Alright- New Zealand: so high on my bucket list I didn’t think I’d make it this early on. And yet, it was on one Cyber Monday in the early hour of 1 AM that the “Escape Houston” tweet notified me of the tremendous sale: Houston to Auckland, nonstop, on United operated through Air New Zealand for $495. I quickly sent this to Analeise, who you all know as my travel partner in crime and within the next hour we had our tickets booked for March.

March came quickly. Between long weeks of busy flying schedules, little rest at home, the day came to prepare for our 8 day trip (that’s all we could manage with our off days at the time). Now, I won’t lie. I wasn’t actually the most enthused person when the evening finally came to leave to the airport. Being go-go-go can get a little wearing on a body and I, honestly, wished the trip had been planned for a little further down the line. Still, as I settled into that economy seat for a 13 1/2 hour overnight flight excitement started to seep in. The long flight quickly came to an end and there I was…in New Zealand.

Now what to do?

I guessed there would be a lot to do in New Zealand, but I truly underestimated how much there is to see on just the North Island. Therefore, we quickly realized there wouldn’t be enough time to fly on over to the South Island as much as we wanted to. Shoot, there also wasn’t enough time to do everything on the mock itinerary I had planned. I’ll include that one on the last New Zealand post just in-case anyone has more time than we did. I would truly recommend way more than eight days/two weeks/a month. I would say minimum a month each. But, when a deal as good as Cyber Monday’s hits you take what you can get! The rest will have to wait for my next trip over and trust me, there will be a next trip (Right, Kevin?!)

As with Peru I will be writing a couple different posts on this trip including itinerary, costs, specifications, and a photo diary!

So let’s begin!

Day One: Landing in Auckland, Rental Car, and The Coromandel Peninsula 

Analeise handled the rental car for this trip (I’m still not 25 years old). After some debate we decided the medium tier insurance (about $25 USD a day) would be best as 1) we were driving on the other side of the car and 2) we were driving on the other side of the road and 3) it was just the smartest option “just in case”. By the end with fees it came out to $212 per person for 7 days. It could have come out cheaper had we booked the car earlier and booked the insurance before as well, but hey, you live and you learn. We learned.

Driving on the opposite everything from the U.S. sounded scary at first, but I have to admit, it wasn’t horrible. The hardest parts were finding the blinkers, roundabouts, and just rediscovering general distance perception.

On the drive to Coromandel we stopped first for gas station breakfast. Sounds strange but pot pies are so popular here and they are so delicious! ($7.50 USD) We were on the look out for scenic viewpoints and came across this incredible view after a slippery walk up a muddy path. My first “holy jeez I’m in New Zealand” moment occurred at this viewpoint.

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In Coromandel we stayed at the Tatahi Backpackers for $28 USD/NZ39 a night (a person) for a four bed mixed dorm in Hahei. The hostel itself was…adequate. The main area which includes the dining room, kitchen, and sitting area has a cabin-esque feel; the dorm rooms were warm at night and had only two outlets so we had to choose between the fan or charging our electronics. Overall, it was fine for one night. Coromandel is a quiet area, easily walkable, and a lovely beach town.

We arrived too early for check in so we switched into our swimsuits and tennis and headed out to Cathedral Cove. Just the view of the coastline from above is astonishing. Breathtaking. Quickly, the dreamy scenery that I’ve longingly seen in photographs was right in front of me.

LRG_DSC06328LRG_DSC06331LRG_DSC06348DSC06323DSC06336DSC06326DSC06354DSC06358LRG_DSC06400DSC06369DSC06382There are quite a few options for other walks that offer different viewpoints along the trail. We had the scenic point to ourselves for a little while. DSC06474DSC06493DSC06522DSC06421DSC06411lrg_dsc06324lrg_dsc06341DSC06345DSC06343

 

 

We had lunch at the restaurant/bar right next to our hostel called The Pour House. I had the ribs for $21 USD and holy jeez they were good! Pricey but worth it after a long afternoon in the sun!

Then we loaded up on supplies at the only store in town. Also extremely pricey but I managed $15 USD worth of breakfast bars, fruit, tuna, and toothpaste (security at IAH took mine). Once we were stocked up for the rest of the trip we headed towards the beach.

Hot Water Beach

I didn’t want to leave Coromandel without experiencing hot water beach! How often would I get the opportunity to dig myself my own little jacuzzi? The best time to go is the two hours on either side of low tide so we chose the latter. However I didn’t realize three things until I got there:

1) You may dig a hole only to have it be cold water

2) Or you can dig a hole that is scalding water. I mean an unbearable, painful temperature.

3) Digging a big enough hole to fit inside is actually harder than it sounds!

Therefore, we bounced between areas, tested the water, and finally settled on a previously made hole to lounge in.

I didn’t take many photos because my hands were sandy and I was trying to not scald myself the entire time. Overall it was a fun experience! I’m glad I checked it off my list! Oh! And aside from the shovels (we borrowed ours from the hostel) and parking, it’s free!

Overall I spent roughly $28.53 USD and $17 NZ cash (I withdrew $400 NZ which was about $311.99 USD at the airport) the first day, not including the hotel.

 

That’s all for now, friends!

If you have any questions about my first full day just comment below!

Until next time!

Up next: From Coromandel to Hobbiton!

-Mary A.

Travel

New Zealand- Part One

Gallery
Travel

Revisiting White Sands, New Mexico

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Hello again, friends!

This is one of my favorite places on this planet. I can only describe the aura of White Sands, New Mexico as filling. I feel full when I’m there.

As soon as I stepped out of our rented family van and started walking up the dunes it didn’t even matter that it was a popular day for the park. It doesn’t matter if it is busy at all because if you just continue walking, and if you get far enough away, it will feel as if you are completely alone there. Suddenly you don’t see any streets nor hear any vehicles in the distance. It is just you and the dunes. Oh, and a sled.

So it was the Reyes family, two sleds, our cameras, and a tradition remade on this unusually warm winter day in New Mexico. We held competitions on who could sled down faster from the steepest dunes we could find. We recorded our falls, our tumbles down, and our attempts at running back up the sand (which is so difficult).

I will always recommend people visit White Sands. If you take your passport you can even get it stamped in the visitor center. There are sunset walks, sleds to rent, and a small museum with tons of information on the geology and environment of White Sands. I specifically learned that there is water just feet below caused by a lack of drainage from the surrounding mountains which is why the gypsum does not blow away. Oh, and did you know the entire area covers two hundred and seventy five square miles?! Personally I think one of my favorite parts was learning what animals and creatures live within the Sands and spotting their tiny footprints along the dunes.

And by the end of the afternoon, as the sun continued to set behind us, far off on the mountains you could still see warm light sprinkle upon them. The sky turned a beautiful mosaic of orange and cobalt blue as we made our way over the dunes to our parked car.

As cold as I was by this point (I only had a t-shirt on) I couldn’t help but stop often and take photographs. It was too filling of a moment to pass up.

Trust me, if you want to feel…full- visit White Sands. You will laugh, you will look in wonder, and you will feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. You will feel full.

Until next time!

Mary Reyes

P.S. This is a very long photo set post! I couldn’t help but take so many photos throughout the day and honestly, there are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken scattered throughout! Plus, I love seeing the color progression throughout the set! I hope you make it to the end!

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Featuring a happily tired face!

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If you made it this far in the photo set, thank you so so much! You deserve a “Best Reader” award!

Iphone Photos

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Personal, Travel

2017 Year Review

Hello, all! And  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome, 2018!

I started 2017 in Tampa picturing my future entirely different than I do now as I finish it in Ruidoso, New Mexico. In 2017, as cheesy as it sounds, I loved and I lost. I broke my first bone. I spent more time in airplanes than in my own home. But none of that even matters anymore- none of it. I also explored more of this beautiful world. I met remarkable people. Amazing friendships became even stronger. I spent joyous holidays with my wonderful family. There is a never-ending abundance of happiness that occurred in 2017 and happiness will always be the most important thing to me. Happiness prevailed in 2017. So as I begin to picture another new year my desire to be a better person, a more honest person, and an eternally hopeful person continues to flourish. Along with that, my desire to explore this world only continues to grow.  I hope 2018 is a year of constant travel, growth, and progress. Most importantly, I hope that 2018 is full of happiness, even among hard times (because there will be). I pray happiness continues to prevail in 2018.

One of my favorite parts of the end of year is, of course, reminiscing on the travels and highlights that occurred throughout. Since flying is my job, I can’t picture the number of planes I have been on this year, but I reckon it is a high amount. As much of a roller coaster this year was every single destination I got to explore has helped make this year special. More importantly, every person, place, moment I have had the opportunity to encounter has helped heal me. To be able to say that, I am forever grateful for this year.

I revisited many familiar locations in 2017: Honolulu, Tbilisi, NYC, Tokyo. This year was also full of many firsts for me: Rota, Spain, Washington D.C., Turin, Italy, Metz, France, Dubai, UAE. Of course, as special as every place is to me there are a few key highlights of 2017 that I will hold fondly in my heart and memories. They are moments that comforted me, challenged me, and inspired me (not in any order). (Note: Yall have seen these photos and read about these trips before- sorry!)

1) Hiking Diamond Head and exploring Idar Oberstein, Germany with Per Clausen.

The destinations were amazing, but the company was the most memorable part. Therefor, a huge highlight of this year was getting to know and travel with Per. He is a superb human being with a genuine heart and a contagious smile. I got extremely lucky that crew scheduling put us together for a couple weeks of flying and adventuring. With our daily coffee dates and financial conversations, I always felt happy in his presence. Per made every destination even more memorable. I miss you always, Per!

2) Swimming with whale sharks in Cabo, Mexico.

This has always been high on my bucket list and it finally happened in 2017! We had to swim quite rapidly to keep up with the gentle creatures but my favorite moment is sitting on the deck of the boat and watching them peacefully swim right by me. This was one of the first moments this year that helped push me into realizing my love of environmental management and conservation. I hope one day to re-experience this in clearer water!

3) Sorrento, Capri, Taormina, Italy

Pretty much any layover that gets me in a swimsuit is automatically a favorite of mine. There is just something special about the Italian coast and its islands. I was at a different emotional level on all three of these layovers but I still only remember them for being full of sunshine, friends, and champagne (so how could I be upset about anything else?)

4) Moving to The Heights in Houston

Moving to my own apartment with Analeise was definitely a huge accomplishment for me. Finally I could walk around comfortably in my own home and suddenly I looked forward to coming home after a long trip. Most importantly I needed a change from the place my life was in in June. So I packed up and made a change. There really is a big difference from living in Humble (near the airport) to being more centered in Houston. After two years of living in Houston I get to explore easily, go out, and make friends. Woah.

5) Tulum, Mexico

I’ve written about what Tulum meant to me before. It was right after my breakup so you can imagine that I needed distance and fun more than anything. This was also Analeise’s and my first trip as the dynamic travel duo that we are now. Snorkeling with sea turtles and manta rays will forever be a memory ingrained in my heart. (Also the second push that is helping me realize future career goals!)

6) Budapest, Hungary

Budapest surprised me more than any location this year. How could one city be this remarkable? From the architecture to the nightlife to the scenery and landscape…I couldn’t believe I found a place that had it all (for me). I’m certainly going back and exploring more of Hungary as soon as I get a chance (maybe for my 25th?!).

7) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was one of those layovers that reminded me how much I love the charter flying kind of lifestyle. I never would have thought I’d end up in Malaysia and one day I just…did. From taking selfies with cute monkeys to chasing waterfalls and running away from scary monkeys, Malaysia left me wanting more. 

8) Cusco and Lima, Peru

Yall already know what Peru meant to me. This was my number one travel bucket list item for 2017 and I made it happen. I made it happen despite heartache and despite frustration. That’s all I will say about Peru. I made it happen. (Also just scroll down a little for the full three part posts!)

9) Broke a hand and coincidentally got the holidays at home

*I don’t recommend this in the scenario you want holidays off of work. Being a flight attendant I always worry about getting the days off of work so I can spend time with my family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. So even though this was a painful experience it was made easier by coincidentally falling on the latter part of the year. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me I needed to spend more time at home?! Either way I listened!

10) Fall out boy concert

I feel like this is the night my year completely turned around. I felt confident again. I felt happy again. Celebrating Analeise’s birthday with dinner, a freaking awesome concert, and a night out on the town was the jump start my life needed again. Coincidentally also the night I met Kevin- Hi, Kevin!

11) Ruidoso, New Mexico

And alas, the last key highlight of 2017. Now. Here. In this cozy two story cabin with my family while WonderWoman plays on DVD. It is half an hour till 2018. We have skiied, hiked, gambled, and played in sand on our family vacation. We will eat our 12 grapes and make our list of intentions for the new year. Then we will wake up tomorrow to our last full day here. What a phenomenal start to another year of life. 

Other happy times: Tokyo Disney, Dubai, first wake boarding experience, Aggie football game, first Diego turn, Mandy’s grad school graduation, etc.

 

 

I don’t know what 2018 will bring. I do know that whatever it is, I can handle it. I know now that I am strong enough, I am brave enough, I am confident enough, I am hopeful enough to handle anything that comes my way. Before anything else, I know I have the support system in my life that will help guide me whenever I am lost.

Finally, I am thankful for this platform that allows me to express all of my silly thoughts and fun travel experiences. I am thankful for you for taking time out of your day to read this. And I hope you continue to join me on this journey.

Happy 2018, friends!

-Mary Anna

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Personal

2017 Summary Part 1

AKA the hardest, most emotional year of my 24 years. When I envisioned the end of this year, I would have never guessed I would be where I am now. Lately I’ve caught myself laughing and saying, “thank God it’s almost over!” Sometimes I feel as if I am actually willing this year to finish faster. I replay the rough moments in my head not as a way to torture myself but as a way to reflect on what I am most proud of: that not only did I make it to the end of this year, but that my heart is intact and my spirit is alive. I am once again so cheerily hopeful about the future.

If you know me or have read some of my posts before then you know this is a big deal to me. I spent the first half of the year fighting to keep alive something that had no chance of recovery. The other chunk of time I spent in denial, feeding this toxicity as if an addiction. Then some other stuff happened like having to move out of my house and then breaking my wrist. Point is, emotionally this year was challenging. Mentally…it was devastating. Well, almost devastating. Because what I am trying to explain is that yes, this has been the hardest year of my life, but 1) I survived it and 2) in reality, a breakup (although as serious as thinking it was the “one”), being kicked out, and breaking a bone were my 2017 hardships. And I am lucky to say that. So if I’m being truthful, yes, this year sucked, but no, it wasn’t nearly as hard in retrospect as I truly thought it was while going through these things. At the time, everything was compromised: my body, my spirit, my health. So I have to ask myself: am I healthy right now as I type this? Yes. Am I whole right now as I type this? Yes. And am I constantly healing, even now as I type this? You’re darn sure I am.

So in a nutshell, it took me 12 months and a few days to finally realize and accept that not only did I survive this year, but I flourished. I am flourishing. I am stronger than ever before and that means all the crummy times in 2017 were somehow…worth it. So worth it.

So what have I learned this year? Well here are just a few things:

1) Date someone kind. Someone who remains kind over time. Someone with a kind heart. When they are no longer kind, leave. You deserve someone kind.

2) Never underestimate how important a good friend, a kickass, empowering movie, and venting are for the soul. (when I told Analeise about everything she took me to see Wonder Woman and it was the best thing for me)

3) As much as relationships are incredible, don’t lose yourself in them. Those goals you want to attain need to come first or you will always think, “what if?” The right person will help build you up and help you reach those goals. They need to be your number one fan, too.

4) When all else fails, get some perspective. For me it was snorkeling with manta rays in Tulum and hiking up mountains in Peru. You will see there is a world outside of heartache.

5) A support system will help move mountains. Trust in the process, trust in the Universe and that it knows what It’s doing, and trust in those around you. Don’t lose that trust that makes you kind.

6) Cry and scream if you need to, but never ever ever lose your faith, whatever it may be. This is all happening for a reason. (I truly believe this)

7) Move on when it’s time. Forgive, not for them, but for yourself, because you need it. Because it is what’s right.

8) One day, without even realizing it, you will be free again.

And you will care for someone again. And they will be kind. And you will once again be kind.

What I consider a really hell-ish year was made so much better because of people like my parents and sisters, Analeise, Edmar, Charlie, Kris, Laura, Sarah, Bubba, Brianda and everyone who let me vent, traveled with me, or just cheered my well-being on.

Like I said, a support system will move mountains and in 2017 it helped me move on from my biggest one.

Until next time, friends

(Which will be a lot happier of a post because it’s about my 2017 travels! Yay)

-Mary Anna

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Travel

Malaysia!

Hello, all!

As I am preparing for my backpacking trip that officially begins tonight (!!!!), I decided to finally post the photos from my surprising layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Another stamp in the passport (two more pages until its full!)! This layover left me with renewed invigoration, refocused determination to explore this world further, and a whole ton of money photos on my IPhone.

The crew and I, of course, visited the Batu Caves. The world’s tallest statue of Murugan was phenomenal to witness on the journey up the stairs (which honestly winded me) to the entrance of the caves. However, honestly, the interior was a bit disappointing as there was quite  a bit of construction going on. I understand all about making a tourist destination more tourist-friendly (and profit-making), but I am concerned about the impact it will all have on the limestone and bats that live among it. I suppose, as with many things, time will tell.

Continue reading

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Personal, Travel

Relearning How to Live: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

A calm, artistic haven that put me on a new, old path.

I wrote on Instagram that this wasn’t just another trip away from work for me. I could have written this right after arriving home from Tulum, but for me, it was necessary to reflect on the entirety of the adventure instead of just choosing select moments to highlight.

Before booking this trip with my dear roommate Analeise, my relationship fell apart. It was a very, very frustrating, confusing time (as many breakups are). How can you go from planning a life with someone one second to suddenly being forced to reinvent yourself as a single person? That was the overall problem I discovered about myself in Tulum.

I spent roughly a year and a half of working for my relationship. Commuting back and forth to Tampa, fighting to communicate through different, always changing, time zones, and learning how to be flexible with not only my flying schedule but his military one. It was worth it. Until it wasn’t anymore (it still was for me though). My point of all this is, there was my problem. I claimed to know who I was while bending myself over backwards being a partner for someone that needed much more than I could provide that I believe I lost myself in the process. I wasn’t enjoying the process of travel like I used to. I craved stability because I was in love with someone stable. Don’t get me wrong, I do know I love being a partner to someone. I like being the supportive, loving girlfriend and best friend. Do I love it more than I do a wandering life? Do I have to choose one or the other? (I’m writing something on these questions specifically right now.) Tulum introduced (and reintroduced) me to the path that will help me discover the answers I was and am searching for.

Months of constant, honestly sickening worry, anxiety, and fear washed away as I said, “¡Si, vamos!” to a tan man holding a sign for a snorkel excursion after lunch on the beach after biking to the Mayan ruins after sleeping in a bungalow with a big net and no air conditioning (hello, glamping!). The moment I jumped in I was greeted by the most beautiful sea turtle I could have ever imagined (and my first to see free out in the ocean)! The universe listened to my prayer! It was showing me what I needed to see- what I needed to hear. This is where you are supposed to be. In the water, snorkel suctioned onto my face, I witnessed sting rays circling below me. I laughed wildly with our guide that would push me, pull me, grunt and squeal as he pointed to another magnificent creature and to another and another.

That was my reintroduction into this path I am currently living. Whatever the universe brings, be it a new destination, a new love, a new passion, Tulum brought me the joy of embracing it.

“¡Si, vamos!” DCIM100GOPROG0351371.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So now the highlights: Continue reading

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Writing

Writings I’ve Never Posted 

Howdy all!

Another view from up above. Despite my neighbors bare feet in my peripheral, I feel more connected to the Heavens today. Maybe it’s an omen of something beautiful that is about to occur. Maybe it’s because I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Universe and trying to truly understand it. Maybe it is due to major life changes that have occurred, with and without my decision. All I know is that today is the first day in a long time that I am particularly hopeful. I just wanted to share that with you.

As well as I am finally confident enough to share with you some writings I’ve had in my notes for a very long time. Obviously being in the sky makes me feel a certain way.

How does it make you feel? Let me know!

-Mary A.

***

I watch a transparent, hazy sheet of thin clouds slowly cover itself over the sleeping town below. They can’t see us, as we are momentarily masked by the darkness of night and solitude. Suddenly our divider is lifted just enough, the evening sky hazy but able to form a contact. I wonder if anyone is looking up, laying perfectly still in silence, on a trampoline in the front yard as I did growing up, watching the stars shift and the sky change as the universe and its people collide. I see the entire town, lit up brilliantly, lights shimmering here and there, from the window of a 747. They can see us again, if only they look up at our blinking wings of souls and living, breathing beings. We are simultaneously moving, always connected, with the sky and its people below.

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Where the stars guide me

I am minuscule and important as I look out to the stars from 30,000 ft in the air. If I focus I can almost see the enormity of the galaxy. I can picture every ball of gas burning brightly as they make this one whole, brilliant moment. The light lit towns below me are partially covered in a thin veil of clouds. I can almost feel the mist on my skin. And in the areas where it is a deep darkness and I question how below this metal tube in the sky it really is, I can sense the solitude and fulfillment of being covered by the mass of question and of life.

I am both minuscule and important in this world. I feel it all so strongly as the night sky moves with me. As the North Star guided the explorers, I am directed past lively cities, sleepy towns, and everything in between. I am just a small girl but up here, I am everything the stars and galaxies want me to be.

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I was watching the scarlet sun burn its way over the horizon, turning the distant sky layers of peach and gold over the ivory shimmering water. I couldn’t help but think to myself that in this world, if ever it came to dust, if all mankind had stolen life from another and the earth was barren of civilization as we knew it, the dust would settle and the horizon would still burn strongly and brilliantly, fiercely making its way towards a new day and a new dawn. We just wouldn’t be around to see it, but we know, it would still be beautiful.

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