travel

2018 travel year in review

Kayaking in Alaska.
Third trip to Alaska. First time kayaking!

Prior to the inception of this blog a month ago, a lot of traveling has occurred! Here is a little round-up of my 2018 adventures.

  • Japan (January) — I literally rung in the new year in Kamakura, Japan, where my grandma lives. Bryce, my mom and I walked to a nearby temple and rang a giant a bell while the temple monks chanted. The bell is rung a total of 108 times by temple visitors to signify getting rid of 108 human sins, according to Buddhist belief.
  • Portland, Oregon (February) — Spent a weekend in Seattle’s rival city, also known as the Rose City. Bryce and I ate lots of good food in Portland — I had Puerto Rican food for the first time! — and met baby Lincoln, a baby sea otter at the Oregon Zoo. It was a snowy weekend but that didn’t stop us!
  • Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona (May) — Finally saw the Grand Canyon in person! This is one of those national parks that you hear and see pictures of all the time as a kid, and I have always wanted to see it for myself. Bryce and I flew into Phoenix and drove north through Sedona first and stopped in Flagstaff. The second day was spent hiking at the Grand Canyon before driving in the evening to Las Vegas (where we flew out of back to Seattle). It was the busiest and best 50 hours.
  • Disneyland, Anaheim, California (June) — When my pretty annual jaunt to Disneyland coincided with my bachelorette party.
  • Richmond, Canada (June) — Spent a day-and-a-half in Richmond with my family to explore the Richmond Night Market for the first time. There are lots of food vendors but also lots of crowds. It was fun to go once, but I don’t think I’d go again.
  • Whidbey Island, Washington (July) — OK, this is near home but you didn’t think I would neglect my wedding day on my year recap, right?? I’ve been to Whidbey numerous times since I was a kid and have always enjoyed exploring the beaches and bluffs. The towns are quaint and the people nice. Also, now I know it’s a great place to get married!
  • North Cascades to Canada road trip (July) — The weekend after our wedding, we spent a long weekend road tripping up to the North Cascades where we did one of my most favorite hikes. (Well, I had never done it before, so now it is one of my most favorites!) Then drove up to Kelowna, Canada and spent some time there mountain biking and eating. Our final stop was to Vancouver, Canada, where we ate some more and went to the Vancouver Aquarium to visit the sea otters.
  • Olympic Peninsula, Washington (August) — Despite the rain and grey, we drove to the coast where we visited Rialto Beach and saw many sea otters in the wild! We camped outside of the Hoh Rain Forest and then did a hike in the rain forest. It’s about a four-hour drive from Seattle, but totally worth it. I’m a city girl, and always will be, but there’s something about being out in a forest away from people that’s really good for the soul.
  • Wasilla, Alaska (September) — Bryce and I visited his mom over Labor Day weekend. I kayaked for the first time! And, was introduced to the Alaska State Fair …
  • Calí, Colombia (December) — Visited Bryce’s grandma and aunt for Christmas. This was my first time in Colombia (and South America in general!) It was weird to have a “hot Christmas” but a wonderful time meeting and spending time with new family while exploring a vibrant city.
Grand Canyon National Park
First time at the Grand Canyon!

With getting married this year, I sort of forgot that I still took quite a few trips throughout the year. I honestly almost forgot about the Grand Canyon trip before I searched through my phone at old photos — even though this was one of my favorite trips from the year! Ah, I guess I can’t play favorites, Colombia is high on the list, too! Funny how time can be …

What are your highlights from 2018 travels?

colombia

The avocado man

The street outside Bryce’s grandma’s house can be lively during the day with cars rushing by and honking their horns, or people calling out to each other. She lives in Cali, Colombia.

The other day as we ate breakfast, I heard someone yelling through a loud speaker outside.

“Is it something political?” I asked Bryce.

“No, it’s a man selling avocados. Come look!” he replied, as he peeked through the blinds of a window facing the street.

I walked over to the window just in time to see the man pushing his cart, and surprised to see he only had like four avocados!

He also wasn’t yelling through a microphone. He was playing a pre-recorded recording to make his avocado sales.

We were unsure if he perhaps already sold most of his avocados, or if he just didn’t have a lot to sell to begin with.

All I know is that I would love to have an avocado vendor walk the streets outside of my house so I could have the opportunity to buy fresh avocados. That’s pretty much the dream. For those of you thinking it: Amazon Fresh doesn’t count!

Aguacates! Aguacates!

colombia, travel

Travel blogging while traveling

How do you do it? Travel blog while traveling?

Even on days when we aren’t out doing things all day, I am either too tired, eating or spending time with family (as this trip to Colombia was to mainly visit Bryce’s grandma).

So, how do you make time to blog while traveling? Do you just jot down notes and write posts when you are back home? Do you just “make the time” while traveling and crank out posts instead of sleeping? Do you do something in between the two? Or, something else?

This newbie travel blogger would like to know your secret!

I know there is no right or wrong answer, but it was something that I was thinking about as the days quickly have passed by and I have not written a new post.

And, while I’m here I guess I’ll give you a few Colombia travel updates:

  • The fruits and plants here are amazing! Both to look at and eat. I could eat avocados every day.
  • The people here are so nice and welcoming.
  • I have about a dozen mosquito bites — per leg.
  • Despite being only three hours ahead of home (Seattle), I feel like my sleep schedule is waaayyy off. But, I’m really “only” in East Coast time right now!

More things to say but I’ll probably have to write it all after the trip, as we are getting close to our departure … sigh …

colombia, travel

A Cali Christmas

First things first: It does not feel like Christmas here because I have a dozen mosquito bites up and down my legs and I can’t stop sweating!

This Pacific Northwest girl is not used to a hot Christmas.

Although, Bryce’s family has been telling us that it has “cooled off” this week. (My phone says that it is current 88 degrees Fahrenheit in Cali right now!)

Last night (Christmas Eve) the streets outside the house were “lively” with neighbors shooting fireworks and sparklers. It did not keep me up since I think I’m still making up for sleep deprivation from our 26+ hours of travel to get from Seattle to Cali, Colombia!

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Bryce, his aunt and I went on a walk this morning. She said we needed to go before things got crazy in the afternoon for the fair. (It’s a big fair that starts on Christmas Day and goes until the 30th full of lots of dancing and fanfare).

I was actually surprised to see “so much activity”on the streets during our walk. I expected to see other people going on family walks as well. But, there were lots of street vendors out and restaurants opened, too.

Back home, it’s really just big chain grocery stores and Starbucks that are open for like half a day on Christmas. There seemed to be more going on here, but maybe it was just in preparation for the fair.

As we headed back to the house, Bryce’s aunt asked if we wanted some water as we walked by a little convenience shop. The shop owner had the store gate closed but stood inside as a few people voiced out what they would like to buy — probably drinks as well.

“It’s closed, but opened,” Bryce said.

After buying the water bottles, we stopped in a grocery store that was opened and bought a few groceries. Knowing that I love avocados, his aunt said she knew a better place to buy fresh avocados than the grocery store we were at.

Just around the corner from the grocery store was a stand that solely sold avocados.

“This is my heaven,” I told Bryce as his aunt consulted with the stand vendor to make sure we were buying the best ripe avocados he had to offer.

And, these avocados put all the avocados I see back home to shame. These ones are like the size of what I think a papaya to be!

Merry Christmas from me and the avocados (not pictured, but I’ll need to upload the photos later!)

FYI: I have yet to sync my Instagram to the blog but for those wanting to see more photos and videos (in my stories), feel free to follow along at @ottertravelmore

travel

San Francisco: A quick layover story

Dolores Mission Park
Dolores Mission Park

I’m currently sitting in the SFO airport as I wait for our second flight (out of four flights to Colombia). It seems like an appropriate time to get some blogging done.

When family heard that Bryce and I planned to go into the city during our eight-hour layover in San Francisco, we received a lot of  questions like, “Are you going to have enough time?” and “Doesn’t the BART take forever?”

And now since our layover would be a little shorter due to a cancelled flight, we were even more determined to make it happen, and make the most out of our time in San Francisco. Besides, who wants to wait in a crowded, chaotic airport for six or eight hours when you could … just not?

As we exited the San Francisco airport, I noticed a really long security line of departing passengers. Even the TSA Pre-check line was pretty long.

“This makes me nervous,” I said to Bryce as I pointed to the crowds. “We’re going to have to wait in that when we come back to the airport.”

“It’s OK. We have plenty of time. And, we’ll be at a different terminal,” he replied.

We took the BART into the city and got off in The Mission where my one mission was to get bubble tea from Boba Guys. (Look them up if you have not heard of them! And, visit one of the many SF locations next time you’re here!)

It was sunny and cool, maybe in the mid 50s — perfect weather for walking around. We first walked to Dolores Mission Park because Boba Guys wasn’t opened yet. Spent some time there and then headed for Boba Guys. I love matcha and decided to switch up my order and tried their strawberry matcha milk tea with boba. (Also, I say this as if I am a frequent customer but I have only been twice … twice in the same weekend trip!) I wish we had better bubble tea options in Seattle — where the tea is made from real tea and not the powder! — but those thoughts are for another time!

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Strawberry matcha milk tea from Boba Guys

After feeling content and happy with my boba drink, we ate lunch at a chic-hipster-like restaurant where Bryce had a Cuban and I had a veggie rice bowl. (They had bananas as wallpaper in their cute bathroom so I’m pretty sure that’s considered a hipster establishment, right?) It was around the corner from Boba Guys so we went for convenience’s sake, but the food was good!

We didn’t want to risk being late for our second flight so we headed back to SFO via the BART after lunch. There was a Latin band playing “Oye Como Va” as a crowd gathered and watched across the street from a farmer’s market by the BART station. It was so lively, I wished we had more time but then reminded myself that this is just a layover.

As we rode the BART back to the airport, I told Bryce I was going to “give a little prayer to Buddha” so that we’d have a non-stressful experience through the security screening at the airport. I really did not want to spend an hour waiting in line.

It was the total opposite.

From the first checkpoint where the agent checks your ticket to make sure you have TSA Pre-check (which we do,) to going through the X-ray machine and getting our carry-on bags back, it was a total of two minutes — or even less! t was such a pleasant surprise. Maybe two other passengers were around.

My prayer to Buddha worked! Or, it may just be that no one flies Southwest because this terminal we are at is only for Southwest flights.

Either way, I’d say this was a very successful San Francisco layover!

 

 

pre travel, travel

The canceled flight and the two ships crossing in “the night”

I don’t know what happened to all of my time but the week came to an end and I was scrambling at midnight to pack for my Colombia trip. To clarify, I was packing at midnight for a morning flight where we’d be leaving the house at 4 am!

Trying to find all my summer clothes — since I hadn’t touched any of it in Seattle for several months — I heard Bryce yell in frustration from the living room.

“What’s wrong?” I asked as he starred at his computer screen.

“Our flight just got canceled,” he replied.

“WHAT??” I shouted as suddenly a series of spiraling events started infiltrating my mind. But, then I followed with “Which one?”

After all, we’d be taking four flights to get to Colombia.

Once he explained that it was our first flight — yes, the one that was supposed to start boarding in approximately five hours — and that the airline booked us on another flight two hours after our original scheduled departure, I felt a little better.

We were originally going to have an eight-hour layover in San Francisco where we had planned to go into the city to hangout and grab lunch. Now this time would decrease to six hours. I guess that would be fine.

My dad was going to drive Bryce and I to the airport for our original flight and hang out in the area for a bit to wait for the arrival of relatives who’d be coming into town to spend Christmas with my parents. And now with this shift in flight times, everything may be a bit more convenient for my dad, the family Lyft driver.

I got like two hours of sleep. Woke up around 4 am to touch base with my dad to let him know of the new flight time (as he was obviously asleep when we first learned of the change). Went back to sleep for an hour. And then we headed to the airport around 5:45 am.

Our relatives texted my dad saying that they had landed at the airport as we were on our way there.

“The timing of all of this may be spot on,” my dad said.

And, it was!

As we were literally like two minutes away from the terminal, my uncle texted my dad — whose phone I was managing as my dad drove — and said they had gotten their bags and were waiting at the curb of arrivals.

When my dad pulled up, we all surprised my uncle, aunt and cousin as they were not expecting to see Bryce and I. We gave each other hugs and helped them with their luggage.

“It’s like we’re two ships crossing in the night!” my aunt said.

It was all perfect timing. Despite a brief — no more than four-minute interaction — I was so happy to see my relatives, who I’d be missing with going to Colombia. My family, including my extended relatives, are very close and we usually all spend Christmas together.

Who would have thought that all of this was made possible by a short-notice canceled-flight.

seattle

Being a holiday tourist in your hometown

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Me, a little scared of fake Santa.

A few weeks ago if you had asked me if I had done any “Christmas activities” my answer would have been “no” followed by a long sigh. (I love Christmas and everything about the holiday season — with a hard exception for eggnog).

To make sure I efficiently and effectively got into the Christmas spirit, I changed that a week ago.

Phyllis and I postponed our holiday of fun to holiday afternoon tea at Queen Mary Tea in North Seattle. Why afternoon tea?

We decided on afternoon tea at this specific location because of their holiday decor and atmosphere. And, secondly, we both love tea. (Also, I’ve never been to a proper high or afternoon tea!)

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Phyllis with all the treats and tea.

It did not disappoint. There were more nutcrackers and Santa Claus’s than I could count! Even the sugar bowl had red and green sprinkles in it! I had a white chai tea and Phyllis a hazelnut tea as we stuffed ourselves with sweet and savory treats.

At one point, the owner came by our table and asked us if we’d like to try “Christmas cookie” as she stood holding a tray of what did not look like Christmas cookies. Phyllis and I sort of starred blankly at her. I was trying to make sense of what she had just asked us. I looked at the tray again and thought maybe the little cups with what looked like liquid in them were jello shots? Christmas jello shots doesn’t seem like an afternoon tea thing, I told myself before saying anything aloud.

“Christmas cookie — it’s one of our seasonal teas,” she said, since Phyllis and I still hadn’t said anything.

“OHHHH.” we both replied in unison as we each reached for the small tea sample.

As the woman walked away we both bursted out laughing.

“I had no idea what she was talking about at first!” I said.

“ME TOO!” Phyllis replied.

I guess this is one reason we are such good friends — when we hear “cookie”, we expect to see a a sugary baked good!