So You Wanna Drive Ring Road? What To See, Do & Eat in Iceland (Part 1)

what to see do and eat in iceland when driving around ring road

The people in airports fascinate me. I often wish that travelers were required to wear a label when flying sharing where they came from and where they were going. Not in a creepy, stalker-ish way (although I get that’s where I’m headed), but more so because I believe you can learn the most about a person by seeing the places they value. Are the going home? Or faraway from it? There’s so many details that can be learned by merely scanning one’s boarding pass. It was during a conversation like this with the woman sitting next to me on a plane back from California when we got to talking about the greatest places we’d ever been. Without a moment of hesitation, she said that Iceland not only changed how she traveled, it changed how she lived. That sounds like a bit much, I thought to myself, but it didn’t stop me from doing a little research when I got home.

Views from the Golden Circle
Views from the Golden Circle

It quickly became apparent that the land where lava meets glaciers was drawing the appeal of millions. I, too, was not immune to its magical pull. Two months later, my best friend and I planned and booked 12 days driving around Ring Road for the middle of July (which allowed for optimal daylight hours and least chance of blizzards). Now that it’s been some time since our trip came to a close, I finally feel ready enough to pull out my journals and photographs to revisit the most enchanting country I’ve seen. Given the extent of this trip, I’ve split it up into three parts. Part one will follow us along Ring Road on the southern coast, part two is Ring Road leading up the northern side, and lastly, a separate post for all the gems to be found in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

iceland route
Our route around Iceland. We spent one night in each of the labeled towns.

So go grab your hiking boots and sheep’s wool, it’s time to explore this land of beautiful contradictions. Welcome to the the place where fire meets ice.

Geyser in the Golden Circle
Geyser in the Golden Circle

After landing at Keflavik, the Reykjavik airport, we headed over to Sixt to pick up our rental car. A small hatchback we would use to travel around the highway circling Iceland. Given that we were traveling in the middle of the summer and planned to stick to main roads, four wheel drive wasn’t necessary. However, we did opt for the WiFi router and GPS (life saver!). Although it’s difficult to get lost when going in one direction, the street signs are less than stellar, especially if you’re not keeping up with your Icelandic. It was reassuring to have a safety net in case we got lost. Lastly, we stocked up on groceries since towns were sparse along the way. This is what they created trail mix for.

gullfoss
Gullfoss in the Golden Circle

Our first day was spent exploring the Golden Circle. This charming park is filled with rushing waterfalls, volcanic craters, steaming geysers and awe-inspring outlooks along the way. The route is easy to follow and we were able to see mostly everything in one day.

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park

We spent the night at the Bus Hostel in Reykjavik and were up early to join a day tour to explore the glaciers. This hostel was more than just a bed to sleep in. We enjoyed the free breakfast in the morning and the ability to chat with others in the common area (and use the speedy Wifi!). It was the perfect spot to get suggestions from others who had been in the country for several days ahead of us.

Solheimajokull Glacier Hike
Solheimajokull Glacier Hike

This was our only pre-booked adventure, as we were determined to have the freedom to travel wherever the road took us. Yet, I couldn’t suggest this group enough. Although the high winds prevented us from walking across much of the glacier, a common weather disruption here, we were able to make up for it with other sites.

Solheimajokull Glacier
Solheimajokull Glacier

History buffs will be enamored with the Sólheimasandur plane crash that occurred on Saturday Nov 24, 1973 when a United States Navy airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland due to severe icing. All of the crew members survived, and many of the Icelanders would visit the plane to use its leftover fuel.

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

Since we were in the land of waterfalls after all, the guide took us behind the sheets of water to view the world from another perspective.

Seljalandsfoss
Walking behind Seljalandsfoss
Walking behind Seljalandsfoss
Walking behind Seljalandsfoss

Sometimes the smallest waterfalls were the most moving to stumbling upon, a hidden secret you weren’t exactly looking for.

Hidden waterfall
Hidden waterfall

In between waterfalls, we encountered grass huts built into the sides of mountains. The folklore of trolls and elves is alive and well in Iceland. So much so, Icelanders reroute their highways to respect the land of the trolls.

Grass huts along Ring Road
Grass huts along Ring Road

Lastly, we visited Reynisdrangar Ocean Cliffs and the Black Sand Beach. Known for its high wind, you could full let your body fall against the strong gusts and feel your weight being supported. While difficult to breath, the thin air only added to the dark contrasts of the black sand against the icy water. Straight out of Game of Thrones, the area looked more like a movie set than an actual landmark.

Reynisdrangar Ocean Cliffs, Black Sand Beach
Reynisdrangar Ocean Cliffs, Black Sand Beach

We stayed overnight in a small AirBnB in Hvolsvöllur and prepared our snacks for the next day. It was important for us to always check the weather for impending storms and make sure we dressed accordingly. Our next night would be in Hofn, a small fishing town in the southeast. We woke up early to beat the rain and headed off to Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park (say that three times fast..or actually just try and say it once) and Skaftafell to hike to Kristínartindar Mountain and the Svartifoss waterfall, which tumbles over black basalt columns. A popular walk, we felt as though we were on the edge of the earth. Each turn led to a view across mountain tops and the glaciers sliding in between until we reached the diamond shaped rock of the basalt falls, signaling it was time to turn back.

Svartifoss in Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park
Svartifoss in Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park
Vatnajökull Glacier
Vatnajökull Glacier

Since we still had time left in the day, we drove past Hofn in search of another hike before doubling back for dinner. We began to notice a series of cars pulling off the road towards large sand dunes. Curiosity got the best as off as we followed their lead. After climbing over the mountains of sand, we were rewarded with one of the the most unique scenes of the north.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

A large lagoon reaching towards the edge of a glacier lay on the other side of the sandy mounds. Ice chunks had fallen off the glacier and turned an electric blue when they hit the water, creating a pool of neon ice cubes.

Jökulsárlón - Glacier Lagoon 2
Capturing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

When we’d had our fill of nature’s miracle, we trekked to our hostel in Hofn after a meal of skyr and langoustine, Icelandic lobster. We mingled with the locals and conversed with a geographer from Europe who was staying up near the glaciers to create topographic maps.

View from our hostel in Hofn
View from our hostel in Hofn

Our bed for the night overlooked a inlet of water with the mountains in the distance we would be driving to the next morning.

Hofn
Hofn

We enjoyed a communal breakfast in our hostel the next morning as we planned our trip up the eastern fjords. Little did we know that some of the most dangerous moments lay ahead of us as we penciled our route. One small turn off the main highway led us to a dirt road a mere inch away from the edge of a disastrously high cliff. I never realized how much I took guard rails for granted, or double yellow lines tbh. As we held our breath for the entirety of the drive, we were finally able to relax having reached our hike of the day, Hengifoss.

fjord driving
The only picture taken after our death-defying drive through the fjords

We lucked out that the Icelanders we spoke to were more than eager to offer suggestions for their favorite trails left off of google searches. This is how we came across Hengifoss, a strenuous trail tilted at a 45 degree angle with a rushing river below. Yet compared to what we just came from, this would be a breeze. Hiking through the bright green moss to reach a towering single stream of falls was worth the fire and ice to get there.

hengifoss
Hengifoss

Although we believed we had had enough heart attacks for one day, our journey had one more in store. We found a quaint hostel in Seyoisfjorour, a small town that is typically only reached by boat from the east. Thus, the only way to get there from inland was to drive up a steep mountain with so many switchbacks that made you began to question your car’s breaks after each turn. To add to the fun, a thick cloud laid on top the mountain for a darling zero visibility.

Driving through the clouds is only romantic theoretically
Driving through the clouds is only romantic theoretically

Finally, we arrived on the other side, our hands still shaking from the day’s unintentional adventures. We made a modest dinner in the abandoned hospital-turned-hostel and recapped our snafus with the older gentleman who had just come off a boat from Norway for a fishing trip. After briefly considering leaving our car behind to sail away, we shook off our fear and got back in the saddle…er driver’s seat. After a restless sleep, knowing we would have to go back across the mountain a second time to make our way to Akureyri, we prepared for the second part of a trip filled with a little more than we bargained for.

Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Stay tuned to learn how you can go spelunking underneath the glaciers and horseback riding through volcanic ash as we continue around Ring Road. Check out part two here! SPOILER ALERT: we survived.

Iceland

xx,
Juliette

P.S. I lucked out to have a best friend who is an incredible photographer. I suggest you make sure you have one as well so you can catch these sights from unique perspectives. Check out more of her talents here.

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How to Visit Yosemite in the Spring, Part 2

how to visit yosemite in march, april and may

If you haven’t checked out part one of our trip, head here first!

After covering many miles in our first couple days in the park, we decided to switch it up and view the valley from the river. We were eager to find Zephyr Rafting in El Portal along the Merced River as we drove along highway 140, the main entrance into the park. We opted for an early morning whitewater rafting session so we’d have the afternoon to recuperate. After arriving around 8am for our time slot, we were introduced to three of the tour guides as well as the other participants. We were split up into three rafts and would be riding with our tour guide, Jake through class three and four rapids. Rapids are rated on a scale of 1-6, six being non-raftable (it’s a word, swear). So, I was a bit eager/anxious to make my way through rapids being such an amateur paddler. After the necessary safety lesson, we dressed up in wet suits, wool sweaters and rain jackets, all included in our tour package. I ended up using a pair of water shoes left over from a previous trip so I could spare my sneakers, though gym shoes were fine to use. Given it was an overcast 43 degrees out (brrr!), we were only expecting to get chillier as the day wore on due to the water melting straight of the snow covered mountains. We would soon find out it was impossible not to get wet on this adventure.

whitewater Rafting Cranberry Hole at Merced River in Yosemite
Rafting Cranberry Hole

After splitting up into our rafts, we had a brief practice run on the nearby rapid. Emphasis on the brief, we were about to hit Cranberry Run, our first rapid, in less than a minute.

whitewater Rafting at Merced River in Yosemitewith Zephyr Rafting
Getting a little wet at Ned’s Gulch Rapid

The rapids each had their own unique names which made it all the more fun. Although we were soaked, we managed to stay warm as long as we kept paddling. On the most difficult turn at Ned’s Gulch, a boy felt out of the raft behind us, followed by an entire boat behind them turning on its side, dumping everyone out. Luckily, our mini-rescue lesson allowed us to save the swimmers near us.

whitewater Rafting at Merced River in Yosemite with Zephyr Rafting
Rescuing a swimmer at Ned’s Gulch

Although this was the biggest fear I had (uh, no thanks to the ice bath, please), it wasn’t that rare of an occurrence. Given the life jackets and helmets, the swimmers just rode down the currents until a boat was near them. It almost looked like fun. *Almost*.

whitewater Rafting at Merced River in Yosemite with Zephyr Rafting
Trying our luck with class 3 rapids

After about two hours of rafting, we exited the river where a bus took us back to the start. At this point, I began losing feeling in my toes and was ready to dry off and warm up. We thanked Zephyr Rafting for an awesome experience, and headed back to our condo to spend the rest of the day warming up by the fire. A huge pot of tomato soup hit the spot, and we had a kick out of laughing at the pictures from the day’s event.

For our last morning in Yosemite, we didn’t want to miss a beat and were up at 5:30 am. Luckily, we were staying in West Yosemite close to Tunnel View, an easy access point to witness the sunrise over the valley.

sunrise at tunnel view in yosemite national park
Sunrise at Tunnel View

Apparently we weren’t the only ones with this fantastic idea. We unknowingly inserted ourselves into a photography class already staked out, and got to pick up a few pointers!

sunrise at tunnel view in yosemite national park
Photography class at Tunnel View circa 6am

Having been so early in the morning, we took this time to hit up some of the trails that had been mobbed the last few afternoons.

Bridalveil is a gorgeous walk to the bottom of a powerful waterfall that’s viewed afar from Tunnel View. It took only seven minutes to reach the end of the trail to take a few pictures of the mist flowing off the rocks like a veil (thus, the accurate name).

Bottom of Bridalveil Falls in yosemite national park
Bottom of Bridalveil Falls

As we continued our drive around the valley, we captured a few last moments of the sun peaking over El Capitan before we headed on our way.

sunrise at yosemite national park
Sunrise reaching El Capitan

Although we were limited to open areas in the park because of the heavy snow fall, we has zero issues filling our days. In fact, we would have easily run out of time if we had tried to reach every corner of this incredible region. This way, we were able to fully enjoy all Yosemite had to offer, minus the suffocating crowds and long wait times to reach the summits. If you haven’t made the time to visit this national treasure yet, now is the time to experience the world as it was hundreds of years ago.

Do you like hiking in the snow? How do you stay outdoors when the weather gets chilly?

xx,
Juliette

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How To Visit Yosemite in The Spring

how to visit yosemite in march, april and may

I’ve always referred to myself as a ‘park person’. I’m most comfortable in hiking boots with unwashed hair and only the slightest idea as to my exact location at any given point in time. I find comfort in falling off the grid and only interacting with those I meet on the trail or at the general store.

Upper yosemite falls hike
Upper Yosemite Falls

Visiting national parks is an unparalleled experience, so much so that you are going to meet people who are just like you, other *park people*. Folks who abide by a different clock than the outside world. No morning is too early, no mountain is too steep, no person is a stranger. We’re all here for very similar things: fresh air, peace of mind, adrenaline rushes…and distance from anything and everything that hinders all of the above. Nothing brings people together quite like the desire to escape from daily routines, albeit how different those routines might be.

Chilnualna falls hike in wawona
Chilnualna Falls hike in Wawona

Which is how we decided on visiting Yosemite in April. Although peak season isn’t until June since many of the park areas are closed due to snowfall this early in the year, we wanted to immerse ourselves in nature, not tourists. Visiting Yosemite in the off-season allowed us to venture from trail to trail uninfluenced by mass crowds trying to sneak a peak of this waterfall or that overlook. There’s something magical about this time in-between, the empty roads, the chill in the air, the determination to overcome obstacles that cease to exist in the summer sun. The secluded cabins up in the woods where it’s just you and the bears. And the other park people. The people who live there year round and are so eager to suggest where to go during this down time. The travelers who come every April to witness the gushing waterfall flow that is all but a trickle in August. This is the best way to spend four days in Yosemite in April, and how to prepare for any obstacle that comes your way.

Deer in Yosemite Valley
Deer in Yosemite Valley

After landing in San Francisco, we rented a 4WD SUV to take us the four hour drive into Yosemite. While chains are needed in the thick of winter, we kept our fingers crossed that we would avoid this hassle. The scenic drive into the park is only a small taste as to what you’ll witness once in the valley. We made a quick stop near Livermore to pick up groceries to last the week. With limited access in the park, we wanted to be sure we’d have enough food for all three meals, plus hiking snacks, each day. Luckily, the studio condo we rented out came equipped with a tiny kitchen which made soup and pasta nightly favorites for us.

Driving into the park feels like you’ve entered into a different world. The towering cliffs framed with strikingly tall evergreen trees is the only preview needed for what’s to come.

driving through yosemite national park
Entering Yosemite National Park

The winding roads with snow banks on either side led us to our condo in a small neighborhood in Yosemite West. Fitted with a living space, kitchen area, large bed and fireplace, we were excited to call this home for the next few nights. While there were many people who opted to camp, I wasn’t yet ready to give up my hot shower each morning. After settling in, we prepared for a long day ahead of us.

Road to West Yosemite national park
Road to West Yosemite

After an early meal of oatmeal and bananas, we headed down towards the village to plan out our adventures for the day. However, the park had other plans. Since it was the off season, many of the roads were in the process of being repaved, causing an unbelievable amount of detours. After failing to find the Visitors’ Center, we got hike suggestions from a hotel lobby we stumbled on and headed on our way.

Lower Yosemite Falls hike
Lower Yosemite Falls

Our first walk was to Lower Yosemite Falls. A short one mile hike with close-up views of the bottom falls. The ice that clung to the rocks before it had a chance to melt only added to the pristine view. Looking for more of a challenge, we trekked towards Upper Yosemite Falls which is made up of 6-7 miles of steep inclines and snow-covered trails. After passing a family of deer, we headed into the most challenging hike of our trip. Yet, with spectacular views of the entire valley, it was easy to get lost in the hike rather than focused on how many miles we had left.

Upper Yosemite Falls hike
Upper Yosemite Falls

The ice had frozen onto the tree branches and would drop off in solid chunks whenever the wind blew, knocking us with hail-like balls of ice periodically. Luckily the day warmed up quickly and the ice *almost* felt refreshing. We made it to the top fall and stopped for lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches and trail mix (which will reappear each afternoon) were easy to travel with and fueled the long days. It took us about four hours in total and with just a little steam left, we had one stop left for the day.

Mist Trail to Vernal Falls hike rainbow
Mist Trail to Vernal Falls

The free Yosemite Valley bus took up to Happy Isle for us to check out the most popular Yosemite hike. The Mist Trail is heavily-trafficked, even during the spring, for good reason. It’s a quick hour hike to cover 3 miles if you stick to the Vernal Falls. Another four miles if you want to head all the way up to Nevada Falls. The waterfalls are at full force and colorful rainbows spread across the wet stones. With limited daylight left, we headed back to warm up with soup and sandwiches and to plan the next day.

Chilnualna Falls Trail hike
Chilnualna Falls Trail

Having spent the previous day in the valley, we headed south to the Wawona region of the park. Chilnualna Falls, a lengthy 8 mile hike up a mountain along side a powerful creek, was one of the highlights of our trip. After driving through the small town of Wawona and prepping our whistles and flashlights in case we encountered any mountains lions (a real concern in these parts), we set off around 9am.

Chilnualna Falls trail
Chilnualna Falls trail

The trail varied from rocky hills to flat fields to staircases dipping below the waterfalls. We didn’t pass another hiker for four miles, and only then saw a few groups of people on our way back. The summit opened up to the top of Chilnualna Falls, large boulders overlooking the valley. We ate our packed lunch on top of the falls and soaked in the warm afternoon sun until we made our way back down the mountain.

Overlooking the top of Chilnualna Falls trail hike
Overlooking the top of Chilnualna Falls

Since we were in the area, we had one final stop for the day at Nelder Grove. Although Mariposa is closed for the next few months for restoration, we were set on seeing some Giant Sequoias, trees so large that the diameter of their trunks are twice my height. After stopping at the Wawona General Store for directions, we made our way down the series of dirt roads to the park entrance. Sadly, the park was filled with giant stumps, very few live sequoias to be found. Fittingly, the trail was named “Graveyard of the Giants”. We only walked a mile of so into the park and actually found the walk to be more depressing than we anticipated. It was devastating to see the impact humans have had on nature, the dead trees a symbol of the irreversible damage done to these woods. We stuck to the trails so as not to destroy anymore of the treasured area, and made our way back to Yosemite West before the second half of our trip.

Giant Sequoia in Nelder Grove hike
Giant Sequoia in Nelder Grove

Although Yosemite is a beautiful learning environment for all who visit, it’s also a reminder of the carelessness of mankind and its impact on the land. Black trees stick out along the highway like burnt toothpicks from past forest fires, and constant warnings to stay away from the endangered animal life are posted everywhere. It’s with optimism and subtle confidence that one hopes that the more people visit national parks, the more knowledge and power they’ll have to protect them.

View from Yosemite Valley
View from Yosemite Valley

Stay tuned for the second half of our trip, including a view of the park from the river and an early sunrise over Half Dome! Make sure to visit part 2 here!

Have you ever been to Yosemite? What is your favorite national park?

xx,
Juliette

If you’re interested in learning more about our rental, check it out here!

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Why You Need To Set an Intention For Your Life

how to set an intention for your life

While we’re used to setting our intentions at the beginning of our yoga practice, it’s not often that we take this strategy outside of the lavender scented studio. Yet, intentions can do so much more than simply help you achieve balance in tree pose, or give you strength in chaturanga. If you’re not into the yoga lingo, you’re in luck. It’s time to view our intentions through the context of the real world, not the zen one we escape to twice a week.

Unlike goal setting, where we aim to reach a specific target, creating an intention is more about how you lead your life on daily basis, rather than focusing solely on where it ends up. Intentions have been shown to increase your overall success, as they cause you to establish your value and prevent you from wasting your emotional energy on areas that are not needed.

Real talk, I’m often inclined to feel overwhelmed and anxious about every.little.thing, causing me to constantly view the world in an stress-inducing state. My train is late? Melt down. My schedule at work was changed last minute? The day can not go on. Yet, when I began to give myself a brief pep talk in the mirror each morning, repeating the intention to “be calm” over and over again, I started to identify the peace in the moments that used to drive me crazy. Train late? I can use the extra minutes to read my favorite article. Schedule busted? I get time to see coworkers I don’t normally run into. Am I perfect at it? Well, no. But the world is portraying itself to be a less tense planet than I had previously been living on. Life, altered.

Why You Need an Intention
We see exactly what we’re looking for. If you’re feeling empty and lonely, then you’re more likely to recognize the moments that cause you to exasperate that emotion, only building upon the negative truth you’ve built for yourself. A friend not returning a text will send you into a downward spiral. However, if you tell yourself your intention is to be kind to others, you’re more likely to notice when others do the same. While you initially might have overlooked your barista memorizing your coffee order, you might now take a moment to see the generosity in this easily forgotten action.

Shift in Perspective
The more we compel ourselves to see the good in our world, the more good will be revealed to us. As humans, we generate our own energy that runs through our bodies like ocean waves, influencing how we think, act and, in turn, treat those around us. When we send positive vibes through our minds, even if we have to force them to start, it comes out in our thoughts, words and actions. If we tell ourselves it’s a beautiful day, finding peace in the rain or coziness in the blizzard, we’re more likely to share that thought with those around us, ultimately enlightening them to also see the bright side. While this makes our world a better place, it also, selfishly, allows us to view the reflection of all the goodness back onto us.

You Are Larger Than Your Body
Goals are often very intricate end points we strive to meet as an individual. An intention, however, allows us to come out of our heads and take in the world from another vantage point. We are able to alter our intentions based on the present status of our lives, requiring us to take notice of the people and places around us. If we see the world needs more empathy, we make it our intention to show compassion to friends and strangers alike. If the world needs to change, we can shape our intention to be proactive.

Creating Your Own Intention
While our intentions can change quickly and often, and should, it’s helpful to create an underlying intention until you feel as though it is your natural state. If you tend to be a pessimist, you might set your intention to limit your complaining and only spread words that add positivity to others. If you’ve lessened your complaining and feel as though your overall mental state has reflected this change, then considering altering your intention to what your world now craves.

intention setting

We tend to restrict the abilities of our mind to the inside of our heads, not realizing that what we see in our minds ultimately shapes the lives that we lead. Good things and bad things will continue to occur out of our control, (looking at you, flat tire) yet how we respond is within our power. It is with purposeful intentions that we can regulate our reactions. The only way we can make a more peaceful and kind world is to view and act as though it already is.

What is your intention for today?

xx,
Juliette

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Three Days in South Beach, Florida

how to spend a long weekend in south beach miami florida

Although I’m much more a lake lady than a beach bum, I wasn’t about to miss a weekend escaping D.C.’s chilly winter for a weekend in South Beach, Miami. Although South Beach is known for it’s gorgeous sand beaches and aqua waters, Florida’s elite ‘hood has so much more to offer beyond string bikinis and roller blades (but trust me, there was plenty of those too). Since sunbathing for a few hours only sounds good in theory (to me), I stumbled across some unique experiences that let me absorb the culture of southern Florida. Having been one of my first weekends traveling solo, I made sure to get all the deets ahead of time for which streets and landmarks I should stick by #safetyfirst.

I stayed at Hyatt Centric right on the main drag of South Beach. It’s two blocks from the beach and a few blocks from Lincoln Road, the main shopping strip. This is a great place to get oriented with the South Beach culture. When I arrived in town that night, I stopped at one of the many open air restaurants to take in the sights and sounds of eager shoppers and noisy parrots before getting to bed. The next morning, I woke up to spectacular views of the early sun rays coming over the city. Not one to miss a photo op, I snuck out in the early morning with the committed joggers and gold diggers to hang our near Lummus Park before the crowds rushed in. The sunrise illuminates the hotels and condos in a golden glow, it was definitely worth the missed hour of sleep. While I might not be one for sun tanning at noon, I can rock 6am with the best of them.

sunrise beach birds

After some morning stretches on the beach, I headed over to Exhale Spa to fit in a work out. Bonus perk, I was able to get a discount for my yoga-based cardio class due to the hotel I was staying at. Apparently these folk are used to the southern humidity because I clearly the sweatiest (and palest) person in the room. Nevertheless, a sweat was a good way to prepare for an active day ahead of me.

I won’t totally blame my recent obsession with Narcos for my obsession with Miami culture, but I was absolutely thrilled to stumble across a tour that talked about the history of South Beach (including the infamous drug trade) rooted in its architecture and notable art deco style throughout the beach. My tour guide, James, was clearly knowledgeable on the subject and got us secret access inside distinguished hotels and celebrity homes. I won’t spoil too much, but I came into South Beach thinking there was little behind the tan lines and recognizable diet plan, man was I wrong. All you need is a camera and your walking shoes for a seriously unique perspective on how this exclusive shore culture came to be.

Art Deco Style in South Beach
Art Deco Style in South Beach

To round out the evening, I indulged in some new-to-me cuban food. Morenos Cuba was the spunkiest hidden gem tucked behind a quaint row of condos. Decorated with colored lights and colorful murals, Morenos offered an escape from the hustling of downtown. Since I was in a mission to avoid the spring break party scene, it was nice to enjoy a delicious local meal with the locals. After my second mojito, a local band came out to play on what I can only assume was a ukulele. Although this might differ than the traditional electro clubs and laser Miami is known for, the restaurant goers who were brave enough to salsa across the floor provided ample entertainment. While I knew I was missing out on the quintessential nightlife experience, this was more my style. My night ended with an empty glass and in bed by 11.

beach house

My final morning in South Beach could only be spent at one place. The Front Porch Cafe has glowing reviews on almost every rating system so I was excited to try out their fresh dishes. I filled up on a veggie omelet, fresh fruit and a cold iced tea while sitting underneath the awnings on their, fittingly, front porch. Make sure you take a trip through the hotel it’s stationed under, a giant checker board, instagram pictures stops and glass ceilings to the pool above make it an overall worthy experience.

hotel pool

Since I had filled up on sand time to last through the rest of this cold spell, I walked the boardwalk back to my hotel and hung around the pool until it was time for my flight. I have often thought it was impossible to fit in everything there is to see on the road in a single weekend. Yet, albeit slowly, I am learning that’s not actually the point. Instead of following other’s must-dos in Miami, I designed my own, tailored to what brings me joy while still venturing out of my comfort zone. Balance isn’t found in the place you are, it’s created within you wherever you go.

Have you been to South Beach? What’s your favorite way to spend time on the beach?

Xx,
Juliette

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The Future is Vegetarian…Maybe

San francisco
Hello from San Francisco

After spending a week getting lost under the sequoias in Yosemite, I’m ready for a vacation from this vacation. Since I didn’t dare go an entire seven days without my beloved internet, these are the greatest things I stumbled upon during my down time that will better your mind, body, and soul. If you’ve only got five clicks, spend them right here. See you on Monday for how to spend three days in South Beach!

I’m personally in a never ending battle to eat more vegetables. But perhaps it’s not entirely my fault that I can’t seem to meet my daily quota of the green stuff. Check out how one city is changing how eaters view their produce.

Sometimes a break is in order, and the longer you deny it, the more likely you are to crack. Listen to how you’re feeling and recognize when you need to step away from whatever it may be that’s holding you down.

Even at the eye of a hurricane there is peace. Often time’s it’s not outside of us that causes stress, but what’s going on within us. Here’s how to maintain balance no matter what course life takes you.

Is it only a matter of time before we are all vegetarians? This Nobel prize winner thinks yes.

xx,
Juliette

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How To Choose Your Next Destination

how to choose your next destination

When this post goes live, I’ll be cozied up in an economy seat on my way to San Francisco, CA then on to Yosemite National Park. Well, more likely stuck in the middle seat trying to avoid resting my head on the stranger next to me, but that’s neither here nor there. This isn’t a new trip for me and even I am shocked that I’m heading back to the exact place I visited a few years earlier. But, as they say, I left my heart in San Francisco and I keep coming back for more. It could be due to the political haze hanging over D.C., but I’m in dire need of some west coast sun.

As I packed up my winter jackets and hiking boots last week for the five days we’re spending exploring the redwoods and sequoias, I attempted to pinpoint why, exactly, I chose to go to Yosemite, CA in the cold. I had imagined April might lead way to a little more spring-like temperatures in the park, but that turned out to be a false conclusion as soon as you step away from Yosemite Village. So, fleece leggings and wool gloves it is.

Inspiration for a trip usually strikes when I’m not expecting it…scrolling through my Instagram feed and stopping short on the straw huts in the Maldives, or eavesdropping on my neighbor’s recent trip to the south of France. If I’m anything, I’m eager to a fault. It can take a mere thirty seconds for me to go from oh-that-looks-nice to what-are-the-local-airports-I’m-booking-this-trip-NOW. So how do I chose where my next adventure should take me? My full time job and bank account are the first reality check, but after that, the world is fair game.

TBH, the expense of traveling has to be worth more than a well-liked photo edited to perfection.

bergen, norway
Fjords of Flam, Norway

Establish Your Intention
We all define vacation differently. While some enjoy some R&R by the pool, others might find hang gliding through the Grand Canyon the way to let loose. Before you can plan any further, ask yourself what the overall goal is of your trip. Is it to become rejuvenated? Perhaps consider a retreat that focuses on well-being. Maybe you’re looking for new experiences out of your comfort zone? Hiking Manchu Picchu might be on your radar.

Check Your Budget
There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to pricing a trip. Consider setting a side a portion of your pay check each week for your ‘travel fund’. The most important part of saving up is determining whether you’d like to have a bunch of little trips throughout the year or save up for your dream excursion. Once you have the numbers down, you can plan accordingly by estimating flights and boarding. While I fully support splurging on once-in-lifetime-moments, make sure it is something that will not be easily forgotten. Spending an exuberant amount on a Carribbean cruise won’t mean much if you hate boats.

chicago illinois
Chicago, Illinois

Prioritize
If you can have your cake and eat it too, by all means cut another slice. But for most of us, it’s necessary to be selective with where your funds go. Aim for trips in the off-season or near major airports that offer more flight options. The same location can vary in cost drastically month to month. A beach trip in early spring can give you the peace of mind you need, but at the exchange of swimsuit weather. Jot down what is most important to you, as well as what you’re willing to compromise.

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain

Ask Others
Find people like you, and ask where they like to visit. This works especially well when you’re involved in hobbies that bring you joy. When you’re on the hiking trail, ask a fellow hiker their favorite place to trek. If you like spending your time trying new dishes, ask the chef where he got his inspiration from. Even if you don’t know these people, you at least know you already have at least one passion in common.

Consider Timing
When you’ve generated a list of ideas that comply with all of the above, read up on the ins and outs of the locales you wish to visit. There are times when you simply might not be ‘ready’for a particular adventure. It’s okay to move it towards the bottom of your bucket list because your head space isn’t ready for what that trip entails. If you’re in a point of overwhelming transition in life, a hectic schedule of planes,trains and automobiles might do more harm than good. Likewise, if you’re feeling stagnant, you might need more than a leisurely cabin in the woods to feel inspired and engaged.

Or, you know, throw that dart on the map and pack your bags. All we have is now.

How do you choose where to go next?

xx,
Juliette

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What is Mindfulness and How Do I Get It?

how to achieve mindfulness in your daily life

Capturing mindfulness is like the trying to get tickets to Hamilton. We know it exists, we know that we NEED it in our lives, but we’re not quite sure how to actually make it happen. To make up for it, we drop the idea of mindfulness like it’s the biggest buzzword since Paris Hilton coined “that’s hot”. But despite this sought after concept being forced into us with abstract instructions on how to achieve this elite state, we sit with our disgruntled souls pretending to be more aware of who we are.

Before we can even being to lead more mindful lives, we need to breakdown what it means, exactly, to encompass the teachings of mindfulness within ourselves. It’s vital to note that mindfulness is already within you, perhaps a little beaten down from life itself, but it’s there. Hidden behind the everyday stressers, the underlying fears of failure, and the never ending to-do lists, mindfulness is sulking in the background waiting for you to uncover it’s powers. Thus, this is not an effort to “fix” who you are, changing your personality to fit into the mold of the zenned-out yogi on the mat next to yours. No, mindfulness will look unique for each of us. Though made up of all the parts, it’s construction will be different in each body.

mindfulness

Think of those days where you wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, reach for your lukewarm coffee and drive to work. Suddenly, you sit down at your desk and can’t recall a single detail from the morning’s routine. How did your shampoo smell when you washed your hair? Did your coffee taste strong? Bitter? Did your significant other dress in a color that was perfectly reflected in his eyes? Were there clouds in the sky as you went to work?

Without mindfulness, this could sum up our whole lives. Little moments strung together with nothing but routine and order holding it together. And then, one day it’s over.

Scary, huh? So here we find the necessary steps it takes to become conscious and aware of our internal and external actions at any present moment in time. We recognize the good thoughts we have along with the bad ones and know they are simply passing through. We accept that we are human and it’s in our nature to think beautiful and ugly things…but it’s also within our power to accept what these ideas have offered to us, and pass them on without judging ourselves for what we are inclined to see as faults.

mindfulness

Avoid Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking causes us to give little attention to numerous things, causing all of the above to be completed half-heatedly and without intent. Usually, it takes more time to jump back and forth between projects than it would to sit down and complete one before moving on. Instead of eating your lunch while checking your email, set your phone aside and notice the taste, texture and experience of the meal. When sharing time with others, use all of your sense to be invested in the conversation. Have your body towards your companions, keep your gaze from drifting off to the guy walking ahead of you, your ears away from the sounds of cars whizzing by.

Recognize Triggers
When you become more aware of your tendencies, you’ll start to notice certain triggers that cause you to lose touch with reality. Perhaps it’s a stressful conversation with your boss that causes you to fret about the future, or your schedule changes outside of your control and you can’t plan accordingly. Recognize that the unexpected will happen, do not judge yourself for feeling this pressure, and identify what is within your control. Comfort yourself in knowing that it is not possible to attend to tomorrow because it does not yet exist. Come back to the now.

Abolish Mind Stories
The triggers can lead to obsessive thoughts that can consume our entire mind, causing unneeded stress. Learn to determine what is a true event, and what is just a story you’ve created. Hint: anything in your mind that begins with ‘but what if this happens’, is not based in reality and can be let go. Breath in that you have these worries and breath out that this worry only exists in the mind and therefore can be left behind as you move forward.

Act Without Concern for the Outcome
With anxiety for the future, we start to hinder our actions because we are so concerned with their influence over what is yet to be. To truly be mindful in the moment, we need to detach from the end result. Act according to what is in your true nature in that moment, and let go of your expectation of how you think it should go. When we loosen our ideas of how the picture should look, we have the freedom to draw and paint and color outside of the lines as we please.

Create Habits in How and What You Think
Although it may take more than overnight for a quick turn around, acknowledge your habits and learn what cues you can use to come back to the present. Counting your breaths and listing what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste in the present can root you back to this moment in time and space. A mantra, such as ‘let go’ or ‘just now’ stated while breathing in and out can also bring you back to the now.

Mindfulness allows us to overcome anxiety and inner turmoil by letting us be accountable for this single moment without expectation for the minute that has passed and the minute that has yet to come. Using these steps is not a way to lengthen our days, but to deepen them, giving each second the attention it deserves.

mindfulness

How do you practice mindfulness?

xx,
Juliette

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Your Guide to Adventure

your guide to adventure

I’ve been a huge travel blog reader for years, finding solace in reading about other people’s glamorous jet-setting lives while I was trapped in my small college dorm room writing papers on Hemingway and Milton. I spent my time following others’ elaborate experiences, reading through their detailed itineraries and expanding my list of places to see. In essence, I was simply waiting until I would no longer be a passive traveler, but an active one. When I finally got a passport in 2011 and took my first trip overseas to Santorini, Greece, I thought my experiences were too messy, too unorganized, too imperfect to be valid enough to share. Getting lost on an island ten minutes after arriving did little to boost my self-esteem (there’s only so far you can go on a island!). Yet, I realized that because I was always immersing myself in other people’s perfect images of how adventure should go, I became overly self-aware of my short-comings in the travel-writing world…there was always so much more behind the beautiful instagram photos and free travel perks. It took me five years to realize that waiting for the perfect time to start Namastay Traveling was like waiting for an Uber to arrive that I never actually booked (been there, done that). It was never going to come.

dinner in greece

It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I started to view myself through a new lens. After diving into 12-hour days of an intensive yoga certification process, I began to see my views as valuable not only to me, but perhaps to others as well. The more time I spent on my mat, the more time I allowed myself to reflect on the journey I wanted to take. Both literally, and metaphorically. After all, people don’t practice yoga to get better at yoga, they practice yoga to get better at life. I started to find purpose in the screw ups, in the missed flights, in the accidentally ordering fish eggs for breakfast, or maybe even that one time I took a trip to the beach and forgot a swimsuit. Each misstep broke down the walls I had laid down, brick by brick, for myself. We, as humans, constantly live behind the barriers we build, sticking to our imposed story lines of how we think our lives should look. Yet, little do we realize that the more we push our limits, the less they seize to exist.

And so, it accumulates to this: a little corner of the internet where I can speak to the lows and highs I have not only on the road, but in embracing my new experiences outside of the comparison trap we all tend to fall into. In essence, I will be sharing more than the Top Ten Places to Eat in *Insert Newest City of All the Rage*, but on how to fully immerse yourself into new cultures, new places, and new ways of being. It’s only when we see ourselves in a different context can we truly find who we are to begin with.

meditation

As I continue to practice the culture of yoga around the globe, not just the postures, I hope you’ll join me as we reignite the purpose of our daily lives, both abroad and in our own living rooms (or mine, if you wanna come over for tea). Instead of always feeling as if there’s more to see, more to do, more to eat (real talk), we’ll find peace in where we are, and enthusiasm for where we have left to go. Cheers to the beginning of Yet Another Travel Blog.

xx,
Juliette

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