Traveling to a cold climate in winter was never something that I considered given that the winters in
New York City can be so long and brutal, but I recently returned from a winter trip to Iceland. The trip exceeded my expectations in every single way and I’m actually seriously thinking of what cold climate I can travel to next winter.
Based on the experience from my trip I came up with my top 5 tips to make your winter trip to Iceland unforgettable.
Iceland Winter Packing List
In about a week I’ll be heading to Iceland and I’m very excited about this trip and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Since it’s still winter in Iceland I need to make sure that I pack appropriately to ensure that I stay sufficiently warm and dry when out exploring the land of fire and ice. I’ve done a lot of research on how to pack for a trip to Iceland in the winter and I think I’ve just about finalized my packing list.
2018 Travel Wishlist
Now that 2018 is underway I decided to put together my 2018 travel wishlist. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to make all of these trips this year but I think it’s good to have a running list of places that I would like to visit.
For a very long time I’ve listened to people tell about how great Austin is however, I wasn't having any of it. At the time my priority was international trips because I could fly to Europe for the same price of some domestic air tickets. This year my priorities changed and the stars aligned so I finally decided to go. I told my travel buddy CY about my plans and and is the case lately she decided to join in on the fun.
Route 66 Road Trip with Mom
This year I decided that I wanted to travel more domestically so I planned a west coast road trip starting in Las Vegas with my mom since she recently retired and had a lot of time on her hands. When I told my friend CY of my road trip plans she invited herself along and I obliged.
Copenhagen totally exceeded all of my expectations and is one of a handful of cities that I would love to visit again sooner rather than later. For a more detailed account of my trip check out my blog post about my visit here and here. And since this is such a short post here are some more pics from that trip. If you want to see more of my photos be sure to follow me on Instagram.
Professional development is important, regardless of what industry one works in, which is why I attended the New York Times Travel Show here in New York City back in January. I learned so much during the one day industry conference that when I learned of the Travel Leaders Network International Conference in Orlando I immediately signed up.
Part two of my year in review series takes us to my unforgettable birthday trip to South Africa.
After my safari to Tanzania last year I was determined to go on another safari to celebrate my 40th birthday this year. In my mind it only made sense since I already had the clothing and equipment necessary for a safari. The first leg of our trip was in Johannesburg and we stayed at the lovely at the African Pride Melrose Arch hotel.
A Look Back on My Visit Cuba
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba. My grandfather is Cuban and he always told us stories about Cuba when growing up. He also told us crazy stories about his time as a Merchant Marine but that’s a story for another blog post.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting Cuba and it was an experience like no other. In many ways it was like stepping back in time to a bygone era. However, that’s not to say that the trip was without its challenges. For one, despite the many non-American tourists that have been visiting Cuba for years, the tourism infrastructure isn’t as built up as it is in other tourist destinations. So one has to rely on “collectivo” taxis to get from one place to another in Havana and they can be pricey and hard to come by. Additionally, traveling from a place where one has 24/7 access to the internet to a place with limited internet access also posed a lot of challenges. Unfortunately, I missed a few events that I planned to attend due to not planning thoroughly enough considering the lack of internet. Overall though the trip was very enriching and I was fortunate to meet some friendly locals whom I shared delicious meals and interesting conversations with.
Lastly, if I’m keeping it real here are a few other highlights/lowlights of my trip:
The country left such a great impression on me that I would love to go back. Unfortunately, given the recent policy changes I'm not sure if I will be able to make that a reality any time soon.
Thoughts on My Visit to Istanbul
I don’t always have the most noble intentions when choosing which country to travel to. For instance, I chose to visit Istanbul because I wanted to get my hands on reasonably priced Turkish towels and to eat as much baklava as I possibly could (I can happily say that I succeeded on both counts). Couple that with the fact that I had several friends that visited Istanbul that raved about their trips, and I didn’t want to miss out on a similar experience so I booked a trip as well.
Reflecting on my trip, my visit to Istanbul left me with mixed emotions. On the one hand I really enjoyed seeing all of the historical sites and mosques and some of my favorite photographs to date are from that trip. However, when I returned home and people asked me about my trip I wasn’t filled with my usual excitement and when people asked me about my trip I really wasn’t sure what to tell them.
With that said, here’s a small taste of my trip to Istanbul and a few stories that I’m ready to share with you dear readers.
The Turkish Ritual Bath aka Waterboarding Lite As I Like to Call It
After a long international flight we eventually arrived at our hotel pretty beat from our travels. However, we only had time to freshen up and take a brief nap because I had booked services at the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami prior to leaving NYC for later that afternoon. So, we rested a bit and grabbed a taxi to the hamam. After arriving, we checked in with the attendants and I thought I had booked massages online but it turns out we were going to experience a traditional Turkish bath ritual instead. I had to mentally switch gears and prepare for my first hamam which wasn’t such a big deal because when in Turkey right? After checking in we were guided to the changing rooms and since I’m a bit prudish I opted to change into my bikini instead of entering the bathing area topless. Once changed we were escorted inside of the official bathing area. Step one, sit on heated marble stone for 10 minutes. Seemed harmless enough except I couldn’t help but feeling like a pet iguana basking on a heat rock. Ten minutes pass, I’m still alive and it’s time for the bathing part. My attendant came over and instructed me to sit on a marble stool with a faucet behind and with almost no warning she started to scrub my skin with a special exfoliating mitten. I’m almost certain at least five layers of my dead skin cells ended up on that mitten. Step three was the sudsing process, now I don’t know what kind of soap they used but it had unearthly sudsing properties. Along with the sudsing was more scrubbing and I shed an additional five layers of dead skin. When that was all done it was time for the rinsing and by this time the woman had warmed up to me slightly or so I thought. As I was sitting there she asked me where I was from and when I replied that I was from the US I had an ice cold bucket of water poured over my face. Now I’m not saying she was anti-American but the timing of it makes me wonder because it almost felt as if I was being waterboarded. There were more and more buckets of cold water until I was finally suds free and at which point I was wrapped in a cozy Turkish towel. The whole process was pretty humorous and intense and I’d totally do it again because I walked out of there with the softest skin ever.
On our second day in Istanbul we had a pretty aggressive schedule which included visiting the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sopia. The visit to the Cistern was interesting yet uneventful and then we headed to the Blue Mosque. As we were approaching I heard someone call out “my chocolate” which I ignored for many reasons. Many reasons! However, the yelling of “my chocolate, my chocolate” didn’t stop and the culprit quickly approached us and offered his services to give us a tour of the mosque for a fee of course, which we politely declined because a) he called me “my chocolate” and b) I wasn’t looking to pay for a guided tour.
After sightseeing for the day we headed back to our hotel and passed a shop along the way. And once again I hear calls of “my chocolate, my chocolate” this time I couldn’t feign ignorance because it was the second time it happened that day. The culprit was one of the shop workers who went on and on about how beautiful my complexion was and how he was looking for a woman exactly like me. Uhm, ok! I entertained the banter as long as I could and had to promise to stop by the shop the following day just to be able to leave.
This situation played out daily for the duration of my trip in Istanbul. It got to a point that I started to avoid the main road back to the hotel so I wouldn’t have to deal with the men and shop owners on that strip. Don’t get me wrong, the men weren’t aggressive but I had no idea that someone with my complexion in Istanbul would garner such attention.
The Grand Bizarre
It was day four or five of our trip and it was time to visit the Grand Bazaar because no trip is complete in my book without visiting the various markets. The one exception being the meat market again, because, reasons. So when it comes to visiting a market I usually have the endurance of a trained athlete, the sense of direction of a GPS system and the haggling skills of a professional. However, I was off my game almost as soon as we entered the Grand Bazaar and soon started to not feel well. So after a brief visit to only a few shops we started to make our way out of the bustling marketplace. On our way out a much older woman wearing all black with a hijab covering her head walked up to me and grabbed my face. She didn’t say anything but I was taken aback by the experience and after she walked away I turned around to look at my mother and noticed her doing the same thing to her. My mother claims that the woman said “pretty, pretty” as she touched her face but I’m still a little skeptical. We finally made our way out of the bazaar and stopped at the much calmer Istanbul Pashmina Mollafenari Mahallesi, Çarşıkapı Caddesi 24/A, 34126 Fatih to recuperate and after a good while walked out of there with one of my favorite scarves to date.
Later that evening as we were strolling around a man came up to me and handed me his phone as if to indicate he wanted me to take his picture which didn’t seem too unusual because people often ask me to take their photo. To my surprise however, he wasn’t interested in me taking his photo but instead a selfie of the two of us together. Say what now? A selfie with a stranger nah fam I’m not about that life.
That pretty much summed up my trip to Istanbul. My reception in the south in Antalya was more muted and for some reason people kept asking if I was French which I didn’t mind in the slightest. Will I go back to Istanbul? I would because I’d know what to expect for one, and maybe stay in a different neighborhood to see what effect that would have on my trip.