash of kindness – as I ventured up the path toward the House of the Virgin Mary, or Mother Mary (Meryem Ana), located just a few miles away from the busyness of the ruins at Ephesus, Turkey.

It was a hot day in spring, and we had a very important stop before exploring Ephesus. We were visiting a place of pilgrimage for many global religions – that of the House of Mother Mary.

Visiting the House of the Mother Mary

History has it that when Jesus was on the cross, he tasked his apostle John with taking care of his mother. St. John and Mary relocated to this area, John to spread Christianity, and Mary to spend her last days. John is honored by a basilica over his burial site near Ephesus, the ruins of which you can also visit. Mary lived in a small stone cottage, far up on a mountainside. The structure of this building dates to around the 6 century AD, but the foundations date to around 1AD. It has been restored in the last century.

Visiting the House of the Mother Mary

Educational signs, teaching about Mother Mary

Located on Mt. Koressos/Bülbül Dağı (Nightingale Mountain) near Selçuk, Ephesus, and Şirince, Meryem Ana is reached by driving up a narrow winding road. Park, and breathe a sigh of relief for being here at this quiet, historical outpost. Then wander to the outdoor café, where you can rest under beautiful shade trees and have a Turkish coffee – and perhaps a simit stuffed with chocolate, if you’re lucky.

Relaxing at the cafe, at the House of the Mother Mary, Turkey

Snacks at the cafe (including delicious Turkish coffee)

Cafe at the House of the Virgin Mary.

There are both indoor and outdoor tables at the cafe

Refreshed, we made our way up the stone path, through shady trees and blue skies. There was an open area to the left, in which you could look down and see the ruins of a baptismal cistern. We next came upon a small, outdoor chapel with benches. Then a statue of Mother Mary and some large educational signs amidst a beautiful, lush garden on each side of the path.

Pool of Wishes at the House of the Mother Mary, Turkey

Remains of the baptismal cistern

Educational signs at the House of the Mother Mary, Turkey

Educational signs

Statue of Mother Mary at the House of Mother Mary, Turkey

Statue of Mother Mary

Small groups of people wandered up the path, taking their time, enjoying the gardens. At the top, everyone stopped and paused to take in the very small building that is the house of Mother Mary, now a chapel. Our guide, who told us much about Mother Mary, reminded us to take no photos inside, and that the chapel was still in use as a place of prayer.

Looking at this small building, with arched doorways and windows, ironwork on the windows, shaded by tall trees, you’d never guess it as a place of pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims (Mary, mother of one of the great prophets, is known as Isa Peygamber to Muslims). We approached the open door, and saw a small room within.

Window of the House of Mother Mary, Turkey

Once we stepped inside, though, something was markedly different about the house. The very air changed; it was noticeably still and peaceful, and sounds seemed to fade away. 

A few older, local women kneeled on small benches on the sides of the main room. Their kerchief-covered heads bowed in prayer, they reminded us of the holiness of this place. With quiet, deliberate steps, I walked forward, my footfalls softened and silenced by thick Turkish carpets. Moving slowly through an archway to the main altar, located in the smaller room where Mother Mary slept, I glanced around at the walls, the ceiling, the light streaming in from the windows. I wished I had my camera, but I was also grateful that I didn’t – for no camera can capture the utter peacefulness of these two rooms, the immenseness of millenia of belief, the stone walls holding stories no writer could ever tell as well. At the front, before the altar featuring a statue Mary surrounded by candles, I bowed my own head and paused to soak it all in, and gave thanks for this place.

I exited the house through a small, arched doorway. Once outside, everything seemed clearer, somehow. A few steps more and visitors can light a thin, white candle and place it in sand in large, iron boxes, saying a few words. Stopping to reflect here, I thought about all of the shrines, mosques, and cathedrals I’ve seen around the world. None of them were as peaceful as this small building, perched on a dusty mountain, in view of the Aegean. I like to think that Mother Mary loved being here – loved the view, the landscape, and the people – as I did. This love seeped down into the very rocks of the mountain, I think. We could feel it.

Lighting candles at the House of Mother Mary, Turkey

But the place wasn’t done with me yet. After turning a corner and heading down a few stairs, I came upon a few surprises.

First was a series of three natural springs, which were located in nooks in a tall stone wall. The springs are said to bring health, love, and wealth, so fill your bottle and drink, if you’d like.

Just past the springs is the Wall of Wishes, where I saw thousands of wishes tied to large, rectangular hangings on the wall. I didn’t look closely, because I think wishes are personal, but I was taken aback at the great quantity of them. Just imagine the power of these wishes, carefully tied by pilgrims from all over the world. It’s a startling and important reminder of the power of hope, and of belief.

Wall of Wishes, House of Mother Mary, Turkey

Wall of wishes

Wall of Wishes, House of Mother Mary, Turkey


Note: Our guide, a local, told us the story of the fire of 2006. It was an enormous forest fire, spreading rapidly across the mountains, burning all those dry trees and scrub in its path. She said that they all worked hard to stop the forest fire from reaching Mother Mary’s house, but it was a close call. The fire, which burned 1,200 hectares, stopped just 3 feet short of the house.


For more information:




Tips for visiting the House of Mother Mary

Do not walk to Meryem Ana – the road is narrow, winding, and there are cars and buses utilizing it. Hire a taxi, drive your rental car, or take a bus tour there, for safety. You can also take a bus from Kusadasi for Sunday Mass – be sure to reserve your space on the bus; check the official website above for more information. You’ll know you are on the right path when you pass a very large statue of Mother Mary, guiding the way. There is parking here, so you can hop out and take photos.

Statue of Mother Mary, guiding the way to her house. Turkey

While most of the path is wheelchair accessible, there are a few steps in the walkway up to the house, as well as a steep ramp. Upon exiting the house and descending to the springs, there are a dozen or so stone steps.

There is a souvenir shop at the entrance, across from the café.

The entire area is very clean (including the bathrooms) – the caretakers work hard on this, as you can see. I didn’t see anything out of place here.

Cleaning supplies, House of the Mother Mary, Turkey

Fun bathroom sign at the House of the Mother Mary, Turkey




This article was originally published at: https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/visiting-house-mother-mary.html

Note: I was part of a group of White House Travel Bloggers that Turkish Airlines flew in to experience Turkey (thank you, eternally!). Stay tuned for more posts about this special country I’d love for you to explore  – and check out our The Best of Turkey – an A-Z Guide for inspiration from travel writers around the world.


Jessie Voigts has a PhD in International Education, has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. Jessie is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, and is passionate sharing the world through her site, Wandering Educators. She founded and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program, teaching teens all around the world, and is co-founder of Writing Walking Women.


All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

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I was the only “half-breed” (yes, that’s a Cher reference) in a small Oregon town. Largely white with a sprinkling of Latinos, it was assumed that my father was Mexican—nobody knew what an Oklahoma Cherokee accent sounded like (let alone what a Cherokee looked like). And me? I was whiter than my mother. By the time I was 12, strangers assumed my father and I were dating when we went out alone together. By 13, I refused to be seen in public with him.

It’s impossible to squeeze the myriad of jabs, one after another, into something of an essay. The renowned poet Marvin Bell recently asked me, “Is it all true? Did this all really happen?” Yes—completely. My father disappeared when I was 15, popping up a couple of years later from a cancer-soaked deathbed in an Indian hospital. My mother kicked me out the summer I turned 16, changing the locks on the doors and leaving a bag of my clothes in a trash bag on the porch. I spent a few months homeless, but not car-less thanks to working under the table jobs since I was 11. I showered in Pilot Station bathrooms, sold torn out stereo equipment in pawn shops. I was a kid and this was an adventure. For the first time in my life, I felt free.

That was a lifetime ago. I think it’s that tenacity that honed my gut instincts, my dogged heart-following tendencies when even the most obtuse of people would say it’s a mistake. I’ve never made a mistake, but I’ve had plenty of adventures. I’ve been in love once—hard—still am, in fact. He looks like my father and has all the same “good parts” but none of the bad. But he’s the “wrong” kind of Indian, the kind that grew up along the Arabian coast and snuck parathas dipped in ghee as a child instead of M&Ms. It took six years of heartbreak, my running away to Costa Rica, and him risking being ostracized from his family (he was supposed to be arranged, after all) to come to this: An impending wedding in Mumbai, elephants and mehndi as accoutrements.

I’ve lived enough close calls and in enough countries by now to understand that “belonging” isn’t a physical space. There were times London felt like home. It’s easy when you’re in graduate school, flush with fellowships and living next door to Hugh Grant (though I never saw him), gorging on real Christmas pudding. It wasn’t so easy when I failed moving there permanently with a work visa. There were slivers of home in Seoul, when I let fish eat away at my feet and got foggy from too much Korean barbeque. I’ve felt at home in Costa Rica, the United Arab Emirates, India and even (sometimes) when I visit that small Oregon town.

So, where do I belong? Where am I free? It depends who you ask. I was never accepted in either of my “born into it” cultures. I “pass” as white, though some strangers with sharp eyes saying, “You look something.” (It’s in the eyes. Those high cheekbones). But I never felt at home in that culture. Never unshackled. My Cherokee family was scared of me, a blonde little girl who couldn’t speak the language and hated those Oklahoma granddaddy long legs that scaled the front doors. I tried so hard to fit into the “right places” and felt like a fraud in each of them. The high school cheerleader. The sorority president. The one who got a good corporate job and was miserable in zippers and skirts. Through it all, I kept where I was from a secret—nobody wants to hear about that. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says about where I belong. I know where that is now.

I belong “here.” I’m free “here.” In my words, and in my writing. I belong in a healthy body, one that isn’t emaciated in eating disorders in another valiant effort to look like a Pinterest board. I belong with my partner so we can see how a real lifelong love story unfolds. I belong deep inside books, my favorite yoga poses, and on that special hiking trail I worked out for myself amongst the forest and rose gardens. I belong to nobody and everybody, including myself. Freedom and joy are everywhere. Look around—and don’t forget, from time to time, to look within.

About the Author: Jessica Tyner, born and raised in Oregon, is the author of The Last Exotic Petting Zoo  and What Makes an Always, published by Tayen Lane Publishing. She is the founder of MehtaFor, a writing company which serves a variety of clients including Fortune 500 enterprises and major media outlets. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica offers complimentary writing and editing services through her company to Native American students as well as non-profits based in the Pacific Northwest and/or serving Native communities.


Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she writes and practices yoga.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Independence Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Peaceful Travels in Germany

Maria Posada says, “I belong to no one.” I say, “I belong to no one place.” Traveling the world is my aim and each time I globe-trot my heart thumps with a sense of joy and freedom that no woe could ever touch. I am twenty-four, and chapter twenty-five of my book will begin as I leave the U.S. soil to spend a romantic weekend with my truelove exploring the glaciers of Iceland, and then to visit the very place where I discovered the true version of myself nearly five years ago (then rediscovered myself two years later while on a three-month backpacking adventure), a place that tugs the strings of my very being, a matchless little land called Germany.

Unexpectedly, at the age of sixteen, I was thrown into independence after I sole-survived a speedboat accident that killed my whole family. Five passengers—a happy family that never ceased to encourage me to follow my own path—but only one survivor: Me. As you can imagine, I was quite lost throughout the years following the boating accident. I was a teen trying to discover my true self and my proper place in this chaotic world while having to start a new life without the support of family. I had to embrace my emancipation and learn to adapt emotionally and financially.

I have lost the most that life could ever take from me. After a storm as thick as my mine, there is nothing left but light. My survival has opened my eyes to the horrors of this world, but also to the gift of its beauty—the realization of life’s fragility, how quickly, in a snap, life can be yanked from within you, taken without any hint or sudden warning.

Amid my storm I found clarity, and latched onto it before it could wash away. What brought forth my clarity? A tiny idea—a silly one, really, that I could somehow gather bits of family history and find a way to contact my very distant German relatives—people I knew existed, but had never imagined having the chance to actually meet.

Maybe it was the gloomy halls of my grieving heart leading me to wander toward a sense of family, toward my roots, to the country my ancestors roamed long before my book of life began, or maybe it was the result of my newfound independence that gave me the courage to do something most people dream of, yet never take action and do; I contacted my distant relatives, worked two jobs while attending college to save up every penny I could, and on my twentieth birthday, I took my very first international flight, alone, to Germany where I spent thirty days roaming the precious streets and traveling by train each weekend to visit my “new” family in the wunderschön old town of Heidelberg.

When I think of my deceased family, I imagine approval lighting up their smiling faces, my mother, sister, and brothers shooing me earnestly, saying, “Go, Jennifer. Live your life. Follow your heart. Build your own path,” and I smile. I smile and I tell them, “I will. I will carry on.” And when I travel, I take more than just their memory with me. So far, I have spread their ashes in Germany’s neck of the Rhine River, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. Their ashes will carry on up an undetermined path just as I will, across the world, from sea to sea—independent, content, and free.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Her Beauty and My Bravery in India

Stood there before me was this ancient piece of architectural wonder.The Gopuram(tower like structure of Hindu temples),erected in the shores of this, once bustling port city,Mahabalipuram,in Tamil nadu of South India, would make anyone gape with wonder of how the people of 700AD, with no engineering advancement and technology, could build such a monument of awe inspiring height.

Walking along the shore brought back vivid memories of my school days.I have been there many times before, but it was the first time that I was there after I chose this life of a traveler.

Her name was Kavita which means ‘Poem’ in the regional south Indian language Tamil. She was an epitome of elegance. It may sound as an exaggeration if I said ‘she was the desire of every hormone raged teenage boy and the envy of every insecure teenage girl’. But, to me it was a fact not an exaggeration…

We were all standing around the tourist guide. I remember her standing opposite to me. Behind her was a wall fully sculpted with Hindu dieties.The guide was going on about how that city was a great port city under the king Narasimavarma;about the mythical tale of how Lord Vishnu came out from the stone walls in the form of lion to kill Hiranyakasipu,the king who insulted him;about how, that place once had seven Gopuras and then how that only brave Gopuram withstood the wrath of the sea. But, at that time these stories failed to fascinate me as much as Kavita did.I exchanged some shy glances with her.I always wanted to tell her how beautiful she was and how I wanted her by my side. But,growing up in a dysfunctional family,confidence was never my strong trait

My mom and dad,I remember,would fight like tom and jerry.Sometimes my mom would say good things and some days she would spit venom from her mouth.The typical feature of growing up in a dysfunctional family is that you have to walk on egg shells. You would never know how you will be responded. I was neither bullied nor pampered rather just neglected. So at a very young age I started finding comfort amidst nature. Now let me go back to Kavita. We were all then standing in the beach,clad in our school uniform-mandatory dress code so that it would be easy for our teachers to spot us if we were ever lost in the crowd.Kavita and I were fooling around in the beach. We were good friends for a very long time.There were times when she preferred to be me with me rather than her other friends.But I did not want us just to be friends.’But why would she want me as her boyfriend? She was too beautiful.’I thought

I know not if it was the wind or the sand or the mythical tales that the guide told us gave me courage.

“I love you Kavita.Would you be my girlfriend?” I stuttered.

To my surprise she hugged me and said”why did you take so long to say this?”So,what I always wanted also wanted me, just that we were seperated by a chasm of my insecurity and fear.

And thus I had my first girlfriend at the age of 17 in this same place.At that time, to me, it was the bravest act that I had ever did.

Now that I have traveled a lot and experienced a lot,I would say insecurities are a sure sign of having a big ego and real bravery lies in losing your ego.

In my opinion a man,who never forgets to smell the roses along the path and one who breathes without any worry of the past and any fear for the future is the real brave man.

After all those travels and experience,if I’d have to suggest one act of bravery to anyone,I’d tell them to live the moment,for it is all that really exist.


Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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12,126 feet above sea level, I reached a dream. One boot planted on the watershed flowing to the Atlantic. My other planted on it’s opposite that flowed to the Pacific. I was straddling the Great Continental Divide almost two thousand miles from my home. And there was a moment of certainty. That all my private worries, uncertainties and problems were worth overcoming just to stand there.


Only a few months before, I was busy trying to restore my new home, an old airstream trailer. Additionally, I was working 40 hours a week. Driving an hour each way. Just married. So when my wife asked me if we would be able to fly out to Colorado like we’d dreamed of, I nearly said no outright. Too many things already begged for attention and finances were tight.


But that idea festered in my mind. I loved Colorado and had always wanted to visit the state, ever since I was a child. The Rocky Mountains especially captivated my imagination in ways that few other places could. Honestly, I wanted to go, but I was afraid of the cost, emotionally and financially.


Still, I took time off work. My wife and I bought tickets. We told her friends in Colorado, who I barely knew, when we would be there. Digitally rented a truck. Got our half-done home in a semblance of order. Then we endured the skeptical queries of others who thought we should have said no. Other’s perceived opinions weigh on me in a ways that most don’t notice. But, we both pushed on.


Getting to Colorado was stressful and difficult. And, when we stepped off the plane, our problems didn’t magically end. Our first adventuring steps took us to the car rental who didn’t have our reserved truck. They offered, laughably, a mini-van to accommodate all our gear. Worries and other’s skepticism threatened my mind again, striking doubt. But my wife pushed forward, finding another rental company and getting us the best truck we could.


Finally, we got to our destination and after several days, our friends helped us carve an ambitious drive through the Cottonwood Pass from the Denver area. We set out on a two day drive in the early morning, without even a place to sleep that night.


As we drove, my wife began to feel sick. Fifty miles later, she felt worse. One hundred miles and two tissue boxes later she didn’t feel any better. As we entered the pass, I realized she wasn’t going to feel better that day and I told her we would return to Boulder. Just over fifty miles from the divide. But she insisted we keep going and I love her for it.


Still threatened by skeptic thoughts, plagued by difficulties and obstacles, I nearly gave up my joy to experience the Rocky Mountains up close. But then, things began to change. Overwhelming yellows sprouted from white Aspen trunks, a cascade of vibrant color in the late fall. Driving higher, past lakes, sheer rock jutted from the earth and a forest grew as far as I could see. Crisp air heralded the snow that appeared in patches. Streams grew quieter, freezing the higher we drove. Then, finally, after hours of driving and doubting, I opened my door to stand in front of an old wooden sign announcing the Continental Divide. It might as well have said, “Bravo!” and offered me a toast.


An expansive vista of snow capped mountains extended around me. A moose ranged down by a lake a few hundred yards away. Slopes of snow gracefully slanted down the mountain in brisk powder. Sudden gusts of wind would send it twirling in the sunlight. My boots slid slightly on the uneven ice. And for miles and miles, I could see. Really see. A beautiful creation that stretched and called to me, “Isn’t it worth it?”


“Yes,” I murmured back.


And then it all rushed to me. My worries were something that I would always have. Uncertainties were something I needed to overcome to grasp my certainty that I was right where I needed to be. Problems were bumps in the road that tried to keep my wife and I from finding this incredible place.


Staying home was safe. But braving the unknown was success.


It was accomplishing a dream for me. To physically bear witness to the vastness of our planet that still exists. It was worth braving all those troubles to live out my dream. Nothing else compared to that sight the rest of our trip.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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Bravery is too often confused with adventure and action. Too often, people diminish their own bravery because it might lack the drama of scenery. Bravery is in fact a simple notion: you show bravery when you do something you thought you couldn’t do.

For many, bravery is tapped into when limits are pushed, which of course could mean traveling and putting yourself into an unfamiliar situation. Traveling forces you to question yourself, to see through a new perspective, to feel uncomfortable and to find comfort in the unknown. New places and cultures awaken something inside of us.

But bravery is not only demonstrated by someone who travels somewhere new – it can be found in the simple daily actions of life. A young child learning how to ride a bicycle shows bravery. A teenager asking a crush out on a date shows bravery. A grandparent learning to use new technology to keep up with the grandkids shows bravery. These are all small acts – mere moments in a life – yet they truly demonstrate bravery. They prove to a person that perceived limits can be exceded.

The moment in my life when I felt the need to summon courage and strength, the moment I searched for whatever cape I could possibly don, was in fact the result of travel. But it wasn’t because of travel itself.

It wasn’t when I moved to Ecuador by myself. I didn’t feel the need for bravery when – on my first day of classes as the only American in the entire university – my professor ranted about American policies and foreign relations to a classroom filled with angry youth planning city-wide demonstrations for that very afternoon. This was March of 2008, the day after Colombian military forces armed and trained by the U.S. military had bombed a FARC camp inside Ecuadorian borders.

He finally cut himself off mid-rant when he realized a Gringa had actually infiltrated his classroom.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m your new student, Professor. Here to study for the semester,” I replied in my still-nascent Spanish.

“Where are you from?” his face was still red from his rant; perspiration shone on his balding head.

I looked around quickly, knowing that I could lie and then have to maintain that lie for the remainder of the semester, or I could answer truthfully and hope the room didn’t erupt and string me up by my thumbs. I opted for honesty.

“I’m from the United States, Professor.”

I have never seen a man laugh so hard in all my life.

His already purple-tinged face turned scarlet and his features contorted so much that the entire room laughed with him. He finally stopped laughing long enough to demand that I join him at the front of the room to introduce myself and answer questions about my country. I didn’t feel the need for bravery here, only the need to connect with strangers and to demonstrate understanding and empathy.

I didn’t feel the need for bravery when I traveled to Costa Rica to try surfing, nor when I traveled to Jamaica to run a marathon, and certainly not when I traveled to Italy to try to drink my weight in wine.

I didn’t feel the need for bravery when I decided to backpack through Honduras and Guatemala by myself. For me, following my wanderlust was easy, not brave. But it was in Honduras that I was finally faced with a moment that required me to be brave. That moment was when I allowed someone else to impact my life. The moment when I finally felt the need to be brave was the moment I realized I’d fallen in love.

Bravery is neither for the boldest nor wildest among us, it is for each of us to employ as needed.

I had pushed away relationships for so long, fearing that they would hold me back from a life of adventures. I actively chose not to fall in love for years. My first act of true bravery was taking down those fearfully constructed walls and allowing someone to share all of those adventures with me.

Many claim that I was brave to come to Honduras by myself; they say that I was brave to travel alone and to seek adventure and new challenges. What truly happened was that I selfishly wanted adventure and instead learned a lesson in vulnerability. Falling in love requires a vulnerability that can make even the bravest of all adventurous explorers weak in the knees.

Falling in love is the confluence of bravery and vulnerability, a river I am still happily floating down today.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

The Marine Life Engravings on the Pier

Redondo Beach, just 40 minutes south of Los Angeles, is the perfect escape for a weekend. Far off the freeways, you’ll quickly forget you are anywhere near LA and become immersed in the relaxed beach culture. For your next weekend trip, here are the must-dos for a Redondo Beach vacation:

To Do:

After the Rainstorm
After the Rainstorm

1. Paddleboarding (SUP)

Hit up Tarsan when you want to try out paddleboarding. The instructor Elizabeth is nice and helpful, providing equipment for everyone to check out the marine life under the water. Paddleboarding through the marina offers ample opportunities to see sea lions and spot garibaldi fish.

2. Diving

Visit the Dive n’ Surf shop when you’re ready to get underwater. The Dive Pros there shared how Redondo Beach is unlike any other diving destination: divers spotting whales is a frequent occurrence and you can swim through a handful of different shipwrecks.

3. Whale Watching

The whales aren’t shy in Redondo Beach. They frequently come close to the beach because they follow plankton (their meal of choice) into a deep crevice near the shore. Whale spotting is frequent, even from your hotel room window!

4. Boating

Whether sailing or speed boating is your game, the local marinas offer a selection of opportunities for you to get out there and enjoy the fresh sea air. When I went out, a big rainstorm had just passed. The sky was beautiful as the clouds mixed with the light from the setting sun. Getting out onto the water cannot be missed!


To Eat:

A Sampler Plate at Kincaid's
A Sampler Plate at Kincaid’s

1. Kincaid’s

For a nice dinner out, look to Kincaid’s. The menu is vast and delicious, offering amazing appetizers. The short ribs cannot be missed, and the key lime pie is a must for dessert. The massive windows are perfect for watching the ocean. When I ate there, it was raining. Watching the rain from Kincaid’s was beautiful.

2. Tony’s

If the coconut shrimp from Tony’s crow’s nest bar won’t get you there, the view will. Add their signature mai tai to your tab, and relax. This nautical-themed restaurant is perfect for an afternoon drink and casual lunch.

3. Barney’s Beanery

If you’re ready for pub food, get to Barney’s. The chili fries and wings are perfect for sharing, and the drink list is a beer-lovers dream. For someone looking for a fancier drink, the WeHo is a delicious blended drink. If nothing else convinces you that you’re on vacation, the WeHo, served in a pineapple, will.

4. R10

For the hipper crowd, the R10 is the spot to hang out. With great appetizers and a nice bar, the R10 packs in the deliciousness with their whisky loaf, and my personal favorite, their thai curry mussels. For you oyster fans, their prep is excellent, serving them with a yuzu cream.


To See:

The Marine Life Engravings on the Pier
The Marine Life Engravings on the Pier


1. The Whaling Wall

Painted by renowned muralist Robert Wyland in 1991, his Whaling Wall, officially titled “Gray Whale Migration,” is part of his worldwide series of marine life art. He started the 100 piece series in 1981 and completed in 2008.

2. The Pier

The Pier makes for an awesome walk past great restaurants, an arcade, and plenty of surf shops. I even spotted a free yoga class being taught. The real feature of the pier, besides the view, is the engravings of sea life. From whales to sea lions, there’s plenty to see, even if you’re somehow tired of looking at the ocean!

3. The Sea Lions and Other Wildlife

Redondo Beach is not short on amazing wildlife. From beautiful birds to plentiful sea lions, and of course, whales, the marine life is a huge draw to Redondo. There’s always something cool to see, making it the perfect family destination. What child doesn’t want to watch the sea lions play in the water?


To Stay:

The Lobby at the Portofino
The Lobby at the Portofino

1. Redondo Beach Hotel

Recently remodeled, the Redondo Beach Hotel is the perfect family spot. Across the street from the marina, the Redondo is a convenient choice for all of your waterside vacation activities. The breakfast bar in the lobby has both delicious and healthy options, from oatmeal to waffles!

2. The Portofino

For an upscale spot, the Portofino is located on the water, with spectacular ocean views. Sea lions are something of a mascot for the hotel, as they frequently settle themselves right outside the hotel. It’s the perfect waterfront hotel for a luxurious weekend.

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Sydney wasn’t at the top of my most desired places to go on my trip around the world. Africa was first, since that was the reason why I had planned the trip in the first place, but I definitely thought I would love Thailand more than Sydney.

When I arrived in Sydney, it was freezing cold, and raining – not the typical warm, sunny weather that everyone boasts about. However I wasn’t the least bit concerned about the weather. I was just happy to have made it there on Malaysia Airlines and with absolutely no money at all.

My debit card and credit card had gotten stolen in Thailand, and I had used my last bit of cash for the cab to the airport. Luckily, I had gotten a hold of my mother who was able to wire my money to me when I landed in Sydney. I was grateful to have cash, but it still made me worry, especially since I was traveling completely solo…for the first time.

At first I thought it was going to be a complete bust. I thought I’d end up sitting by myself at a café with nothing to do, and no one to talk to. But boy, was I wrong! I stayed in Bondi Beach, a local area, and immediately fell in love. The shop, café, and restaurant-lined street made me feel like I was meant to be there, and I even texted my mom to tell her I wanted to move.

Since I was solo, I was really able to take in my surroundings, and discover how it feels to live in this other world. I figured out how to budget my money, and although I ate pizza for every meal, I felt so proud and excited to be figuring out how to be completely on my own. It wasn’t long before I felt comfortable walking from place to place in Sydney, and taking the City Sightseeing tour bus – which doubled as transportation – to and from my “apartment” in Bondi.

I became so confident with myself that other tourists would stop me to ask if I knew how to get to certain streets! It also made me not only comfortable, but also eager to meet people.

Just by smiling, saying hello, or even taking a photo for someone led to a new friendship, which six months later, still exists. These new friends made me love Sydney and Bondi even more than I already did.

I told my new friends about my volunteer trip in South Africa, my misfortune in Thailand, and how I had be winging it with my limited amount of cash in Sydney, and their responses were the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

They told me I inspired them. They said they were so inspired that I had made it around the world despite many hurdles, and was still so confident and happy, that it made them want to travel more and help others.

Suddenly, I had found my purpose in traveling. I travel to inspire others.

As luck would have it, my new friends took me in, and took me around Sydney and Bondi as if I had lived there forever. I knew I couldn’t afford to eat at the places they would take me, but when they noticed I was only ordering one house wine and a glass of water, they insisted on treating me so I could really experience local life.

These strangers who I had only just met helped me so much, and it made me realize something. If you’re kind, grateful, genuine, and confident, your energy will be noticed and appreciated by other people. I realized that I really was all of those things, and even more importantly, I was happy.


I thought I was so lost when I first got to Sydney, both literally and figuratively. But by the end of my journey…I realized I had found myself.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

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From the Cliff in Indonesia

Before I traveled to Bali, Indonesia, I thought I knew what paradise was, since I was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii. The rich, exotic culture, which is steeped in vibrant Hindu traditions, the lush and mountainous landscape, and premier surf spots are only some of the aspects that entranced me. Given that Indonesia is a developing country, I was instructed to be on guard at every moment. Don’t drink the water, mind your passport and money, understand the danger, and don’t disrespect the religion were a few of the warnings. I never felt an ounce of worry while traveling around Bali.

After being in Bali for a few days, I hired a driver to take me to a legendary surf break, Balangan. The driver, Wayan there are five main names in Bali and Wayan is given to the first born, but sometimes people will have “street names” like Harry or Sally, drove me out of Kuta, a congested, touristy beach city reminiscent of Waikiki on Oahu, in a rickety Toyota van. It was evident that he didn’t properly know how to drive a manual transmission because the car jerked in third gear at a crawling five miles per hour. Eventually, we escaped the trafficked area and hit the open road.

He turned off the main road, which slithered up and inland of the cliffs, onto a dusty, pothole-ridden dirt road. The van rattled and I bounced around on the sticky leather seats because of the poor suspension. Then we burst through a cluster of trees and I could see the beach. As soon as the car came to a jittery halt, I leapt out to look at the breathtaking bay. From the cliff, I counted ten people out in the water. Mangy cows lounged next to towering palm tress in the grassy area above the beach. A wooden warung, a modest, family-owned restaurant that serves the bay’s visitors, squatted in the center of the beach. Waves smacked the cliff on the far side of the bay before peeling across the break. The wind was minimal and the waves looked like they were roughly eight feet. I couldn’t believe I was about to paddle out in this picturesque, vacant surf spot.

            I climbed down the stairs to the beach and quickly realized that the waves were much bigger than I originally thought. Sometimes the desire to taste the danger needs to be satisfied. I felt inspired to tackle this foreign break, but wondered if I was in over my head once I paddled out and reached the waves. Surfers dropped in and were continually engulfed by the jaws of the dangerously beautiful barrels. To ride in a tube of moving water and hear nothing but the sound of rushing water as it curl over your head and collides with the surface below, is one of the most amazing things a surfer can experience. I had to ride one of these daunting monsters. I came to Bali to surf.

            A fifteen-foot wall of water approached me. I faced towards the shore and dug my arms into the water to get on the wave. Water splashed in my face as I popped to my feet and charged the colossal drop. As I carved down the line, I saw the jagged, dry reef nearly fifty yards away. Out of fear, I decided to abort the wave by diving through the steep, thick wall of water—only I didn’t. The immense force of the wave caught and threw me over the falls.

            Darkness surrounded me, but I relaxed and let the ocean punish me. Though I wasn’t in the most ideal situation, there is something moving about being alone under a thundering wave, witnessing the sheer power of the ocean. I’ve often thought about dying out in the ocean and I would happily surrender my earthly ties to the ocean, but it wasn’t my time. I had to seize the moment to scramble back up through the washing machine of currents and breach the surface. I gasped and located my board, once I resurfaced. I walked my board to shore in the shallow water and jogged up the beach. Turning around to look at the bay that just punished me, I was proud that I had the bravado to challenge the bay. Even though it punished me, it was no less beautiful; I had more respect for it.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean at sunset

I have had a crazy 18 months. I knew I would (finally) have some free time, so I planned a vacation where I could really get back to myself. I set out on a restorative trip to find some peace. I went to Santa Barbara, and stayed at Four Seasons The Biltmore.

I had been there before as a teenager, but had never experienced the place as an adult. I’ll admit, I wanted a lazy vacation where I never had to get in the car. I wanted good books, poolside drinks, and palm trees. The gorgeous views were expected, but there was no way I could predict how relaxed I’d feel only a few hours into my stay. Here are the highlights of my trip:

Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean
Drinks at Bella Vista, overlooking the ocean

1. Outdoor dining. For three days, I didn’t eat a single meal indoors. Breakfast on the patio, lunch by the pool, dinner across the street on the balcony at Tydes. I never got tired of the spectacular ocean views available from the Bella Vista restaurant at the hotel. It’s quite easy to spot dolphins swimming by every day. Some of the hotel staff told me they have spotted an occasional blue whale, as well. Above, you can see our drinks the first night, over looking the ocean. The poolside lunch menu was clean and delicious, featuring an amazing chicken salad that I couldn’t help pairing with a decadent piña colada.

2. The service. Having stayed in top notch hotels all over the world, the Four Seasons Santa Barbara has some of the best service I’ve ever experienced. By the pool, the wait staff came around with complimentary smoothie shots and fresh fruit. The concierge were always happy to rework a dinner reservation, and even afforded me a luxurious late checkout, so I could squeeze a few more hours by the pool. My book was just too good to stop reading!

Lounging by the pool
Lounging by the pool

3. The incomparable atmosphere. The pueblo-style compound immediately put me in the mindset of warm-weather vacation. The sound of the ocean drifting through the windows while I got a massage was amazing. And the beautiful, colorful decor in the rooms, including some fantastic, artful tiles, made me want to stay in my room almost as much as I wanted to hit the pool.

4. The beach. Santa Barbara is not your standard SoCal destination. It’s on the cooler side (during my visit the weather stayed between 68 and 72 degrees), but the beach is perfect for surfers and taking scenic walks (with a sweater). There is even a very unique graveyard on a cliff overlooking the ocean within easy walking distance. If you want to stay out of the cold, both pools at the hotel are wind protected and it feels way warmer on a sunny day!

Morning coffee on my balcony
Morning coffee on my balcony

After such an intense year and a half, it was amazing to sink back and feel the stress melt away in only a short, three day trip! I highly recommend taking a lazy vacation. Perfect weather, perfect pool days and perfect piña coladas!