Sunday, March 15, 2015

Things to Do in Key West

Sunsets in Key West are unparalleled in their beauty.
I was visiting Key West with my parents last weekend and a friend, upon seeing I was there, asked me for some advice. She was interested in planning a trip with her husband. Since Key West is one of my most favorite cities in the world, I was happy to oblige. Because I love it so much and because I also tend to ramble, it actually turned into quite a thing. And I thought, "Why not share my knowledge with all on my travel blog that I'm horrible at updating?" So here you go -- some tips for traveling to the Mile 0 city:

Let me tell you about Key West! First, I'd book your hotel early. I think they're all pretty much filled up for awhile because of Spring Break, so if you're looking to go soon, then hop on that! The bigger named chains and such are all on the other side of the island from the action, so keep that in mind. You'll need to drive and fight with parking or get a cab or something. Although, some of them offer shuttles downtown, so you an look into that.

Most of the hotels are cute little boutique experiences. These are little guesthouses and B&Bs and will be walking distance to everything. I've stayed at the Spanish Gardens, The Palms, and The Grand Guesthouse and they've all been good.

Duval Street is like the Bourbon Street and everything happens there. You have to go to Sloppy Joe's -- it's historic, because Hemingway used to write there. I also recommend Hog's Breath Saloon and Irish Kevin's. It's worth stopping at the Smallest Bar in Key West, too. My favorite bar is Flying Monkey's, which is located on the corner of Caroline St. and Duval St. It has Fat Tuesday slushy type drinks. 

Key West is known for its sunsets and you can experience those in 2 ways: 1) a sunset cruise. These usually come with unlimited drinks and some munchies. You can get fancy ones that come with full dinner or smaller ones that come with snacks. I like the Fury's Commotion on the Ocean, as it also has a live band. The cruises are 2 hours long. If you don't want to pay for the cruise, head to the town square -- Mallory Square -- and they have a sunset celebration. TONS of people will be here by the water at sunset.

Some touristy spots to hit: The Southernmost Point of the U.S. (stand in the long line for the picture!) There is also a great beach restaurant there at the Southernmost on the Beach hotel called the Southernmost Beach Cafe and Bar. Hemingway's House: You can go in and tour it. I usually just take a picture by the sign. There's also the lighthouse nearby, which is cool if you like lighthouses. End of US 1, Mile Marker 0: The is at some random intersection that I've forgotten. If you are walking it's between Mallory Square and Hemingway, but you'll have to ask someone for the cross streets.

They have at least a couple nice hop on, hop off trolley tours that will take you all around the island and give you the history. It's worth it too take the tour, I think, if you want to learn more about the city. That being said, if you're there a few days you can also walk everywhere. Hemingway House one day, Mile 0 another, Southernmost Point another. The entire place is 4 miles by 2 miles though it seems MUCH larger! Key Lime Pie is a must, and they'll have it everywhere. 

Key West is one of my favorite cities! It feels like you're on a Caribbean island even though you're not. There's a very much laid-back, time-is-irrelevant vibe that I just love.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

For those of you who don't know, I help run a book review blog: Book Nerds Across America. One of my most recent reads is a book called Into the Wild. Since the book is about travel, I thought I would share my review here as well:

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild. Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild. (from Goodreads) 

Flo's Review
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. It is a true story, but it was put together so well that it pulls you in like a novel. The author, in fact, wrote an article about Chris McCandless for a magazine, but then was so enthralled with the story that he dug deeper into it and ended up with this book. I was a little worried about first because this book is often compared to On the Road by Jack Kerouac, which has a bit of a history with the Book Nerds (basically, none of us liked it.) But the major difference between that book and this one is the purpose. While I felt that the main character in On the Road was just wandering aimlessly, Chris McCandless had a goal -- one he was very passionate about. A good way into the book we get a revelation about the author that sheds great light on how this story is told. Because of what I learned about Krakauer, I am happy that he is the one who told this story. But I am also glad that he didn't "show his hand" right away, because I feel like that would have changed my view on how the story was presented. I think one reason I was so attracted to this story was because, like Chris, I have a sense of Wanderlust. I am not going to strap on a backpack and disappear one day, but I do understand his desire to see, to see, and to see some more. This, to reiterate, is what makes this story. This is a story of passion. At the end of the day it did cost him his life, but Chris McCandless also did truly live his life in the exact way he wanted. And I think this is why this story strikes the heart of so many: the journalist who couldn't let the story go when the article was done;  Sean Penn, who turned Chris' story into a movie with Vince Vaughn, Kristin Stewart, Jena Malone and more; and the many, many people who read the book. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013


Happy New Year!

As always, one of my goals this year is to be better at keeping up this blog. This is, what, the third time I've resolved to do this?

Maybe third time is a charm.

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” ~Eudora Welty

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm a First Global!

Photo by Christian Fischer
“America’s young adults are the ‘First Globals,’ a term coined by the pollster John Zogby. The group of people born from 1979 to 1990 travel; they embrace and feel connected to other cultures; they want to make a difference.”

This quote is from Ross H. Palfreyman, author of the book Two Years in God’s Mormon Army. He also shares these fun facts about 22- to 33-year-olds:

• Two-thirds have passports. By comparison, according to officials from the U.S. Travel Association, less than one-third of all Americans – 30 percent – have passports. Two of five Globals say they expect to live and work in a foreign capital at some time in their lives.
• 270,000 young people studied abroad in 2009-10. In 1989-90, only about 30,000 did so, according to the International Institute of Education. While Western European countries are still their top destinations, students are increasingly choosing more far-flung locales, especially China and other Asian nations.
• They want to “make the world a better place to live." A study of 10,000 adults by Campbell & Co. fundraising consultants found this group is more likely than any other generation to cite world improvement as the key reason for their philanthropy. (They also give just as much as other generations.)
• They want to make a global impact. The Campbell study found they are most likely of all age groups to respond positively to messages that focus on the global impact of an organization's work.

I thought that was pretty cool :) Thanks to Ginny Grimsley at News and Experts for the information!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Solo Traveler Tips for Women

With all the travel I do, I've never truly done it solo. To me, it's such a sensory experience that it needs to be shared and analyzed with friends and loved ones. But I do have girlfriends who have traveled abroad solo, and to them I tip my hats.

These tips about traveling solo for women by Rachel Khona came my way, and I thought they'd be good to share. For more information, you can contact kelly at blinkpr dot com or visit Rachel's website at

Ever want to climb Macchu Pichu, lay out on a beach in Thailand, or just take a road trip, but can't find anyone to go with? Solo travel is the answer!

I know what you're thinking. You'll be lonely, bored, it's dangerous, and only tough granola types travel by themselves. Au contraire. I’m 5'1 and I can't leave the house without a full face of makeup. If I could travel solo, anyone can. I've never been lonely or bored. On the contrary, I've had countless adventures and made many friends over the years with whom I've stayed in touch. One of my friends even met her future husband on a solo trip! And traveling solo is no more dangerous than walking around by yourself in your neighborhood.

Traveling solo makes you more approchable, not only to members of the opposite sex but friendly locals and fellow travelers as well. You'll also learn to hone in on your intuition. Without the chatter of someone else's opinion, you learn to rely on your own instincts, a skill that will serve you well in real life too. By relying on your inner strength, you'll have newfound confidence. But traveling solo is an art. If you want to make friends and not spend the entire time talking to yourself, you'll need a game plan.

1. Choose your locale wisely

Certain places attract more solo like-minded travelers than others. For example, if you're jonesing to head over to Central America, stay away from Cancun which, as spring break central, is geared towards large groups. On the flip side, a remote jungle town may not afford you the chance to meet many people as there won't be that many other travelers. Don't make the mistake of thinking you'll befriend all the locals. Keep in mind that while you're on vacation, they're just going about their daily lives. While they might be happy to have you over for dinner or treat you to drinks, they probably won't want to accompany you out every night. Instead, choose something in-between like Montezuma in Costa Rica, Sayulita in Mexico.

2. Eat at the Bar

Sure, it’s a simple way to order another drink, but that's not why you should do it. Eating at the bar provides an easy way to meet other solo diners as well as befriend the bartender who can clue you into the local scene and hook you up with free drinks. If you're staying in town for awhile, try to become a regular. You'll get better service and find it easier to make new friends.

3. Buy a guide geared towards solo travelers

Not all guidebooks are made the same. While families may do well with Frommers or Rick Steves, you're not going to get the lowdown on where other travelers congregate or where the best bars are. Likewise, pick up a Wallpaper guide only when you're hitting a big city with a friend or significant other. Swanky bars with $20 drinks are not exactly solo travel friendly. Try Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, two of the most popular guides used by solo travelers.

4. Be friendly and inquisitive

Step outside your comfort zone and talk to anyone and everyone who looks friendly. You'll find that the majority of other travelers are happy to strike up a convo and maybe even invite you to do things together. When I first landed in Costa Rica, I realized my only options to town were an $80 two hour cab ride or a $2 five hour bus ride. When I spotted a lost-looking gangly tall gringo, I knew immediately he was likely going to the same town I was. So I quickly started chatting him up. We ended up sharing a cab ride into town, I saved myself $40 and made a new friend.

5. Select a traveler-friendly hotel

A chain hotel is not your friend. Neither is a five star hotel. I learned the hard way my first time in Prague when I selected places to stay based on price and how nice their linens were. I ended up staying in places totally void of other solo travelers and ended up crying myself to sleep at night. When looking for a hotel, look for words like "lively", "friendly", and yes, even "party". These are the places where you're more likely to make friends. In addition to consulting your guidebook, check out and filter the reviews by solo traveler.

6. Engage in group activities

Sure, you could rent a bike and explore the town on your own, but then who would you meet? No one. Instead, join a group bike tour, a snorkeling expedition, or beer crawl. Tours and group activities are one of the easiest ways to make new friends. After going on a bike tour of Munich, I befriended a fellow traveler who accompanied me to a local beer hall. We ended up making friends with an older local couple who told us stories of surviving WW II. 

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011...the final tally.

So, it looks like 2011 closes up with 23 cities. Starts with Atlanta, ends with New York City. Three different countries represented. All in all, a GREAT year!

I am SUPER excited to see what 2012 brings! Of course, I already have some great trips planned. Of course, my goal is to be good about blogging them. We'll see how this pans out.

I think I'll definitely do the sidebar again though -- because it's fun! And while I don't think I'll top 23 in 2012, it'll still be fun to see how it does compare. it begins.


Atlanta, Georgia

Sydney, Australia

Parramatta, Australia

Jacksonville, Florida

Las Vegas, Nevada

Orlando, Florida

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Nassau, Bahamas

Freeport, Bahamas

Naples, Florida

Marco Island, Florida

Chicago, Illinois

Seattle, Washington

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Forks, Washington

La Push, Washington

Fletcher, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

Indianapolis, Indiana

Cincinnati, Ohio

St. Louis, Missouri

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas 

New York City, New York

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

For those of you who don't know, I help run a book review blog: Book Nerds Across America. One of my most recent reads is a book called Wanderlove, which was written by a young adult book author and travel writer, Kirsten Hubbard. Since the book is about travel, I thought I would share my review here as well:

It's no secret among my friends that I am the big Travel Girl. I have been to several states and several countries and have no intention of stopping anytime soon. In fact, I even have a travel blog -- On Wanderlust. I have been really bad with updating it, but I bring it up for this reason. I have always loved the word wanderlust. I feel it describes me so well, and it has this dark, mysterious sound to it as it's coming off of your tongue: wanderlust.

So, along comes Kirsten Hubbard and IMPROVES upon one of my favorite words. Believe it or not, I did not even make the connection to wanderlust and Wanderlove when I first saw the book. I just wanted to read it because I read that Kirsten Hubbard is a young adult author and a travel writer. This basically makes her my hero.

Wanderlove is the story of Bria, a recent high school graduate who has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend Toby. She plans to take an overseas with her two girlfriends, but they tell her they don't think she's ready and back out. But Bria decides to go anyway. She heads to Central America with a travel group, but ends up abandoning them in favor of traveling with two backpackers, Starling and Rowan.

As any good travel writing piece, Wanderlove makes you want to drop your life and run off to Central America. Hubbard is so great with the details of the destinations. She does not just tell you about them -- all five senses are awakened as you see, smell, touch, taste and hear them. Bria (and Kirsten) are artists, so there are some great sketches throughout the book.

Rowan and Bria are both broken characters. They both start traveling to run away from the pain in their pasts and both discover that they learn about themselves through the people and experiences they meet along the way. At points this book felt like it was trying too hard to be deep and meaningful. The insights and life lessons were sometimes too much: too long-winded and too over-stated. But I did like seeing the changes that Bria and Rowan brought about in each other.

Finally, I have not forgotten Wanderlove! Here is how it's described, courtesy of Starling:

"Wanderlust is like itchy feet. It's when you can't settle down. But Wanderlove is much deeper than that. It's a compulsion. It's the difference between lust and love."So, am I in wanderlust or Wanderlove?! Personally, I think I have been in both before and will be in both again. In the meantime, I hope there are books like Wanderlove to keep my spirit traveling between trips.

Wanderlove will be released March 13, 2012. Thank you to Netgalley for provided me with an Advanced Readers Copy.