Time to dive back into roundups! Since I’m working my way through my black hole of content from September of 2016 to April of 2017, that means we’ve got roundups to catch up on as well. Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never… right? And to answer the inevitable questions, I pull these together from detailed notes, old blog posts and photos, my calendar, and my daily spending tracking software.
What a wild two months! I may not have pulled out my passport once, but between five states and changing destinations no less than fourteen times, you could definitely say I was still on the move. The real adventure of this period was my big trip to Hawaii with Ian, but I also juggled in an influencer project in Florida, working on the election all over the East Coast, and juggling in as much family time as I could muster in between.
These months were actually kind of pivotal for me, blog-wise, in a way I haven’t ever really talked about until now. But more on that below…
Where I’ve Been
• Two nights in New York, New York
• Eight nights in Albany, New York
• Three nights in Tampa, Florida
• Four nights in Orlando, Florida
• Two nights in Los Angeles, California
• Five nights in Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii
• Three nights in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
• Three nights camping around East Maui, Hawaii
• Six nights in Paia, Maui, Hawaii
• Six nights in Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
• Seven nights in Los Angeles, California
• Four nights in Albany, New York
• One night in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
• Three nights in New York, New York
• Discovering new sides of my hometown. While I was in Albany unexpectedly for eight days, I kept things interesting by finding a new fitness studio I loved — Good Karma for any local folks — with all kinds of quirky classes, and starting a new routine of running in the Empire State Plaza, one of my favorite local spots. After a literal lifetime of returning to Albany, it’s cool that I can still find exciting things to do here.
• Stopping over in Tampa. One of the reasons I was super excited to partner with Universal Orlando? More opportunities to see my aunts in Florida! While this visit was super low key and we didn’t do a single blogable thing (exactly what I needed) I just adore my time in Tampa. My aunts are the best and I love that they actually care deeply what I’m up to and what’s going on in my life. When I tell a story, they actually actively listen. I’ve come to really, truly appreciate what it’s like to have people who really care about every minute detail of your life — and it’s mutual! I love my aunties so much.
• I attended Universal Orlando’s inaugural Blog Squad retreat! You know, I actually kind of hesitated at first to take this project… I wasn’t sure if it was the perfect fit for my blog, but I really wanted to make it work because two of my closest friends were involved. Um, I WAS BEING CRAZY GUYS. Theme parks are a blast, and this partnership ended up being an absolute joy. I got to write about sustainability at Universal Orlando, I got to give away a vacation to one of my readers, I got to make amazing memories with so many special people, and I got to feel like a kid again.
Los Angeles, California
• I found out Ian and my dad are actual heroes. Our weekend visiting my dad in Los Angeles en route to Hawaii was painfully short, but we squeezed in so much. An outdoor dog-friendly movie at Streetfood Cinema, a glance at Los Feliz, the Skyspace Skyslide, Tucker time, and oh, yeah, casually rescuing a women in distress (and the story has a CRAZY happy ending.)
• Blissing out completely at Aulani. It’s actually incredibly rare — like, I’m struggling to think of another example — for me to go to a super fancy resort and not owe anyone any content about it (though now that I think about it, they did comp our spa treatments, so I guess it’s not totally true here either.) But to be able to just enjoy a nice hotel stay without having to do a site inspection or worry about getting a great Instagram photo… it was heaven. It really felt like a real vacation, not having to be “on” all the time.
• Getting a calming life lesson in Hawaii. As I shared in a very personal post, spending the week so closely with my friends’ Wim and Dave’s kids was a really important eye-opener for me. I fell head over heels in love with the new additions to the family, and got a calming reassurance from the universe: your friend’s kids aren’t just any kids — they’re mini versions of your favorite people.
Ko Olina, Hawaii
• Finding our own way to Waikiki. Okay, so we didn’t love Waikiki. But we were absolutely crazy about two of its closest, most easily accessible neighborhoods: Kakaako, an up-and-coming warehouse district with colorful street art, cute cafes, and condos galore, and Chinatown, where the food, the nightlife, the history and the gritty energy combine to create Hawaii’s hippest neighborhood.
• Was our camping trip around East Maui the actual highlight of the year? It’s a possibility! We were just so beyond happy to feel like we were on a real adventure, connecting in a special way to such a special island. We ate our body weight in kahlua pork, chased a million waterfalls, rolled around on black, red, and grey sand beaches, explored bamboo forests, and camped so close to the ocean we could hear waves crashing.
• Booze touring in Maui. We’d planned to literally visit every single one but actually only made it to MauiWine and Hali’imaile Distillery, as well as a quick stop at Maui Brewing Co. They all were fun, but in my mind the fruit wines and historic tasting room at MauiWine were my boozy highlight! I’ll have to bring Ian back to tour Ocean Vodka and do the full tour at Maui Brewing Co! Am I missing any others?
• Going diving! Any day I get in the water is a good day, especially when it’s with an awesome dive team in Oahu. Unfortunately this was the dive where I finally accepted that I needed to buy a new underwater housing since mine was a goner, but at least I had an exciting new purchase in my future (look at that bright side spin!)
• Feeling like ohana in Hawaii. I honestly feel so lucky that in a place I feel so connected to, I am surrounded by so many people that feel like extended family. From Isaac and Laina at the Aloha Surf Hostel to Caitlin who like me, can’t quit Maui, to Wim and Dave on Oahu… this was such a great trip for friends new and old. And I didn’t even get to see all of them! I majorly regretted not seeing my friends Kyle or Wendy on Maui, or Noelani on Big Island.
• Finding the world’s best city for Halloween. Granted, I haven’t tried them all, but guys, Los Angeles does Halloween proud! Between Howl’oween and the Hollywood Forever cemetary’s Dia De Los Muertos and dressing Tucker up like a hot dog while my dad and I handed out candy to trick or treaters or the box of ‘ween themed California Donuts I picked up, I’m considering spending Halloween 2018 in LA all over again! And I didn’t even get to the West Hollywood parade or a million other cool events that popped up on my radar…
East Maui, Hawaii
• Going back to class. I had sooo much fun at a special cocktail tasting at the Walker Inn put on by my talented friend Amy, who is one of LA’s most sought after bartenders. In fact, she’s already pulled up roots and moved to another bar! But still, if you’re looking for a night you won’t forget in K-Town, grab a coveted tasting reservation at the Walker Inn. This goes way behind sipping cool drinks — It’ll blow your mind!
• Election excitement. In the final run up, I had so much fun spending a day in New Hampshire canvassing with my mom and sister and seeing the eloquent Chelsea Clinton speak, and then had the immense privilege of being front row at the Philadelphia Election Eve rally that ticked off my dreams of seeing the full democratic dream team speak all at once. In retrospect these are painful memories but at the time, they were pure joy.
• My birthday was perfect. The night before was essentially a Pratt reunion as the first of our college crew threw a big ‘ol wedding party, and I woke up hungover and happy. Three of my Brooklyn lovelies took me out to brunch and surprised me with flowers before I hopped in a cab and headed to Manhattan for a sleepover at my high school besties, where I was again surprised with cake, wine and other birthday treats. It was my most low-key birthday ever but it was just what I needed. I felt loved!
• Time with the family. There was loads of it these two months. My mom, dad, and sister — what a treat! <3
• My godmother was really sick. While I was in the UK I started getting calls from my mom that she wasn’t sure how much longer she would make it. So while I had intended to spend the first week or more of this period in New York city, I pretty much wrapped up a few things I absolutely had to do and then headed directly to Albany so I could spend time with her. While I cherished that time, it was so hard knowing that it could possibly be the last week I’d spend with this woman who had such a larger-than-life impact on me and had been a constant figure in my family since I have conscious memories.
• Halloween Horror Nights. Guys, I am just NOT into scary stuff. Realizing my contract at Universal involved having to spend a whole day learning about and experiencing the Horror Nights had my gut in knots. The team was super understanding about my concerns, but it was still a difficult work situation.
• I left a really bad tip at a restaurant for the first time in my life… and while justified, I still felt so guilty about it I ended up writing a novel on the back of the receipt explaining in detail why. It sucked.
• Totally dropping the ball on my taxes. I filed for an extension and yet STILL I waited again until the very last minute… while camping with essentially no cell phone service. I wish I was kidding! I tried really hard to get my taxes wrapped up while we were on Oahu but I just didn’t make the cut, and then I accidentally overwrote a huge document with my expenses and had to start from scratch, which actually almost broke my brain in two. It was such a disaster driving around Hana trying to get enough cell service to hotspot my laptop and submit my taxes by the due date — I was down to the last hour! It’s kind of funny now in retrospect, in like a omg-am-I-even-joking-with-what-a-dumbass-I-am kind of way, but at the time it was literally the least funny thing that had ever happened in the history of time. I learned my lesson so hard though — this year I got it all wrapped up right on time, no extension, and even filed paperwork to pay quarterly in 2018.
Ewa Beach, Hawaii
• Losing my driver’s license in Hawaii! I can think of a billion trips I’ve taken where it wouldn’t have mattered more than the ten minutes it took me to reorder a new one online. But timing is everything, and I lost mine on the worst trip not to have access to a rental car. It was full stop one of my biggest travel face-palms ever. I’ll never get those days I spent trying to clean up my own mess back!
• Losing a memory card. Somewhere along the way, I realized there were a few photos from various trips that I couldn’t find. At first I thought I was going crazy — did I really take those shots? — until it was unavoidable. Somewhere along the way, I’d either lost or written over a bunch of photos, from Newfoundland all the way to Hawaii. I was gutted! Nothing breaks my little travel blogger heart more than the occasional yet inevitable loss of my digital memories.
• Half-assing Halloween in Los Angeles. I mean let’s be real — I hate half-assing anything, but doing so to a holiday I love and am not always in a place in the world to celebrate left me really annoyed at myself! To be fair to me, it was a really overwhelming week between getting my Thai visa application together and kind of waking up and remembering I had a job after kind of going into very rare-for-me vacation mode in Hawaii for a while. It’s silly I know, but still, I wish I’d taken advantage of being in such a cool spot and celebrated with more gusto.
• Election night. I don’t think I could say more than I did in this soul-baring post.
Halloween in Los Angeles, California
• While glancing at my suitcase for Hawaii, filled to the brim with flower crowns, pineapple-shaped sunglasses, and watermelon print sarongs, Ian hit me with the hard-hitting questions — “So, are we going to a costume party or on a road trip?”
Best and Worst Beds of the Month
Best: Our camper van in Maui. One of these days, I want to have real true long term adventure in one.
Worst: Election night. It didn’t matter where I was, there was no sleep coming.
Best and Worst Meals of the Month
Best: I’m super tempted to just say any and every kahlua pork dish that I stuffed into my face while I was in Hawaii — because duh — but I think I have to hand this medal over to an unexpected winner: the food at Universal Orlando Resort. I mean granted, my expectations we real low, because, well, theme parks, but whoa! Universal blew me out of the water. Their onsite restaurants are super varied, incredibly fresh, and crazy delicious. Color me impressed!
Worst: The truly terrible pizza we ordered while at Aulani. Even Ian couldn’t eat it — AND THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING.
All over the East Coast!
So, this was something crazy weird that happened. After almost five years of a blogging routine so disciplined and militant I hardly know where within me I drew it from, when I was in Hawaii… it. just. stopped. Literally I have blogged consistently through breakups, anxiety, new loves, depression, transcontinental moves, heartache, joy, uncertainty, all of it. And then suddenly, in Hawaii, I let two weeks go by without writing a blog post for the first time since I’d pressed launch on Alex in Wanderland.
A year and half later, I’m not really sure what happened. There wasn’t anything particularly momentous that happened, other than the fact that I’d been traveling a lot (not unusual), I was overwhelmed (not unusual), and we’d arrived in a place where I felt like I really could take a vacation (pretty unusual, actually). But I do know that I haven’t quite recovered from it. Once you know the world won’t collapse if you don’t publish a blog post every few days, it’s hard to get back that burning fire that gets you up at 3am to write before a full day of travel, or keeps you up at night in tears because you’re so frazzled and overworked.
It’s a weird spell to have broken. In some ways I think my blog has really declined as a result — I totally lost my chronological timeline and I have so much old content to catch up on (CLEARLY.) But as a person, I’m so much happier (like literally, Ian pointed out I cry a lot less, ha ha), and being less obsessed with my publishing schedule means I’ve had space in my life to try new things like writing a guidebook and launching retreats. In a lot of ways, I think my priorities have shifted away from “be world’s most prolific blogger” to just that old cliché… “be happy.”
Gosh, I have a lot to say about this. Maybe I should buck up and write a blog post on it, eh?
Health and Fitness
While I’d say any months where I’m on the road this much aren’t going to be my best for fitness nor nutrition, I did have a lot of fun moving my body! We absolutely loved the fitness program at Aulani, our various little hikes around East Maui, my exploration of all three yoga and barre studios in Paia, and my fun new hometown finds.
In New York and LA, I hit some cool cycling, yoga and weight training classes thanks to ClassPass — ClassPass lets you pay upfront for a virtual punch card of classes that works at studios all over the city for a fraction of what a drop-in typically costs (use my link to get $30 off, if you’re interested!)
New York, New York
What Was Next
A trip to Jamaica, a few final days in New York, and then back to Thailand to escape winter for another year!
Let’s get these roundups all caught up now, shall we?
Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.