Travel

New Zealand: Lake Taupo

Well, hello again!

Another day another new experience!

I was sad to leave Crash Palace, my favorite hostel of the 8 day trip of the North Island of New Zealand. Although, I wasn’t exactly sad to leave the smell of sulpher behind. Well, it turns out hot springs have a slight smell of it as well. Originally I really wanted to do a mud bath and maybe if I go back one day (with Kevin) we’ll do the fancy Polynesian Spa. This time, however, Analeise and I really wanted to do something free just to balance out expenses. Lucky for us, Kerosene Creek wasn’t too far off our route to Lake Taupo.

Relaxing in the hot freshwater spring was exactly what our sore bodies needed after zorbing the day before. Hot springs are supposed to have many therapeutic elements within them so we lounged around for an hour or so and fell into complete relaxation mode. I would certainly visit again and visit other natural hot springs in the area. I’m just glad someone warned me to try and not submerge my head in the water. Whew! Also unfortunately, the area did have some trash thrown around, so remember: clean up your mess. I cannot stress this enough.

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After our relaxing plunge into Kerosene Creek we decided to continue our exploration of free places to see on our way to Lake Taupo and visited Huka Falls. No amount of photos will ever be able to fully detail the incredible force that is Huka Falls. The water is….astronomically and remarkably powerful. It forces itself through the passageway and pours over itself into the falls.

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And alas, this very dramatic photo of the falls.DSC07129

So the overview!

We stayed at the Tiki Lodge Hostel in Lake Taupo for $23.52 USD the first night and $30 NZ cash the second night (we booked it separately after deciding to stay another night). Overall it was a fine hostel. We had the six bunk room with private bathroom to ourselves the first night and then only had one other female roommate the second night. They provided free breakfast of cereal, bread, and jams with coffee and tea. The only thing was you had to get there early because they rarely replenished anything so once it was out- it was out.

So the only things that we spent money on this day was food!

  • $20 NZ cash on breakfast in Rotorua
  • “Expensive dinner” in Lake Taupo is what I wrote in my notes- my guess is about $40 USD! But, hey, sometimes you just have to eat well.

That’s all for this post, friends!

Until next time! (Maybe a crazy boat ride and some Glowworms?!)

Mary A.

 

 

 

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Travel

New Zealand: Rotorua

Hello again, friends!

So! So far we have been through a crazy Cyber Monday sale to the Coromandel Peninsula and then through The Shire! Now on to day three!

After Hobbiton we continued the drive to Rotorua where we stayed at the Crash Palace Hostel! This was my favorite hostel from the trip. We stayed in a two bunk, four person dorm for ($28 a night). Our roommates were two other female travelers that I secretly wanted to be friends with really badly, but never got the courage to exchange information with. (I’m not always so outgoing). The hostel holds events every evening so we played beer pong (sorry, mom!) the first night and then went to their free dinner and watched LOTR in the living room with some other travelers the second night. It is true what all of the city’s reviews say: the area does smell overwhelmingly like sulfur! Despite the rotten egg smell the town has so many things to offer: tours, cafes, and yummy restaurants. We even got to experience one of their evening markets that had a plethora of food stands up and down the strip!

There are so many activities that start off in Rotorua. I wish we had done something more cultural like Whakarewarewa- The living Maori Village. (Next time!) Instead of listing out everything the area has to offer I’ll just include their website’s link: http://www.rotoruanz.com/visit/to-do/

So now for what we did!

 

The morning of our third day we decided we needed to witness active geothermal activity as there are quite a few spots in New Zealand. One of the most popular is Wai-O-Tapu near Rotorua. It costs $20 USD to get in and takes about 1-2 hours to walk depending on your speed and how often you stop to take photos. There are also three different walks you can choose from that take you throughout the Thermal Wonderland.

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Before we start and instead of me trying to explain the science behind why they are the color that they are, I’ll just share this photo with you first.

 

 

So every color that we see is due to specific mineral deposits! I took so many photos while walking around, especially at the “Champagne Pool” for obvious reasons- I mean, just look at it!

DSC06866DSC06870DSC06874DSC06986DSC06978DSC06977So I did just learn that it’s called Champagne Pool because of the efflux of carbon dioxide, which is just like Champagne! Neat!DSC06969

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DSC06934DSC06912DSC06905Another popular spot in this Geothermal Wonderland is “Devil’s Bath” which gets its color from deposits of sulphur that sit on top of the water.DSC07013DSC07027DSC07044DSC07049

Wai-O-Tapu was an easy, education visit that was also a lot of fun! There are other mud pools and geothermal activity spots in Rotorua that you can visit as well!

On to the next activity

We continued our day that late afternoon by rolling down hills in giant hamster balls. That’s right- we went zorbing! For those that don’t know what zorbing is, it’s basically just rolling downhill in big plastic balls called orbs. It was first played in Rotorua so you just know we had to try it, too! Here’s the video I made! Now this is the first video I’ve ever made from my travels so please be gentle! I’m hoping to get more into video-editing in the future!

We went zorbing through “OGO Rotorua” and paid $88 USD for three different routes: a steep, rapid ride, a quick, windy ride, and an individual downhill that we treated as a race (Analeise won!). It’s definitely a little pricey but I found it so worth it. But you can choose to do just one if you’d like! Here’s their website with all their info: https://ogo.co.nz/ They also have a photographer that takes photos of you after your rides so we purchased those also for about $20 NZ cash each.

I have to say, this was one of my favorite activities that we did- maybe even my most favorite! I have been wanting to do this since seeing it on “No Tomorrow” on Netflix (such a good show- such a shame it only had one season!) and it was on my bucket list so…check! Overall, I would highly recommend it just for the fun experience!

So in a nutshell my expenses included:

  • $22 USD entry fee for Wai-O-Tapu
  • $18.50 NZ cash lunch at this Thai restaurant in Rotorua’s center
  • $88 USD three route Zorbing fee
  • ~$20 NZ cash Zorbing photo purchase (each)

My notes seem a little shaky now that I’m rereading them but this day’s total was a rough estimate of $108 USD and $43.50 NZ cash for Wai-O-Tapu, Zorbing, photos, lunch, and a towel fee at the hostel. This is also the night we had free dinner at Crash Palace Hostel which helped with the expenses a little.

Alright, yall! This is all for now! Stay tuned for day four where take a dip in some hot water and witness the power of the falls.

Until next time,

Mary A.

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Travel

New Zealand: Hobbiton

So many little hobbit holes! That’s what you’ll find within this blog post because I made it to Hobbiton!

When we started planning New Zealand this was the first thing on my “need to see!” list. Basic information: Tickets are $85 NZ or $58 USD and you book your tours on the Hobbiton Tours website! They run frequently but, of course, make sure you book in advance! They make it easy enough with three pick up locations in Matamata, the LOTR-esque town, and Rotorua. On the drive through the bountiful hills which is the Alexander family’s sheep farm the driver shows informational videos and offers insight into the discovery of the area. And finally, you’re there. In Hobbiton.

Well, Hobbiton was…wet! As soon as we stepped off of the tour bus it started raining all over the lush green hills and studio set. Thankfully the tour is prepared for this and has a fully stocked umbrella area ready for the occasion. In a way, once it calmed down it almost made the set a little dreamier.

Besides the weather upon arrival and the crowds (as it gets extremely busy), it was a perfect wander through the Shire. It was exactly how I always pictured it: a tranquil landscape with pops of color, beautiful vegetation, and intricate details surrounded by New Zealand’s enormous lush topography.

DSC06590DSC06594DSC06596DSC06615DSC06618DSC06636DSC06659The area is full of so many tiny perfectly situated details entailed to ensure individuality for every hobbit home as, of course, every hobbit is different.

DSC06667DSC06674No admittance! Bilbo and Frodo’s home in all it’s glory!

The tour winds its way up and through the hills of Hobbiton and through the Green Dragon for a complimentary “Southfarthing” adult beverage. DSC06757.jpgDSC06765DSC06769

Alright so the specifics!

On our way from Coromandel to Rotorua we stopped at Matamata for the tour. This is what I spent for the entire second day on our trip:

  • $19.94 breakfast (at the delicious cafe right next to the Tatahai Backpackers)
  • $6.89 snack
  • $10.51 lunch
  • $ 57.29 Hobbiton ticket
  • $~20 NZ drinks at hostel

So USD total: $94.63 and about $20 NZ cash (give or take a few bucks for a magnet or two)

Also here’s me looking really big, frizzy, and dorky in front of the first hobbit hole that I saw.

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From the Shire we continued our journey to our next destination of Rotorua where we visited some roaring falls and rolled down a hill in a hamster ball! Stay tuned!

Until next time, friends!

 

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Personal

From Go-Go to No-Go

23631954_10209781017193232_898772676819301510_oBefore I tripped and broke my wrist I was constant go-go-go. After Peru I went back to work for a couple weeks and the day I landed back in Houston I hurried to take off on another flight to St. Louis to attend a wedding and begin a Northeast road-trip. My apartment was an expensive storage unit, I hadn’t been home to South Texas since Easter, and I never really took any sort of breather from traveling. Now, that lifestyle may sound exciting and for some, desiring. I constantly hear from others how lucky I am to live a life where I get to travel for and outside of my job.. Trust me, I know and I thank goodness everyday because travel is a main priority in my life. But I didn’t realize how it suddenly was the only priority in my life until I tripped on a- would you believe it- surprise suitcase.

Breaking my wrist hurt- obviously. However, the physical pain was manageable; it was the emotional struggle to adjust that was actually the most painful for me. You see, my life and my lifestyle is fueled by my want- my need– to travel, to keep moving, to explore further. I used to beg my parents to buy me maps, atlases, and National Geographic magazines every chance I could because in my mind, I was already somewhere else. I was already there (wherever there was). So for the past two and a half years of being a flight attendant I have been there many, many, many more times than I was here, in my own home, with my family, with my pets: Home. I know this is a part of growing up; you move away, you get busy, you take a break for the holidays, but I didn’t even spend time in my own apartment in Houston. I was just always gone.

Well, then I fell and instinctively tried to stop myself by placing out my arm. Here’s my most helpful tip to a fall- don’t do that. A couple of loud pops, a trip to the Urgent Care, and a cast later. I have officially been land stuck for six weeks. It doesn’t sound like much, but it has changed everything for me. I’ll briefly admit what the hardest parts have been: not being able to do my own hair, not being able to drive, not having public transportation/Ubers available in South Texas, having to ask for help with everything, and yes, not being able to travel like I used to. Now, instead of continuing to write about how this break was difficult, I’m going to write about how it is the best thing that could have happened. Because we all get it at this point: girl loves to travel, girl can’t travel, girl struggles to adjust, girl gets sad. But what I now focus on is so much sweeter and so much more positive.

I get to go to Church with my parents every Saturday at 4 o’clock where the Priest plays his country music and lets his dogs walk around during mass. I get to see Brianda for our traditional date of coffee/Wingstop and Target and we get to have serious conversations in person instead of just through text. I got the chance to celebrate my father’s birthday. I got to spend time in my own apartment where I finally put up the shelves that were sitting on my floor for weeks. I got to finally have a life in Houston for more than a day. And because I am a cat mom, I get the chance to actually be a cat mom again. Just today, which inspired me to take this post in this direction, I got to enjoy a delicious barbecue with my family in the chilly afternoon air as we talked about past family vacations and planned our next one. I got to witness a hummingbird hover nearby so close to me. I got to see my mom decorate the Christmas tree. There are so many truly beautiful moments that I have been fortunate to be apart of that I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for my broken wrist.

So yes, I could be grumpy about being hurt- I mean, rightfully so- it does hurt- but I can also be thankful that I now get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, that I have a family that loves me, and that I have the resources to depend on during this time. I have to understand that the Universe intervened for some reason. Maybe something bad was going to happen to me, maybe the constant go-go-go was going to make me sick, maybe this is just the world saying that I needed to take a step back and reevaluate what’s truly important to me. Travel will be there for me when I recover, work will still be there for me, but what I blindly needed, was to be here. Here. 

From Go-Go to No-Go. As I continue to recover (I can finally type with both hands although painfully), I can almost be thankful for that surprise suitcase for giving me what I needed most in the world: the no-go for awhile.

But seriously, did the Universe have to intervene so painfully?!

See you soon, world.

-Mary Anna

Casty, aka Stumpy, aka Captain Hook- you will not be missed.

Free hands!

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Travel

Taormina, Italy

Hello, all!

When fellow flight attendant and friend Mary-Kate told me I was going to need water shoes to get into the water I thought she was kidding. Alas, I quickly became thankful that I purchased a pair of awesome see-through booties (check them out at the bottom of this post!) when I witnessed how extremely rocky the beach is in Taormina. If you are planning on visiting soon, heads up! Still, I am content with every beach I get to touch down on. There was a moment when I was floating on my back led by the rhythm of the waves as I watched birds fly high above me. It was serene and everything I needed it to be. Below are tons of photos of this quick layover destination! I’m excited to continue exploring Italy’s coasts. This day was remarkable, from the perfectly sunny weather to snagging beach recliners right in front of the water, I wouldn’t change a thing about it! 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.

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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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