A visit to Provincetown

 

Race Point Beach
Race Point Beach

As a kid my childhood memories going away on vacation have always been up on Cape Cod. I can vividly remember climbing up the sand dunes and watching the seals come to the shore.  Warm bowls of clam chowder after a stroll through Commercial Street in Provincetown still fill my belly with nostalgia after all of these years.

With my boyfriend visiting me this summer from the Philippines I decided that I needed to make a quick decision getaway and I looked no further than the Cape. As vast of a land that the USA is we decided to stay close enough to Connecticut so that we could easily wander and have our own adventures but come back to rest and visit with family. A short drive up to Ptown was a quick solution to get away and enjoy all that it has to offer. There is no place like Cape Cod in the Philippines. Jayson was in for a surprise.

Once we began our road trip one of the first things Jayson mentioned was how wide our roads are compared to home and how badly Americans tailgate each other on the highway. “You’re too close,” still buzzes in my ear as a reminder that I am one of those Americans that drives just a little too close to my neighbor in front of me. Oops!

cape cod

With the start of our trip with less than lovely weather we enjoyed plenty of visits to the indoor heated pools for some laps, happy hour raw bar at Victor’s and of course dinner at the Lobster Pot. Seriously guys, you can’t go all the way up to the Cape without a visit to the Lobster Pot (as my dad always  says).

We booked an Airbnb right outside of Provincetown center on Commercial Street along the bayside. We were well equipped with a kitchenette, deck, and sweeping views of the bay not to mention access to an inground heated pool and jacuzzi for those dreaded cold and drizzly days we had at the beginning of the week. Being able to have access to a kitchen was the perfect opportunity to cook our own breakfasts while also saving money on eating out, and practice living together outside of “shiplife”. As much as I love enjoying local seafood bites my body doesn’t like all of the meals out.

Don’t miss out on the tip of the upper Cape where you can either ride your bike or drive up to Race Point beach to capture the stunning views of the sand dunes, miles of biking paths, seal watching, and sweeping waves.

seals

One of the best things we did while up in the Cape was seal watching up at Race Point on the sand dunes. There was a huge group of seals playing in the waves and we caught a glimpse at the best spot in the right moment.

After a stroll through Commercial Street and a toasted almond latte later from the Wired Puppy we took a quickpeek at the jetty outside of Ptown. I was here two years ago with my family but thought it was an obvious place to to Jayson around. It gives you a nice perspective of the Cape outside of the crowds. I think he quite liked it.

The most fun we had was on our last day (and something I definitely recommend doing) when we rented bikes from the center of town and rode up to through the sand dunes visiting  Herring Cove and Race Point Beach. The weather held up quite nicely and we were basking in the sunshine riding through pine trees and stunning dunes.

One of our last stops on our bike ride

Of course as in life all good things must come to an end. You can’t be on vacation forever, right? After a relaxing and scenic four day stay we had to head back to Connecticut. One of our final stops was at Long Nook Beach where we caught in the massive waves and gently breezes.

Long Nook
Long Nook Sand Dunes, North Truro

One of the reasons why I like coming up to the Cape is because it is far from attractions, long lines to silly places such as amusement parks and the fact that it’s right in nature. Cape Cod is only a four hour drive west of where I live and it’s a place that is retreatful to return to time and time again. There are new restaurants that pop up and there are places that I enjoy to return to such as The Mayflower and the Lobster Pot on Commercial Street. There are foods up in the Cape that you can’t experience anyplace else. These are the treasures in life that we must reminded of that we can always return to.

 

20 Things I learned before I turned 30

It’s almost the big 3-0.  It’s kind of scary, it’s kind of not.. It’s time to embrace three decades of being on this planet called earth. Much has been learned. All experiences we face shape us into who we are today to be stronger, better, brighter, and happier.

Before setting out on my first journey abroad to South Africa nine years ago and then onto South Korea followed by a treasure trove of adventure, confusion, laughter, and fun this is the letter I would have written to myself.

  1. You are going to be given a dog (I know you don’t like dogs now but just wait) and her name will be Katie. Don’t worry, you will love her forever.

cavalier king charles

2. People change. Deal with it.

3. You don’t realize it now but writing in your journal is going to cause you a lot of laughter and confusion when you decide to read them over many years from now. Really think what you are writing about. Keep all your thoughts in your head. You don’t want anyone to read these antics.

4. Don’t compare your life to anybody else’s. What you see on Facebook might overwhelm you. You might think that you really don’t have your shit together right now, or still by looking at what “they” are doing,. Stop it now. Get off Facebook and go live your life.

5. You might not imagine it now but you are going to work on a cruise ship. No really. I know you can’t imagine it now but get those sea sickness tablets ready.

6. Keep life simple. Don’t over complicate things. Always stick with simplicity.

7. The end of a relationship is not the end of your life. When you find out why it didn’t work out you might be shocked but nonetheless you will be better because it’s over. They end for a reason. MOVE ON.

8. Don’t follow the crowd. It’s ok to be different. You might feel like an outsider from time to time but that’s because you are a happy loner. It’s more comfortable to follow what you feel is right.

9. Time is very precious. Fill your time with what you love. Even if that means studying maps and watching Samantha Brown for days.

10. Stay in the moment. Try not to plan too far out in advance.

11. Don’t assume. There is nothing wrong with being direct and no, it’s called being outspoken.

12. Friends are people who make the effort to keep in touch, reach out, and are there for you in the good and not so good times. Don’t waste your time worrying about those who are no longer in your life. Fill your time with people who make you feel good about yourself.

Vatos Tacos

13. You are easily deceived but don’t let that stop you from learning from your perceptions and move forward from those mistakes.

14.  You will really miss the life you had in Korea but you will forever stay in touch with those who touched you. Never lose contact with them. You are always welcome back to visit.

15. Treasure the time you have with your grandparents.

16. Worry less about your future and focus on the present and how you are manifesting greatness into your future.

17. There is always something new to learn. Don’t focus on just one thing. Open your mind to the many avenues that may arise to new opportunities.

18. Inspire others to live a great life. That might be through a story, opportunity, or a smile. Think about others often.

19. Don’t be small minded. Focus on the greatness of the big picture. Imagine your darkest day. The biggest trial you faced. It’s called adversity. It’s how you grow and learn to move on.

20. Your health is the most important thing you have. Feed your body well. Practice mindfulness and patience.

Bali

 

 

Dear Norway, you’re beautiful!

In my opinion, the best way to wrap up a long contract on the high seas is to a place where you can completely lose yourself in nature, get off the ship alone but not feel alone, and get lost on a path that leads you to waterfalls. There is no better way to conclude that time in any other place but in Norway.

I’ll tell you why.

The endless weeks after weeks that turn into months on end in the Caribbean filled with sun filled beach days drinking cocktails on the sand with your eye on the clock to get back to the ship can sometimes feel daunting (I’m not complaining even though it might sound like it). It’s great to visit the Caribbean but honestly not to ever live there. It’s great to visit but it gives me perspective on what I need in my daily life on land to be happy and not many checks are marked off in places like St. Kitts or Antigua (even though there’s nothing wrong with these places). Some ports you begin to favor and enjoy more than others sticking to your favorite go to restaurant joints as a system of finding comfort away from home like how I visit Tamarind in St.Kitts because I need my Indian fix.

sunset

Once our ship began the transatlantic crossing en route to Lisbon it all became smooth sailing. With long days at sea the reward became closer and closer. At night after a long day at my desk and a glass a wine later I would put my head down on my pillow to dream about the Portuguese tarts and warm cappuccinos waiting for me. Eventually once we reached Lisbon I enjoyed an entire “me afternoon” with those two things plus a little shopping to follow. Norway was next.

I did the same itinerary last year so there wasn’t a ton of suspense as Bergen, Alesund, Flam, Stavenger, and Geiranger were all on the itinerary but I couldn’t wait to come back to my favorite spots, cafes, parks, and fresh air!

waffles in Norway
Waffles in Flam

For any crew member who gets the chance to go to Norway take the first offer that comes your way. Why? Because there is no place like Norway in the world. Maybe New Zealand a little bit, but still. Cruising through the majestic fjords truly took my breath away. It was nothing but glorious. The cold fresh air and snow covered mountains left me speechless. Late sunsets at night took my breath way. I was glad to be far from the Caribbean and back into a magical land covered in snow where I could eat fresh waffles at a top of a mountain in Flam in slow motion. I don’t know many other experiences more magical than that. Truly.

The time I spent off the ship in Norway eased my exhaustion, worry, and mindless thoughts my thinking does to me from time to time. It’s the end of contract exhaustion I’m talking about. Where seven months of your life have been compacted into a small cabin, you have seen so many friends come and go, a few tears, lots of smiles, but you’re just ready to go home and cuddle with your dog and sleep forever.

Immersing myself in nature was just what my mind and body needed. After eating yummy Vietnamese food at the Zen Cafe in Bergen Jayson and I walked through a beautiful park to see flowers in full bloom. We were both equally surprised to see such greenery come to life and how multi cultural Bergen was as the second largest city in Norway. There were so my families from all over the world who seemed to be locals (speaking the language). I’m talking Chinese, middle east, Indian, and so on in Bergen. Super cool! I kind of lost myself in the local park at the greenery and spacious paths. It felt like time stood still a little bit and then I looked at the time and had to go back to work.

Bergen

Thank you nature,  snow, fjords, yummy Vietnamese food, excellent coffee shops, and flowers Norway. It was wonderful. I can’t wait to meet you again.

waterfalls

Bergen

For more information on how to get a job on a cruise ship check out Amanda’s guides here. Amanda at Get a Life at Sea has more than ten years of experiences working for a handful of cruise lines with a variety of job skills. She is the go to lady to talk to if you are serious about working on a cruise ship.

Why I miss the Philippines

 

Alona Beach
Alona Beach, Bohol

I often get this question time and time again.

“So tell me. What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?”

There is usually a long hesitation of silence after this question on my end followed by a lengthy “ummmmm”. Bali, Taiwan, Korea, and Greece all come to mind  immediately when I think of some of the best things I have experienced abroad such as yoga, kimchi, and drinking frappes in a cozy cafe in Oia but then my mind changes and my memories take over me and before I know I am blurting out “The Philippines!”

My first adventure out to the Philippines was back in 2013 on a curious solo adventure to see the Chocolate hills down in Bohol. It was a backpack, a Lonely Planet, and a few airbnb’s booked with no agenda in mind. It was an adventure within itself taking the ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran and answering to all the curious locals as to why on earth I was alone in the Philippines in the first place and where my husband was.  In the end I loved what I saw and I was anxious to see more in the future.

Located in southeast Asia consisting over 7,107 islands the Philippines has something for everyone’s taste. Whether you love hiking, swimming in waterfalls, sprawling on a beach, people watching in Manila, or getting deep into the culture this is a place where genuine experiences and curiosity always slip out of nowhere.

White Beach Bohol
Alona Beach-Bohol
Chocolate Hills
Chocolate Hills
Tappiya Falls
Tappiya Falls
Coron
Coron, Palawan

 

Fast forward to 2017

The Philippines. I know, I know what you are thinking. “But Alana, I thought you told me that you hate the heat there, the pollution of Manila, the poverty you saw everyday, the lack of green spaces all throughout the city, lack of living space and the lifestyle of “malling” to get out of the heat. I know, exactly. I agree with you. I agree with you completely. I did say all of those things. But in my experience of knowing for myself what the Philippines has to offer I still sometimes miss traveling there.

But I’m not including Manila as my favorite travel destination.  It’s the Philippines in all of it’s entirety that I’m talking about. It’s the food. It’s the garlic fried rice that I would eat every single morning for breakfast. Its the fried lumpia! I’m salivating just thinking about eating lumpia right now soaked in vinegar sauce. For all of you who don’t know what lumpia is think about an egg roll. It’s kind of like that but with fresh ingredients inside and you can order it fresh with a doughyness or have it fried (my preference).

Filipino cuisine
Filipino cuisine

You go to a mega mall and the options of foods you can eat still astound me. I compare that to my local mall here in Connecticut and I shake my head as I list off the limited options I have: Subway, Chinese, McDonald’s, and what else? Back in these mega malls especially in metro Manila and Baguio City you have endless options of all different kinds of Asian foods, western, pizzas, and ramen! It’s the warm mountains of rice on my plate along with yummy veggies, shrimp, and an egg topped over my rice that heals any pain I might have. And best of all it’s so cheap! I can literally eat out everyday and not worry about my budget.

It’s the landscapes. Places like Banaue way up north (12 hours north of Manila) where I soaked in the wandering rice terraces with my boyfriend watching locals live their daily lives in pure simplicity while drinking a cold coconut that made me want to just quit life and take a chance at being a professional vlogger in the Philippines. No seriously, I deeply contemplated that option a few times this year.

Batad Rice Terrace
Batad Rice Terrace

Filipinos are very curious about foreign travelers in their turf. Well maybe not sacred places like Sagada where the over traffic of tourists has taken over this quiet town famous for the hanging coffins, caves, and homeade yoghurt, but still. Filipinos are easy going people who are very prideful of their culture, land, and family life.

Leslie's in Tagaytay
Leslie’s in Tagaytay

It’s the smiles and kind regard that I’m not use to each time I visit the Philippines. When you walk into any grocery store, shopping mall, hair salon, restaurant a stammering of workers cannot wait to assist you in the Philippines. “Hi ma’m. Can I help you find something?” “Not really,” (I reply back) (But in my mind I think “But I’d love to chat!”). The last time I was in the Philippines I had a long “heart to heart” with one of the workers in the SM department store as he was very curious about my being in Manila and what brings me here. The long and short of it was that we exchanged a nice conversation and I hope I didn’t p*ss off any of his co-workers by his long chat with me.

Back home I’m usually not greeted by sales people on the floor of a store. Them assisting me is like them doing me a huge favor.  Seriously. That’s the attitude at least I feel when I return home from my travels.Nobody actually comes up to me to ask if I need help. Last week when I was trying to find a box to mail back to Air Canada (broken luggage) I was in Toys R’us and I had to hunt down sometime to assist me. Finally when I spotted a lady with a name tag walking past me I had to turn around and start following her and walk with her around the store to ask my question. Really!  When I sit down and think about it, it’s kind of refreshing to know the care and genuine assertiveness I get whenever I’m out and about in the big cities in the Philippines. That’s something you won’t find in the States. If so, I would love to know where you live and what kind of service you get.

After four visits to the Philippines I know that I still have more than 7,000 islands to visit. That’s the truth of it. In my lifetime or in anyones lifetime for that matter would they ever run out of places to discover, people to meet, and new foods to try. That’s why I’m excited to go back one day when the time is right. I know haven’t even seen 2% of this exquisite country yet.

Puerto Galera
Puerto Galera, Mindoro

For more about life in the Philippines check out one of my favorite blogs written by Amber who has created a very creative life in the metro Manila area with her family here. For more about creative living, delicious recipes, and lifestyles check out my favorite Filipino celebrities Stephanie Zubriri here.

Baguio Cathedral
Baguio Cathedral

Crew members: Finding time to get off the ship

“Do you ever get to get off the ship?” This is just a snippet of the questions crew members are asked while working on the ship. If I wasn’t able to get off the ship and explore these amazing ports of call I would most definitely not be working on a cruise ship at all. And do I live on the cruise ship? All crew live on the cruise ship, together.

Kotor

Perks of being a crew member:

One of the coolest things crew members get to experience are the ports of call and to take tours all over the world when we’re not working. Depending on the position you have on board this will be the deciding factor for the length of time you have off. If you are a stateroom attendant or cleaner then your time will be a bit limited. If you are working in the casino you will be able to enjoy more time in port due to the fact that the casinos close when the ship is docked. Even activity hosts and dancers can enjoy more of the ports because shows and game shows are not scheduled while the ship is in port. It’s in the evening that the entertainment is picked up and schedules become bombarded with production shows in the theater, guest entertainers, and happenings around the ship.

Batu Caves, KL

 

Getting off the ship:
Depending on the job you have on board your time off the ship will differ from other crew members. As a youth staff counselor we have rotating schedules and everyday we work different hours. I like this very much. We have different roles we fulfill on the ship from assisting guests around the ship to handing out tender tickets when the waters are too shallow to dock in port there are various duties we do on the ship. With that said everyday is a different work schedule, a different port, and different duties. I like this change and rotation. It keeps me on my toes.
Keep in mind that the amount of time you get off the ship differs between departments. Enjoy your time wisely. Double check the time that crew need to be back on board. I have known two people who missed their ship! If you plan your time off the ship you can see so much! Across all cruise lines the housekeeping department works very long hours especially in port and have very limited time off. Know that depending on your department you work on the ship you will work various hours. For me, my hours fluctuate from day to day and I love it that way.
Villefranche
Breathtaking Villefrance

Sometimes I have those days where I just want wifi to connect with friends all over the world, check in with emails while drinking a latte wherever that place may be. I may have a nice break from work but I don’t have the energy to go sightseeing. If I get off at every single  port my body cannot keep up with taking tours and spending hours sightseeing. You are bound to slowly overexaust yourself leading you to get rundown and catch a cold. Been there done that!

To sum it all up:

The experiences that we take back with us are ours forever. From Cinque Terre (Italy)to snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) to swimming in the clear crystal waters of Bora Bora (French Polynesia) to rainforests in Costa Rica (Puerto Limon) I have taken these opportunities to discover more of this beautiful world with my free time. After three years of working on a cruise ship I can tell you that the world is truly majestic and full of more treasures than I ever thought possible.

I am so blessed for the lessons I have learned, the friendships I have made, the places that fill me up with wanderlust, the delicious foods I have been able to try and the opportunities that I have on board to grow and develop my skills. Until I feel #done with #shiplife I am going to continue falling in love with exploring the world.

For more information about #shiplife you can watch my videos here.

Building a unique skill set on cruise ships

Enjoying the St. Kitts railway

Did you know that people who work aboard cruise ships develop a very unique skill set and are faced a multitude of situations that actually benefit them when trying to apply for jobs on land? I am here tell you how crew members build and develop a unique skill set while working at sea.

Character Building on Cruise Ships:

To begin, before working on a cruise ship I didn’t exactly have the social graces that I have today. I wasn’t able to talk to anyone I met especially when I was meeting people from all over the world. Fast forward today and I can definitely tell you that its a very different story. Why? Because crew learn how to be adaptable, problem solvers, and outgoing while working on a cruise ship. It is our job to talk to guests and invite them to join our activities that we offer and make them feel welcome while they are on vacation. But I think I still have many moments off the ship where I despise having “small talk” with people I don’t even know.

I guess I have what you might call stranger danger. I don’t like it one bit. I really get exhausted having small talk with strangers. Unless I’m in a “mood” to chat and sort out the details of my day to be honest I really don’t bother. In fact, this happened to me the other day on the subway as I was on my way into Chinatown in NYC. A man about my age sits down next to me and sees my purple carry on. He asks me where I was coming from, what I was doing there, and how he just moved from Miami to NY (I just want to get to chinatown. I really don’t care about this conversation. Just get me there already). The conversation just got awkward fast so I occupied my fingers with my tablet looking at my map of how I could find my way to my hostel. Out in the real world I really don’t enjoy conversing with strangers. There is no need for me to have it. Back on the ship however it’s quite reversed.

Having an outgoing personality:

With more than 4,000 crew and guests in total on board my cruise ship you have to enjoy being in a small space and smiling and greeting guests. It comes so natural to me to have a flowing conversation and it’s very cool to get to know people from all corners of the globe. I have learned so much from where people call home from Samoa to Kuwait to Sweden to meeting a family from Saudi Arabia (mind you I have never met a person from Saudi before in my life so I got excited). I had already known quite a bit about life in Saudi for a woman so I had so many questions to ask this mom from SA. She was so impressed that I even was able to pronounce her capital correctly. You sharpen your conversation skills into becoming a natural in this kind of environment on board. Catch me off the ship and I find myself socially awkward!

One of the top skills you need to work on board is communicating effectively. You have to be able to get your point across immediately and over your own shyness quickly. Our ship represents over fifty nations and our spoken language on board is English. No matter where you come from you speak in all guest areas in English.

There is also no time and room for “dilly-dallying” on board. Problems need quick solutions. Solutions need answers. If something needs to be done, it’s done now, not tomorrow or the day after that. Guests pay a lot of money to cruise on modern luxury ships and customer service needs to be at tip-top shape to help and assist guests with their questions. Back on land we aren’t exposed to the same situations in our jobs that we face on the ship. I really believe that my speaking skills have greatly improved in the past year. In my workplace I give “open house” to parents and have to explain our program, hours of operations and so forth. I am speaking with parents and children from all over the world.

In conclusion:

Depending on what you do for work crew members sometimes have to speak in front of large groups of people (not one of my strengths) but I have improved very much since I started hosting youth talent shows and running my tender duties to guests as we arrive in our ports of call. That involves small talk (my favorite) and speaking on a microphone. Learning to speak effectively to other human beings is a life skill and I am in the process of mastering it!

Smile and be confident!

Unhacked: Being a vegetarian and working on cruise ships

Sharing a “veg” meal together in the dining room

Choosing to be veg

I am a big time foodie. I love my food.  I love eating fresh foods that are natural and prepared with care. I love exploring different cuisines, tastes, and flavors. A life without good food would be a very sad life indeed for me.

I want to begin by saying that deciding to be a vegetarian is a powerful lifestyle to reaps many benefits. Those who choose not to consume animal meat (as vegetarians) have made this decision for various reasons.  I have been a proud vegetarian the past seven years and I have reaped the health benefits in many forms; able to maintain a healthy weight (no yo-yo-ing), clear and bright skin complexion, etc.

I had a feeling that before working on ships that it might not be easy to eat the same way as I had been eating at home. Being a vegetarian at sea is not the easiest when you are away from your kitchen and all the foods that you know you need (that you can’t find). I am use to cooking my own meals based on fresh ingredients with no animal products. So it was no surprise to myself that being a vegetarian on a cruise ship turned out to be a little tricky and a constant work in progress.I will tell you that you CAN be a vegetarian on a cruise ship but you will definitely have to prepare well and know what your body needs to function and feel your best.

Let me explain.

Most meals prepared for crew in the mess are mostly meat based and also high in carbohydrates such as endless breads and pasta dishes. If you are going to work on a cruise ship expect to see a lot of choices full of carbohydrates. It can be hard and you might have to find quick solutions such as buying products off the ship or making special dining requests . I usually don’t eat a lot of pasta or breads anyways so this became a problem. With all the extra carbs I had been consuming I was feeling a bit more sluggish and tired and in the danger zone of a B12 deficiency. Nearly at the end of my first contract  my waistline had grown a size and I wasn’t feeling so great.

I felt a bit uprooted in my first long contract not having the foods that I loved on the ship so I had to seek a solution fast for my next contract. So while I was in port I found myself in the local grocers buying heaps of nuts, dried fruit, instant noodles, blueberries, greek yogurt, and local fruits. This made a huge difference right off the bat in the way that I felt and to maintain a healthy diet. Now I always scout out the best meals off the ship and the best snacks to take back with me to my cabin.

Finding the right supplements

Iherb and I have become the best of friends these days. This is my go to site for all things healthy and nutritious that I can ship directly to my ships warehouse and receive my products on embark day.

In order to truly survive eight months at sea I had to order supplements and snacks from iherb. This website has everything that you need when it comes to nutrition so I had to act fast. This is my absolute “go to” when I need to order a food haul. When ordering off the internet make sure that you type in the correct mailing address for your ship. For me, our home port was Miami so orders came in fast and I was able to pick them up on embark day (every Sunday). Having enough B vitamins and probiotics helped me out a lot because on the ship I’m not working idly, I’m always on the move and doing a lot of walking.

If you are new to iherb I highly recommend this site for all your healthy go-to’s. Products such as coconut oil, probiotics, crips, and aloe vera shampoo are my favorite items I like to order. When you are working away from home and you don’t know what products you can get abroad I just cut to the chase and order products that I can rely on from iherb.

For a complete list of my recent order from iherb you can view it here.

Eating in the crew mess

Aside from the crew mess, crew members working in the Entertainment department (staff) can enjoy the foods in the guests buffet as long as it isn’t too busy. Now this rule changes between cruise lines but for me I was able to enjoy the buffet upstairs as long as it wasn’t too busy. I was able to  enjoy fish (excellent source of

I found that my body reacted a bit badly to some of the prepared foods because simply said: I’m not use to foods prepared in all the sauces and butter. I never cook with butter back home and I eat very simply. I love whole foods cooked in extra virgin olive oil, quinoa, wraps, salads, and soups. I love to eat but not with all the sauces and extra caloric ingredients. Probiotics helped me out a lot on the ship to help me digest my food better end remove waste from my body because my tummy was getting bloated and I had a lot of gas at times.

 

When in doubt, do Chinese

#FOODTRIPS in port

To be honest one of the best adventures for me was going on a #foodtrip while docked in port. This became a ritual that I really looked forward to each port day. I would do a little research beforehand so that I had something really exciting to look forward to during my time off the ship. I will never forget my super healthy and fresh salad I got at Vegan Restoran Vin Tallin, Estonia. If you are a veggie or just want to experiment with a meal  other prepared with any meat products, I highly recommend giving this resto a visit. Food tripping is an actual hobby and has become my passion. Exploring different parts of the cities in port I would just soak up all that the menus had to offer and eat what my body was craving. This is a great way to learn more about a place.

Looking forward to finding the best foods in ports became a ritual that I really looked forward to. I can remember especially this summer doing a little research before we docked so I had a few top options of places that served vegetarian meals and also international fare that I love such as Vietnamese, Indian, and Korean. While sailing through the Caribbean and Baltics I was always craving korean food but believe it or not the only official Korean restaurant that I discovered was in downtown Southampton, England that had just opened up called Manna. The owners were really friendly and could not believe how much food my boyfriend and I had ordered. I remember the owner sharing with me how he left South Korea to live in England because competition in schools was very difficult for Korean kids so he decided to give his children a better experience growing up in England.

Keep in mind
Note: If you vegetarian and working on the cruise ship, you can make it happen. If you put your mind to and can find what you like in port and balance that with what is available on the ship then you can make it happen. Know what you like. For me, I loaded up on plenty of salads topped with plenty of beans (fiber and b vitamins) and lots of fish and eggs. While in port I picked up a lot of snacks that I love: berries, dried fruits, yogurt, fresh juices, dried seaweed, ramen noodles, and tons of peanut butter. I kept that stash in my cabin and that was my “go to” when I still felt hungry in between meals. or at the end of the day when i was starving. Check out iherb and have all your favorite groceries delivered to your home port.

With that said this was the best way to make my eight months at sea enjoyable. I really believe that if I cannot eat well I am unable to perform well. I love to eat well and food nurtures my body and helps me be my best. I know what I like, it’s just a matter of finding it. So while I port I always stock up on all the things that I love and eat local. Good luck to you!

For more information on how I manage my diet while working on ships you can follow my Youtube video here.

Malling in the Philippines

Welcome to Manila

With more than ten million people in the Metro Manila area malling has become a growing cultural habit of most of it’s population. Still considered a developing country the Philippines is packed with hypermarkets and major names such as the Mall of Asia, SM and Ayala. With the high humidity and heat most of the populations pass time by strolling through malls to stay cool.

Manila is full of surprises if nobody forewarned you about them. Intense heat, loads of traffic, jeepneys galore, lots of honking, lots of sweating, and your body begging you for more cold buko juice. In the metro Manila area part of the lifestyle of living here is to go “malling” to stay cool and get your errands done in one place. When I visited the Philippines for an extended period of time two years ago I was shocked by how often my boyfriend wanted to go to the mall to “cool off”.

“Malling” in my family happens usually during the holidays when we are shopping for gifts and usually this isn’t done as a family. We usually go on our own and at our own pace. So when my Filipino boyfriend asks me to go strolling to get out of the heat I have to understand how way of living too. Here in the Philippines you have to stop comparing to how things are done at home. Some people go to malls for window shopping or just to browse around while others go to malls to tackle many tasks at one location. Malling in the Philippines is how Filipinos come together to share a meal, go grocery shopping or have a break from the heat.

Malling Culture

Whether you’re visiting the metropolitan Manila area before heading to another destination keep in mind that you are going to do some serious people watching while strolling. If you head over to Starbucks or Bo’s Coffee you will find many students with their books open and a frappachino studying for endless hours. Security will greet you at the door and even open it for you with a lovely “Hello Ma’m or Sir”. Back home we usually go to Starbucks to meet up with friends to catch up. Starbucks is usualy a good meeting place for business or quick coffee dates. I think that any traveler will be surprised by the security greeting you from all entrances of the mall with wooden sticks briefly checking through your belongings making sure you aren’t carrying weapons. But how carefully are they really checking through your bags?

What is Malling?
It’s sometimes overwhelming to discover which mall you actually want to visit because there are too many to choose from; SM Manila, Mall of Asia, Robinson’s, and so forth. In the Philippines, shopping malls offer so much more than just shopping. For many people in western countries going to the mall isn’t an everyday habit to “kill time”. We actually go when we literally need to buy something or window shop. But in the Philippines you go to the mall to eat meals with family and friends, pay bills at SM, do some grocery shopping, browse for home goods at Lowes, get a massage or foot spa, mail or send parcels, drop off the kids at kiddy play zones for a designated amount of time, watch a movie in the theater and also for other entertainment purposes.

Why do Filipinos spend a lot of time in malls?
Some families walk the mall together to just simply get out of the house because in some cases they don’t have Air Con in their dwellings and want a change of scenery. I find this phenomenon and way of living mind blowing compared to the reasoning for malling in the west. Back home I never go to the mall unless Macy’s is having a sale and I have a surplus of coupons to shop around and buy what I need getting unbelievable deals to show my mom when I come back home. Strolling through the mall in the Philippines is for multipurpose task running where you can get a lot of errands done in one place instead or driving around the city trying to find parking spots for all of the individual places you need to visit to get your errands done for; massage, mailing a parcel, grocery shopping, eating a meal, buying a lightbulb, and finally breaking for a coffee with friends or family.

Snacking your way through the malls
I always work up an appetite for something delicious while trolling through the malls. Be sure to sample some of most typical Filipino snacks such as buko juice, brownies, bibimka bread, and lumpia. I have come up with the conclusion that the reason why you will be paying a quadruple cost for the lumpia (usually 10 php each) in the malls is because you are essentially paying for the aircon that comes along with it! Take note at the salespeople in the store as you browse around. They usually greet you with “ma’m and sir” followed by “what are you looking for today?” as they follow you around the store. One thing that I like about retail in the Philippines is that you are never ignored! I can’t even come up with how many times I actually had a question or couldn’t find an item in the mall and could not find one salesperson to assist me or one that looked like they were interested in assisting me. Get ready for plenty of pleasant greetings, some good people watching, and oh..some Air Con!

My best Mall picks

  • MOA (mall of Asia in Pasay) is the biggest mall in all of metro Manila. You can easily spend a day here if you need to do grocery shopping, eat, and stroll some more. Located on Seaside Blvd next to the sea this mall offers an indoor ice skating rink, a huge food court, plenty of restaurants on the first floor and fireworks each Saturday at 7 P.M.
  • Robinsons Place in Ermita is my favorite mall because you don’t feel the crowd as much and the lights aren’t as bright compared to SM Manila Mall. Mr. Choi is my favorite restaurant there with delicious dumplings, noodles, and smoothies. You can check out the menu here.
  • SM City in Baguio is a open air mall up in the norther region of Philippines (about a seven hour drive north of Manila). What I like most about this mall is the cool air and the less crowded feeling. There’s a really great Korean restaurant (Wood Nymph) nearby Starbucks.

Keep in mind that most malls open at 10 A.M. When I first arrived to the Philippines last September I was super jet lagged. Wide awake at 6 A.M. my boyfriend took me over to MOA to begin our day malling only to find ourselves starting our day with a warm bowl of lomi at Chowking outside the mall.

Finding the best web hosting with SiteGround

So you want to become a travel blogger. With such high saturation on the internet it’s important to find  your niche and plan where you hope to take blogging. In the end you want to stand out from all the competition.

Travel blogging is a great way to get started on the web to get your stories out there for others to hear and learn from. I’ve always wanted to share my tales, adventures, and photos for the interested travel enthusiasts  but it can be tricky when you come home with a suitcase full of goodies, Instagram filtered photos, and a few interested souls waiting to hear what you did and where you went! Once I saw for myself that it’s not so easy for everyone to understand all the fine tuned details of my Balinese soul searching tour I needed to dig a little deeper to share my experiences online.

Finding the best web hosting is one of the most important ways to getting started with this dream. My good friend Joan mentioned to me SiteGround when finding the best web hosts starting with choosing your domain.

From the beginning SiteGround was outstanding with their customer service skills and timely replies to my many questions. When I was setting up my account sitting in a Starbucks in Curacao I was instantly on live chat with a few representatives to help guide me through this process on live chat. It was awesome! I began to think of the bit of mess I got myself in a few weeks prior being on hold for fifteen minutes for a different web hosting domain and I thought to myself, “I really don’t have time for this.” To have limited time off the ship as a crew member I don’t have the time to be on hold in a weak wifi area, sorry.

If you are looking for top notch quality customer service then you must begin with the best domain web hosting out there! SiteGround is the best way to get the ball rolling in the blogging world. And the best thing is: Once you have your domain you still have access to a live chat representative in the case you have more questions you need answered.

Below are the steps to follow to easily get your domain
  1. Choose your web hosting plan

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Earning travel miles for everyday purchases

Choosing the best credit card

There are so many different kinds of credit cards to choose from. The choices to choose from are overwhelming if you don’t know what benefits you are looking for. Earning travel miles for everyday purchases is super helpful when you go to book your next trip. BINGO. You already have some air miles to apply to your flight to either reduce the cost of the ticket or upgrade your seat.

Finding a credit card that will earn you sky miles for your everyday purchases is a step in the right direction of benefits if you are after all a travel fanatic. With so many different sign up benefits it’s overwhelming to narrow it down to the right one.

American Express Skymiles (Delta Skymiles)

The final decision comes in choosing the one that will reap you the most benefits such as skymiles, free checked bag, or tens of thousands of bonus sky miles for spending a certain amount of money within a month span. Sound great? Those were the perks I saw on a poster for the American Express Skymiles (with Delta) card while I was on a layover one of the busiest airport hubs in the U.S.; Atlanta! I quickly signed up and immediately reaped excellent benefits with my first purchase.

Two years ago I was shopping around for flights to the Philippines searching for the best deals giving me the shortest layover. I found a super cheap round trip flight on delta  ($780). With a super cheap RT ticket I also got a $50 credit towards my balance and a free checked bag.
Benefits
When you spend your first $1,000.00 in your first three months you get $50 off your credit card balance and 30,000 Delta Skymiles. Out of all the major airlines that I fly on I always prefer Delta because miles never expire. There are no gimmicks or hassles when you get these miles and that helps me out a lot if I want to keep my miles for a rainy day in the case that I find a really good deal on flights. While my job usually flies me to join me ship with Delta I gain points each time I begin and finish a contract.

Travel Hack

You earn 1 point for every dollar spent when charged to your AMEX and 2 points when charged directly through Delta purchases. How do you find yourself earning more points? Using the card for most purchases and paying off your bill on time.

With regular use of my AMEX skymiles card I am adding to my points that I can use for future Delta flights. This has benefited me a great deal with two free flights I have cashed in on with the help of gaining 20,000 skymiles when I spent my first $1,000.00 using AMEX. I flew from Miami to NYC one way for free with my miles and only paid $5 in taxes. When I was visiting my best friend in Seattle I fly to Westchester from SEA for FREE, again only paying $5.60 in taxes. It was a red eye flight with a connection in ATL but still, it was FREE!

To Sum  it all Up
If you are a frequent international traveler this card offers no fees for international transactions so you don’t have to worry about fees for using it abroad. I learned this one the hard way when I used one of my credit cards in Korea a few years ago so frequently without knowing I was being charged each time I made a transaction.  The annual fee for the AMEX skymiles card is waived for your first year.  If you want to continue using this card it will set you back $95 into your second year. I earned so many miles with this credit card and got myself two free flights along the way. With the only downfall being that you have to pay a $95 annual fee after your first year this card is a win-win!