Pick Your Language

Friday, July 5, 2019

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia 2019

Australia's Most Iconic City 

From Melbourne, my Aunt Jenny and I went straight to Sydney. It was a nice change going from 40-50 F to 50-65 F weather and not being rained out everyday.
I didn't know what to expect in Sydney because everyone's perception is different, especially being American, where it's (almost) everyone's dream to go to Australia. Overall, the city itself was beautiful and the sights we had been able to see were fantastic.
We stayed at the cutest AirBnB that was just a short walk away from the CBD. By the time the third day rolled around, we pretty much knew the route to the transportation ferries. We did a lot in Sydney which included going inside the Opera House, walking over the Harbour Bridge, and going to the top of the Westfield tower. In addition to all of that we visited a few of the most iconic beaches and bays like Manley beach, Watson Bay, and Bondi Beach.
I really enjoyed the beaches because each one of them had a very different atmosphere to them. Manley had less people but the shops and beach were all pretty close together. Watson was more spread out but seemed to be more suburb-y with less shops and more open space with houses. Bondi was definitely the biggest and way more of a tourist destination with a big surfer vibe. it was pretty much one big party with lots of different shops. I would 100% go back to Bondi in the summer to go for a swim/play in the waves.

Throughout our time in Sydney we also did some major souvenir shopping. Now, I don't know about everyone else, but I LOVE shopping for souvenirs. I think I am more excited to buy gifts for other people than I am for myself. Plus, it is always so fun to look around and find the perfect gift for people. This time I was able to buy authentic Opera House souvenirs (can't mention names just in case they read this 😋), how cool is it going to be when they get something from one of the world's most iconic places!

I have to say, out of all the places I have visited in Australia, the Gold Coast and Sydney would have to be my favorite. Those are two places that I could pack up, move to, and live a happy life. They are definitely my top two Australian most "livable cities".


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne 2019

Melbourne: City of Culture, Art, and Nature

Melbourne is the largest city in Victoria, and the second most populated city in all of Australia. However, one of the most interesting things, in my opinion, was that even though there were an incredible amount of people, there were equally some of the most amazing scenery around! Melbourne has at its disposal the Grampians National Park, the Great Ocean Road, and Phillip Island right in its backyard, all of which are some of the most incredible places to visit.
During this trip and after my semester exams, I met up with my Aunt Jenny who had flown down to Australia for a month. We booked some of the most amazing tours during our time in Melbourne which included all of those places listed above. In addition to all of that we also explored Chinatown, the Brighton Beach Boxes, and ventured around the city. All of the places we had visited were great places to explore and I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to see a city with such a variety of things to do.
The first tour we did was the Grampians National Park. It's about a 3.5 hour drive one way, if you don't stop, from the city's central area. We had the funniest tour guide (who was, again, our tour guide for the Great Ocean Road) who really made the time enjoyable. It was pouring rain pretty much the entire time but his humor and knowledge made up for the bad weather.
The second tour we booked was the famous Great Ocean Road, and let me tell you it was AMAZING. Everything about the GOR lives up to the tales. The drive was full of breath-taking scenic ocean views from high cliffs to beaches. My favorite part of the ocean scenery were the 12 Apostles (which I later called the "12 Tacos" as I photo-shopped my pug in as the pillars). We spent the whole day stopping to see the amazing scenery and were able to end the day with a beautiful, colorful sunset.

The final tour we booked was to Phillip Island to watch the penguin parade. We had a different tour guide this time and he was totally lame...I say this because he was so factually wrong that it was laughable.
Anyways, the tour itself was another fantastic pick because we were, again, able to see some really extraordinary scenery along with adorable little blue penguins (aka fairy penguins). During this trip we stopped at a few beaches, saw the Nobbie rock formations, and finally ended our day watching the little blue penguins come in from sea, back to their nests. These little guys were so small and absolutely adorable. I was completely moved by their triumphant journey back home as they waddled their way up the beach.
In between the tours, we explored the city and tried to take in as much as possible. Chinatown was really cool and had some of the best Asian food around. I had delicious veggie dumplings and even found an Asian bakery that sold my favorite sweet bread. The culture in Melbourne is beyond that of which you would find if you travel to Northern regions of Australia. It was a fun experience and had some of the best Chinese, Japanese, and Korean food I have had!
Overall, Melbourne has some really extraordinary places and I would recommend venturing down to take advantage of the surrounding areas. Although I had a great time, it probably would have been more productive to go down in the summer time due to the extended daylight hours. Not to say it was bad or anything, but if your planning a trip to Melbourne, try to go when you get more time out of the day!


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cairns, Australia

Cairns & Cape Tribulation 2019

From Reef to Rainforest, Cairns has it all!

This trip to Cairns was a special one for me, mostly because this was the first time I have ever done a "solo backpacker" style of travel. I have always considered myself independent but this was the real test to see how well I fared on my own and in my own company. Long story short, this trip made me realize I absolutely LOVE doing the whole solo backpacker type thing. I felt so free these past four days and it almost felt a little bit liberating. I had the absolute freedom to decide what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. 
Not only was this my first time by myself, but it was also my first time staying in a hostel. I decided to book myself in at the YHA Central Cairns hostel (pictured to the left). It was a wonderful place and I met some really interesting people. The vibe of this hostel was so laid back and open, it seemed like everyone just went with the flow and was living a life full of adventure and wanderlust. People were really friendly but respectful. It was really wonderful getting to chat with my "roommates" and hearing their stories as well. That is one thing I love about traveling, everyone has their own story and it is always so much fun to listen to where they have been and are going. 

The first day I arrived I didn't have any plans so I decided to go out and see the city. I just so happened to sit next to a nice girl, named Thea, on the bus to Cairns and we got to chatting and decided to venture around together. We walked along the streets, mudflats, shops and night markets till about 7:00PM, said our goodbyes and then parted ways. The thing about solo traveling is that it opens you up to meeting people so that it is easier to find someone else who is solo and explore together.
I began my vacation activities on the second day which consisted of SCUBA diving on the outer reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. I decided to dive with the company, Divers Den, because they offered three dives and lunch. All in all it was a really fun time. I enjoyed being able to get in the water again after three months and just be one with the sea.
My first couple dives went really well and ended up being a solid 40 mins, however, my last dive was a bit of an...adventure so to speak. I ended up getting paired with three newly certified divers for the first time. About 15 minutes into the dive, the one girl showed me her air gauge and it was at 50 bar (basically she was in the red zone which meant she was extremely low on air). I gave her my spare and turned the dive around. About ten minutes later, myself and my other two buddies were also at 50 bar so I decided to surface us immediately. Turns out the current had pushed us far away from the boat and none of us had the air to make it there. Our final dive ended at a measly 26 minutes and a long swim back 🤣 Needless to say that wasn't the best dive but it was an experience where I had to think fast and make decisions based on my own training. After that, one of the dive company employees asked me if I was looking for a job and offered me to work with them. I was honored that they liked me but sadly had to decline because it was way too far away from school ☹

On a side note, I wanted to mention a little bit about the reef itself. This was my first time diving in the farther north GBR and I was really shocked by the state it was in. There was almost nothing there. The first dive site had very little branching corals and almost no fish. The second dive site was a little bit better in terms of coral cover and fish but still didn't have any complex systems. Both dive sites were mostly coral rubble and only housed small fish and invertebrates. There was no sight of any higher trophic level organisms like sharks, turtles, or rays. It really opened my eyes to the awful effects of climate change and how our ecosystems are changing in parallel.

On my third day in Cairns, I visited the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation beach. It was an incredibly long day tour but we visited some really amazing places. We hit the road around 7:00AM and didn't arrive back at the city until 7:00PM.
The day started off with visiting a wildlife reserve where you had the option to eat breakfast with parrots. There were tons of cute critters and I even got to share my coffee with a Galah parrot. It was so cute, I put my finger out and it came right up to me and nestled against my hand. After that we headed up to Cape Tribulation where we had lunch and spent some time on the beach. This beach was absolutely gorgeous, the water was so blue and the mountains in the background were so elegant.
After we departed the Cape, we headed over to the Daintree rainforest. The forest itself was beautiful and every breath I inhaled was so crisp and clean. There were so many different plants and trees growing together, it was a lovely site to see. From then onward, we did a river/crocodile cruise down the Daintree river and were able to spot 2 crocs! Our trip finished up with a stop at the Alexandra Lookout and a scenic ocean drive back to Cairns.

This trip was filled with many new experiences and many beautiful sites to see. If there is one thing I would recommend, it would be to go out there and do a solo backpackers trip someday. Being a solo traveler really allows for a certain freedom and opens you up to so many things.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Magnetic Island, Australia

Magnetic Island 2019

Magnetic Island: The Gem of Townsville.

Since moving to Townsville, I have ventured to Magnetic Island 3 times, and it took all 3 times to truly see the island. In my opinion, Magnetic Island is the true "gem" of Townsville. The beaches, bays, and views are absolutely stunning and every area is different.
 Most people do the whole standard touristy "East Side" of the island when they visit. Don't get me wrong, the east side is beautiful but 1) It's too easy to access via the bus routes, and 2) There are always too many people for my liking (because it's easy to tour around). The real hidden beauty is the beach located at the end of the West Point hiking trail on the West side of the island.
My two friends (Michaela and Celia) and I, decided to go to the island and see the light at the end of the West Point tunnel. Honestly speaking, we probably should have taken a bus from the ferry terminal to the trail's starting point, but we decided to walk from Nelly Bay (terminal point) to Picnic Bay (the West Point starting point) and then hike the trail. That was undoubtedly not the smartest decision. It took a total of around 4 hours just to get to West Point, and that wasn't including the return trip.

After the very long and hot 4 hours, we finally got to the secluded beach at West Point. It was an incredible find and so worth the long walk up. The water was so blue and so clear and we had the whole beach to ourselves! We stayed for about an hour, eating lunch and walking the beachfront.
The journey itself was quite the adventure. We came across three snakes, a shitty cactus, and a car full of nice travelers. On our way back, we were about 35 minutes into our return when a group of English travelers pulled over and offered to give us a ride. It was all fun and games until we got pulled over by the owner of the car company and got yelled at for the "excessive amount of people" in the car. He was a bit of an odd duck but a big thanks goes out to those guys for sparing us the pain of walking all the way back.

Needless to say the adventure was a lot of fun but I had even more fun getting to bond and spend time with my friends. What's even better is that we are all roommates (by chance) so I am looking forward to all the crazy times we are going to have in the future. Living with these girls is like having a home away from home. Like I said before, traveling alone is cool but traveling in good company is ten times better!


Gold Coast, Australia

Gold Coast & Byron Bay 2018

Beaches, Crystals, and Waterfalls...OH MY!

After spending some time in Indonesia, I headed over to the Gold Coast for about a week to visit a friend who I met during my first semester of grad school. It just so happened that we were roommates for a short while and really hit it off. Before I get started I'd like to give a little shout out to my friend, Lara, for hosting me: *You were so kind to open up your house to me and I will never forget all of the fun we had. Every moment was absolutely fantastic and I am thankful for everything you did for me! 💜*
Honestly speaking, the Gold Coast is exactly the type of scenery that most non-Australians think of when they hear the word Australia. I can honestly say that Coolangatta, Gold Coast, and Byron Bay are the very definition of paradise to me. I could literally pack up everything I own right now and move to one of those places. The city, the beaches, the water, the surf, literally everything was so beautiful.

During this trip, my friend took me to see a good portion of the Gold Coast which included Coolangatta, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, Crystal Castle, and Springbrook. Every single place was so different from the next, and honestly like nothing I've seen before, that it blew my mind. I loved all of it.
Surfers Paradise was one of the first big day trips that we took. We went to the top of the Q1 Tower (One of the world's tallest residential buildings) and you could literally see the whole span of the Gold Coast. It was such an amazing sight to see, I remember my mom calling when we were at the top and I insisted that we video chat so she could see it too! After that we took a walk around Surfers Paradise and I had my first bagel with cream cheese (courtesy of Starbucks) in 5 months, and it was so good it brought tears to my eyes (If you're American, you'll understand).

Next, we headed over to Byron Bay Lighthouse/Beach and Crystal Castle. First of all, the lighthouse was quite the sight to behold. Gazing out into the beautiful blue horizon had me speechless. There was something about that place that just really left an impression. The water was a radiant mix of  dark blue, light blue, and turquoise. Byron Bay beach was equally beautiful as well. I may not be much of a regular swimmer, but I really enjoyed sitting in the sand with Lara and chatting while we people-watched. It was incredibly peaceful.
Crystal Castle was our next stop and, wow, I've never been to any place like it. I feel like CC is one of those "hidden gem" places that you just happen to stumble upon and then it ends up being a psychedelic blast. For all of you out there that are hardcore healing crystal fans, this is the place for you. There were crystals and geodes everywhere, some of the largest I've ever seen. Not to mention it was farther inland so when you looked out into the rainforest it almost felt like you were in a fairy tale world. The air there also smelled very fresh and clean, as if you were to be smack dab in the middle of a flower patch. Nonetheless, I highly recommend checking this place out for anyone who has the chance.

Last but not least, we went to Springbrook National Park where I saw my first real life waterfall. It was breathtaking and now I am obsessed with waterfalls. Walking through various areas of the park was really cool because there were so many different views. From waterfalls to rainforests, this place gave a different and elegant view of Australia. Again, the air here was very crisp and clean, similar yet slightly different than at Crystal Castle. I can say with confidence that my first waterfall voyage was a success!
Overall, my trip to the Gold Coast was a complete and utter success and I owe it all to my good friend, Lara. It's times like these that really make me appreciate the path that my life has taken. If I never left the US, if I never pursued my dream of being a marine biologist, I would have never of gone to the places I've been or met the people I've met. I am a lucky person and am truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to see so much of this beautiful earth.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Indonesia 2018

PADI Certified: Professional Mermaid-Master, HERE I COME!

I am not afraid to admit that after I started graduate school, I lost a lot of the self-confidence I use to have back in undergraduate. One thing in particular was my confidence in scuba diving. At first I was really embarrassed about it and I struggled a lot because of it, but sometimes shit happens in life and you just gotta get yourself situated. Something I noticed about grad school was how unnecessarily "cut throat" competitive it was with a lot of people and being the hopelessly timid person I felt like was no good. I knew I had to shape up and so I decided that the best way to overcome this hurdle was to do something about it, thus the reason (or at least one of them) I choose to go to Indonesia to do the Divemaster scuba course.

I did my Divemaster course through Adventure Scuba Dive Bali and it was one of the best decisions I could have made. First of all, Indonesia is a really awesome place to see cultural diversity and it's pretty cheap (double win). Second of all, Never would I have thought that this course would be so much fun. I think part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because of the people at ASDB. I met so many wonderful friends that made such a positive impact on my life. I couldn't have asked for a better group of instructors and fellow DMT's (divemaster trainees).

Throughout the duration of this 17 day DM course (yes I know it's short, it was an intensive) I learned so much more than I ever imagined. I think one of the best things about this experience was all of the diversity among the ASDB group. We had people from virtually everywhere in the world teaching and diving together. I found it incredibly fascinating (and entertaining) to hear about everyone's stories and past experiences. I made so many new friends and so many memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The times we shared truly were some of the funnest that I have had and someday I hope to be able to meet up with everyone again. I don't usually get so attached to people but by the time those 17 days were over, I felt so close to everyone that I cried almost the whole plane ride back to Aus. Not to sound like a total crybaby, but I can't help the fact that this amazing group of people had made themselves a special place in my heart.

On a separate note, I learned a lot about diving and finally felt comfortable in my own skin (and gear). I gained my confidence back (plus some) and left Indonesia feeling like I could do just about anything. I think the DM course is an important step in someones diving career because it not only teaches you the in's and out's of the sport but it also teaches you to troubleshoot and take leadership in certain situations. For me, it was everything I needed to become a better diver. At the end of it, I ended up collecting my Divemaster AND Master Diver certifications!

Throughout my time in Bali, I went to Tulamben and dove the USAT Liberty, Nusa Penida island, and Padangbai. I would have to say that Padangbai was probably the prettiest on land, but Nusa Penida was the best to dive at. On my dives I saw some pretty exquisite marine life which included manta rays, black tip reef shark, beautiful coral colonies, cuttlefish, octopus, moral eels, parrotfish, sea turtles, and tons of reef fish. Not to mention some underwater statues and a submarine full of tourists (and in their case we were part of the underwater display).

I also reached a new max depth of 132 ft and collected over 30 dives on this trip. I did a few night dives (and found some money tucked into one of the coral colonies), a few deep water dives, and assisted in some beginner scuba courses. This trip definitely taught me a lot and made me step out of my comfort zone, but most importantly, it made me a stronger person.

One last side note, from an environmental perspective, there is something I would like to address. Even though Indonesia is very beautiful, there was so much trash absolutely everywhere. It physically made me ill to look at. I don't think I have ever seen so much on-land litter and marine debris in my life. I can honestly say that on every single dive I picked up at least a handful of trash, sometimes even more (enough to fill my BCD pockets). I am huge into anti-littering and cleaning up the environment so seeing that much shit everywhere really got to me. I mean we would be driving to Tulamben and on the way would just be riverbeds completely covered with garbage. Padangbai was probably the worst when it came to marine debris. One scenario that really stuck with me was at our safety stop in Padangbai, I looked around and saw a couple comb jellies and thought to myself "wow that's so cool, we are surrounded by these little guys", but then when I took a closer look I saw that half of the "comb jellies" around us were actually plastic bags. It was that moment when I realized how true the saying is that "sea animals can't tell the difference between food and plastic", I couldn't tell the difference at first glance either. The take away message from this is that human pollution has gotten so bad and something needs to be done about it. There is no more "out of sight out of mind" because it is ruining our beautiful planet. It's truly heartbreaking to see. If you see something in the water or on land, and it doesn't compromise your health, pick it up. Don't litter and try to clean up what you can. We're all stuck on this earth together so let's try to take better care of it!


Townsville, Australia

Townsville 2018

A New Chapter in the Book of Life: Graduate School 

Deciding to go to graduate school was one of the biggest decisions of my life, yet at the same time it was my only option. In every way possible I think it was the right path for me to choose. Taking this big step was something I needed to do, not only for my career, but to grow as a person. After realizing that, I applied to James Cook University, got accepted, and then moved across the world with just two suitcases and myself. The initial journey to Australia was so long (about 30 hours nonstop), and honestly I thought I was going crazy from the lack of sleep, but when I finally arrived I knew it was going to be the start of something great.

When every American thinks of Australia, the first things that pop into our heads are beaches, sunshine, and absolute beauty (maybe even the Sydney opera house if your into architecture). However, what people don't tell you is that not every part of Australia is the spitting image of a good surf day. I was surprised when I got to Townsville and saw that it was a more rural-type location with very little to do. It's not an awful place to be (like, there could be worse), it's just not what I expected. There are definitely a few good things about T-ville including Magnetic Island, The Strand, Billabong Sanctuary, AIMS, and of course James Cook University. However, sometimes I can't understand why such fantastic academic universities place their campuses in 1) the ghetto/dangerous areas or 2) in the middle of nowhere. In my opinion, Townsville wouldn't be the first place I'd think to put a school.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Townsville, I will say that I have had so many great opportunities since coming to this school. I have been able to volunteer with The Global FinPrint Project, do an internship with TropEco, go to the Orpheus Island Research Station, and dive the Great Barrier Reef (including the S.S Yongala). Plus, I am being taught by some of the best, world renown, scientists in their field! JCU really does give an excellent education and I don't think I would have gotten a better teaching anywhere else in the world.

Last but not least, being on this side of the world has given me the chance to explore parts Asia and more of Australia. If you go down south you can find some amazing cities (like the Gold Coast) and typical places that you think of when you hear the word "Australia". Not to mention, I am thankful to have been able to see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, cockatoos, kookaburras, and so many other exotic animals that you can't find anywhere else in the world. Overall, even though I am not too thrilled about Townsville itself, I am thrilled at all of the opportunities I have while being here. I have only just started my Masters degree but I am super excited to go out and learn more, see more, and meet more people on this crazy ride called "Graduate School".