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Traveling Through Food Discovering Argentina and its Empanadas

Traveling Through Food Discovering Argentina and its Empanadas


Have you ever considered traveling to Argentina?

Have you ever dreamed about visiting the Iguazu Falls?

Have you ever wanted to learn Tango in Buenos Aires?

But the real question is have you ever thought of traveling through food?

Here is our suggestion: travel your way around Argentina through its empanadas!!!

One of the best ways to travel is through food. It is a way to discover the culture, to connect with the locals and be surprised by the food. Yes, visiting cultural sites, relaxing on the beaches or hiking beautiful mountains is all very enjoyable. But sometime we might be missing a deeper connection, a way to learn new things and to be surprised. Through food, you get to connect deeper with people, you get to discover more, you get to be surprised by new taste, and awaken your tastebuds to new flavors.

We are Rosemary and Claire, a couple, who are on a quest to discover and highlight authentic food from around the world. Our goal is to inspire travelers to have a deeper connection and experience in their travels through food. We invite you to join us on our journey through Argentina on our quest for the best and authentic empanadas.

Empanadas in Buenos Aires

We landed in Buenos Aires last August and it was here where we discovered the famous Empanadas. In case you don’t know what is an empanada we will attempt to describe it Argentina style. An empanada is a small pie with a “croissant” shape. It consists of a dough filled with different fillings which are mostly savory. In Argentina, the best empanadas are usually baked. All empanadas have a special fold or seal which usually indicates the flavor. This technique is called repulgue and comes in handy when looking to distinguishing the various types of empanadas.Photo1_EmapanaswithdifferentRepulgue_AFQ

The most common empanada is the “carne” or meat. This one is generally stuffed with meat,  onions, vegetables, and in some cases eggs or potatoes. There are different types of empanadas and the ones from Buenos Aires are not exactly the same as the ones in the rest of the country. In fact, each province has its own special touch.Photo2_Empanada_Carne_AFQOur favorite place that we discovered for empanadas in Buenos Aires was a restaurant in the Recoleta neighborhood. We were not staying in this area, but made the 20 minute trip by metro over from Montserrat (our neighborhood) to try Cumana Restaurant which was highly recommended by locals. Once we got settled in, we looked over their menu and went for the specialties; lomo picante (spicy, chopped tenderloin), jamon y queso (ham and cheese) and Roquefort cheese empanada. I don’t know if it is due to our love for cheese, but we fell in love! All the empanadas were excellent, but the cheese empanada was at a different heavenly level! So good, melting in the mouth with the strong roquefort cheese flavor warmed by the hot empanada dough. Wow. Simply delicious!Photo3_EmpanadedeRoquefort_AFQ

The nice thing about empanadas is that you can eat them at any time. They are great as an appetizer to start off any meal. They can also be eaten as a full meal by the dozen (usually cheaper) for lunch or dinner or you can buy just a few of them at a panaderia (bakery)  as a snack.

When it comes to finding the best empanadas in Argentina, almost all of the porteños (locals from Buenos Aires) we met advised us to try out the ones in Salta and Tucuman and then make up our minds.

So, we made the trek, not only for the empanadas but to discover the local and authentic dishes around Argentina. So, we set off to Salta and Tucuman for the battle of the empanadas!Map_Argentina_AFQ

Salta vs.Tucuman Empanadas

When we made it to Salta, we discovered that the empanadas Salteñas were much smaller than the ones in Buenos Aires, making it less of an excuse to buy them by the dozen.

That’s what happen to us at La Tacita, arguably the best empanadas joint in Salta. We started by ordering 2 empanadas, then added 4 more and then 2 more. By the time we left we had eaten 8 of them. When we came back the next day, we decided to just go ahead and order a dozen! These are some of the best empanadas we’ve had. They are a bit tiny therefore easy to hold in your hand and small enough to eat them in two bites. They were really tasty and the carne (beef) were our favorite. They are well prepared with green onion, and potatoes which fill them up a little more.Please note that they take a while to serve them because they cook them in their clay oven per order. They are really hot when they come out, so let them cool down and enjoy them with a red salsa sauce that accompanies them. Amazing. Un régal!Photo4_Rosemary_EmpanadasSaltenas_AFQ

Another place that was recommended to us in Salta was El Patio De La Empanada.  El Patio De La Empanada offers over 14 different types of empanadas. We tried different types and particularly enjoyed the empanadas Arabes. These empanadas have a unique triangular shape and the beef is cooked with lemon, onions, red peppers, tomatoes, olives with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious with a Middle East flavor. We highly recommend these empanadas and the outdoor patio as well. If you do make it to Salta, this location should not be missed.Photo5_EmpanadasArabes_AFQ

Empanadas in Tucuman

On our way back to Buenos Aires, we made a stop in Tucuman and the main reason for stopping in Tucuman was to try the famous empanadas. We had heard people say that the best empanadas come from Tucuman. Indeed, it is in this province where they have events dedicated to the Empanadas. They have a touristic Ruta De La Empanada (an empanada circuit) with participation from over 50 restaurants in the surrounding area. Tucuman also hosts the National Festival of Empanadas in September.  Given this hype, we were excited at trying these empanadas.

One of the most authentic flavor or empanada filling in Tucuman is the mondongo. So on our quest to discover the authentic Tucuman empanadas we found ourselves at El Portal, a local restaurant on the Ruta with a great patio and known for its empanadas. We looked at the menu and decided to order every single empanada on the menu including empanada de mondongo. We didn’t even bother asking what was mondongo. Although we had the vague idea having seen this word at the carniceria (butcher) in Buenos Aires. Well…we tasted it and let me tell you, it was far from being our favorite. And guess what, mondongo means tripe. This empanada was not for us!! But, we ate the famous empanada and drank quite a bit of Salta beer to cover up the taste :)Photo6_EmpanadasdeMondongo_AFQThe empanadas in Tucuman and Salta are indeed different. In Salta the empanadas usually have potatoes and hard boiled eggs, green onion and red pepper. They are also are accompanied with a spicy picante sauce. In Tucuman, the empanadas do not have potatoes and the meat is chopped and cooked with green onions, cumin, red and white pepper, paprika and garlic.Photo7_Empanadas_Tucuman_AFQAfter having experienced empanadas in both Salta and Tucuman, we prefer the Salteñas. We like their small and dense size. The potatoes in the empanadas are delicious and the spicy sauce adds a nice bite.

How To Eat Empanadas Like An Argentinian

In our quest to understand authentic food from Argentina, we met with Francis Mallmann, Argentina’s top chef. In our discussion we discovered that there is in fact a technique to eating empanadas. So, if you would like to eat empanadas like an Argentinian, apply these 3 tips shared by Francis Mallmann.

  1. First, you do not want to use for and knife. It is a “sacrilegious”. An empanada is to be eaten with your hands to appreciate it to its fullest.
  1. Second, when you bite your empanada, you don’t want to let anything fall on your plate. You want to show that you really enjoy the empanada which means nothing is to be omitted. However, that presents a dilemma. The empanadas that come from the horno (clay oven) are hot and you are almost sure to burn yourself. It takes skill, delicacy and patience to apply this particular tip.
  1. Third, you want to get your empanada cooked in the horno de barro (clay oven). These are said to be the best. To make sure that the empanadas were cooked in an horno de barro, you will notice that the dough of the empanada “bubbles” up at the surface. This is a signature of a “real” empanada.Photo8_EmpanadasAlHorno_AFQPhoto9_Claireeating_Empanadasalhorno_AFQ

What we learned

are a national symbol and the preparation in each province is taken very seriously. Even though empanadas are widely available, it’s important to appreciate their roots and cooking techniques as much as the flavors. We enjoyed getting to know Argentina through its empanadas and appreciate the national heritage and pride of these delectable treats even more. By traveling through food, our experience was even more meaningful. The wonderful sensorial experiences left deeply embedded memories in us. On your next trip, consider planning your travels through food. Awaken your tastebuds to new flavors and senses. You will be surprised at how much fun you will have!

Savor the Adventure!


Locations mentioned

Cumana, Rodríguez Peña 1149, Recoleta, Buenos Aires.

La Tacita, Caseros 396, Salta.

El Patio de La Empanada, Av San Martin esq. Esteco, Salta.

El Portal, av. 24 de Septiembre 351, San Miguel de Tucumán.


Claire and Rosemary are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest They aim to inspire travelers through the discovery and knowledge of authentic foods. Sign up here to follow their adventure!



Destination Au Pair

In March of 2015 while having dinner with my aunt in New York City at Grand Central Station, she was asking all kinds of the typical “family questions”. “How is school?” or “How’s your job?” and I tried to dodge all conversation of the like by just giving back, “Fine.” But when she pressed on about school, I added in an honest, “I hate it.” I have heard every possible response to this, but hers was one that was so obvious, but nobody had ever said it to me before. Without hesitation, she said, “Then why are you going?”

I picked at my food with my fork, pursed my lips, sighed, and said, “I guess what else am I supposed to do?” Without pushing any ideas on me too hard, she just gave a simple, “I guess that’s up to you.” The last question she asked me was, what is your favorite course right now that you do well in? Without hesitation I replied, “French.”

For the rest of the trip there wasn’t much talk about my schooling. (Thank goodness) but she did mention to me that she knew someone whose daughter went abroad to be a nanny. I thought, “Maybe I could do that.” But sort of shrugged it off.

When I got home, I went back to school and kept thinking, “Honestly, why am I doing this? I don’t even know what I want to do anymore.” So I started to look into the idea of going abroad. I didn’t really tell anyone, as I didn’t want to hear any cons of the idea, or any advice about it at all. I found a lot of agencies, but the big issue was 1. They wanted you to pay a ridiculous amount of money to search for a family, set up interviews, and do background checks. And 2. Some agencies wanted their aspiring au pairs to have a lot of childcare experience. Which was understandable, but unfortunately I didn’t have much babysitting experience. I really just knew that I was good with kids and that in general they liked me.

I found a website called AuPair World. It’s kind of like a facebook, but for people who want to be au pairs. You set up a profile, you search for families, you apply, and if interested you exchange messages to see if you are a match. It’s very user friendly and incredibly easy. There are really no gimmicks and it’s free. I applied to sixty-two different families. I narrowed it down to two, and eventually decided on a family that lived in Brunstatt, France with 2 boys. I found this family to be a safe bet because I was their 4th au pair.

Which leads me to my first point if you want to be an au pair; do not choose a family because they have had a lot of au pairs. I find it very common that families with several au pairs become too used to it and start to take their au pairs for granted and take advantage of them. Maybe this was just the case for me, but to avoid that issue, talk to their previous au pairs and ask them to be honest with you.

To be an au pair, or to stay in another country for more than three months you will need a visa. All the documents that you need to have prepared are listed on your nearest consulate’s website. It all depends on what kind of visa you need. But for an au pair visa it wasn’t too complicated. Since I’m from Wisconsin and was going to France, the nearest French Consulate is located in Chicago. Book your appointment in advance; don’t put it off until last minute!
You will have to have documents like your school transcripts, high school diploma, medical certificate, and birth certificate translated into the language your desired country uses. I found a website ( that was only $15 per page and it was usually done within a day or two. I didn’t have a scanner so I took pictures of the documents with my phone and uploaded the pictures to the website.

Article I arrived in France at the end of August and really enjoyed my host family in the beginning. I took the boys to school in the morning, brought them home in the afternoon for lunch, prepared lunch, took them back to school, and then took them to their after school activities. I was told from the start I would have occasional ironing to do. When the boys got home from their activities, I would get them to take their showers, and then prepare dinner.

These boys were so much fun and the older had already spoken English quite a bit. We made up dances together, made funny videos on my gopro, would go to the park, and played little video games together. I came to really love them and adore each of their unique personalities.

It is required that au pairs take a language class while here to have a source of education and a way to make friends. I had French class on Mondays and Wednesdays and made two friends. As time went on, I became really stressed out with my family. I thought I was just adjusting so it was difficult, but neither of my friends had the same struggles as me.

For starters, I made lunch for not just the boys. I made lunch for everyone. I made dinner for everyone too. And when the grandparents would casually stop by, I was making dinner for them, too. Oh, and guess who had to do the dishes? Me. During my “free time” when the boys were at school, I would iron for up to 3 hours and then have to put away the laundry. This included the parent’s laundry. At first I thought maybe this was normal for an au pair. One time when my host mom caught me stressed out she said, “This wasn’t a problem for the other’s so it really shouldn’t be for you.”

Don’t compare, and don’t be compared to! It’s okay if your host family says things like, “Our last au pair liked to do things this way, but you can try it your way if you’d like.” But you shouldn’t be hearing things like, “How come it was easy for this au pair but you struggle to do it?” Remember, each au pair comes from a different background with different experiences than you!! However, the same goes for comparing families. If your au pair friends seem to have it better than you a bit, just remember that there are probably things your family gives you that their families don’t! On the contrary, if you notice that your friends aren’t ironing for hours on end or preparing meals for the entire family, maybe that’s a time when comparison is okay. One night 8 people total were at the house. The dad was cooking, and the boys were playing. Everyone else was in the kitchen drinking wine and socializing, while I was instructed to stay in the kitchen and also make food. I found it weird since an au pair is meant for the children. After everyone ate dinner, they left the table and left me to clean it all up.

This is not the job of an au pair. While I strongly agree it is very important for an au pair to become a member of the family and help out, an au pair is not the help. I hope that this post reaches at least one aspiring au pair and that it sheds some light on what the job really entails. Unfortunately, the problem with the au pair situation is that while it is supposed to be the best year of your life and for you to travel and explore, not to forget you probably spent thousands to get here. Some families just see you as another person to help. You are replaceable. They won’t care. I have heard so many stories about mistreated au pairs, and I really would like to be the first to say that standing up to my first host family before I left and saying, “This is wrong. I’m not a maid, or a caterer.” Was beyond empowering. If you are ever an au pair in this situation, you deserve a better family.

Being an au pair does mean you need to work, it is a real job. It is a bit bizarre at first to be living with someone who is essentially your boss. But, your host family should also understand you worked very hard to have this job, this is generally a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should be able to travel at least a little bit. Make sure that you establish when you would like to have free time. It is very exhausting at first with the language and culture shock. And caring for kids you just met is stressful!! Be sure your family gives you time to do things you enjoy and time to relax. Remember that you not only want to experience the family lifestyle, but you probably want to do your own exploring as well.

My favorite place that I traveled to in Alsace was Riquewihr. Which is a very small village. It’s very touristy but so colorful and beautiful. It’s also where wine is made, so vineyards surround the entire village.

Au Pair

When I left my first host family I went and lived with my boyfriend in Troyes, which is another one of my favorite cities here. I found a favorite restaurant there called Le Chat Noir and learned my way around downtown. It was pretty exciting that I now knew my way around more than one city in France!! I feel very at home in Troyes as I stayed there after my first and second host families didn’t work out.

When with the correct family, being an au pair is so rewarding. You are constantly learning new things, and vocabulary from children and adapting to a new culture. It is amazing just how much my French has improved because of talking with kids!

Ashley B 2

My second host family lived in Chaumont, with just one 2-year-old girl. They lived in a castle and owned a horse breeding company. It was a very different life compared to my first but I was really happy because I had free time and a lot of time to myself to be independent. My daily routine was to wake up the little girl, get her dressed, give her breakfast, take her to her daycare, and then pick her up later that evening. When she got home it was time for a bath, then dinnertime, and shortly after I would put her to bed. Your daily routine with your family will vary depending on what age and how many kids there are.

I was there for three weeks and had a lot of fun, but the little girl had a really hard time understanding why it was me doing things for her instead of her mom. Especially when her mom worked from home and was around a lot. After 3 weeks, one morning the mom told me that when my boyfriend came to pick me up for our trip to Paris, I should pack up the rest of my things and leave. She said that her daughter was too young for an au pair, but they “just wanted to try it.” I’m lucky I had a place to go because otherwise that would have been a really big issue. As understanding as I am of this family’s reasoning it is also incredibly unfair to make someone be just a “Trial run”. Be sure your family is serious about having an au pair!
Ashley B

Please remember, there is no such thing really as the perfect family, or the perfect child to be an au pair for. Each age has its pros and cons, and the same goes for the family. You may have small disagreements with your host parents and that is normal. Just be sure that everything is solved gently and without hostility. They should never personally attack you, and vice versa! Your host family should treat you like a member of the family and care about you and your views on things.

Ask questions. When you interview with a family to be an au pair, ask the children questions about how they are without the parents, how they interact with new people, how they listen to others, or how they would like you to explain to them why it is you that helps them with their tasks today instead of mom or dad. Understand that as an au pair, you are not a parent. Maybe you feel like a parent…but you are not. Do not let a family sit back and do as they please while you raise their children for them. If they’ve had an au pair before, ask for their contact information. Sometimes the parents think that things with their kids are perfectly fine and they behave well, while the au pair may feel otherwise!

Communicate. I cannot stress this one enough. With my first host family, I carried along without saying a word or complaining. I thought I should just “deal with it”, but the more that I did for them without complaining, the more tasks they piled on for me to do. It’s okay if your family wants you to vacum for them once a week, or put the dishes away occasionally, but know when to say, “That’s too much.” Be sure when you interview to understand exactly what you need to do.

No vague contracts!! My first host family wrote up the contract and sent it to me to sign. It said, “prepare lunch and dinner during the week.” But it didn’t say for whom. For the kids? For them? For the entire country of France? This became a big issue when I wanted to argue that I was cooking for all of them but couldn’t use my contract to make a point. My contract was essentially useless as it was so vague they could have honestly made me do anything and there never would’ve been any way for the contract to help me because it was so vague.

le chat noir

Track your hours. You should never be working more than 25 hours a week as an au pair. The average amount of hours you should be working per day is 4-5! There were some days with my first host family that I was watching one boy while the other had swim lessons for 2 hours, ironing for 3, and then it took me 30 mins to cook and 45 mins to clean up the table and do the dishes, and on top of that, other small tasks like showers.

I would never want to scare anyone into not being an au pair. But I would really like to emphasize that it is so important that you find a family that is a good fit for you. I am now living with my third host family! And I am finding out from a lot of people that I am not the first au pair that they’ve heard of that has had to switch families this many times. It’s okay! It’s not your fault!!

For me, being an au pair has had its ups and downs. However, I have had a unique experience. In the long run if someone is looking for an opportunity to travel while caring for others and really indulging themselves in the real culture of another family, I think being an au pair is a good idea. It’s so rewarding to have a younger child look up to you like an older sibling and to have a special bond with them. My experiences here have inspired me to inform others about the benefits of traveling and becoming an au pair. I hope that everything I’ve covered gives everyone a really good idea of what being an au pair is all about!!

DSC_0176 Ashley Bravick is a Wisconsin native living in France as an Au Pair. To read more about her adventures head to her blog where you can read more about the city of Troyes and her many adventures in France! Ashley in France

Adventuring in Hawaii

To continue with my vacation of dreams, I have to chat a bit about shopping. I don’t consider myself much of a shopper, but sometimes I just can’t resist a good souvenir or a new dress (or 12). So, if you also experience this travel shopping lust, you MUST visit the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet for some cheap and fun souvenirs (they have weird hours though, so be sure to check their website for the hours before you go) and go to downtown Waikiki for cute boutiques and big name shopping. Beware, though, Waikiki is full of tourists and is quite crowded at pretty much all hours of the day.

You can’t go to Oahu without attending a luau. We attended a nighttime luau at the Hale Koa Hotel, which included complimentary drinks and shell necklaces, a lei making lesson, a delicious Hawaiian feast, and a luau and fire dancing performance. It was super cool and definitely something every first time Hawaii visitor should do!


1Maunawili Falls is another one of those special Oahu hikes that you just can’t miss. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, as it’s EXTREMELY muddy (like, to the point of walking in 6 inch deep mud and watching said mud swallow people’s shoes), so you definitely need to be prepared. But, the beautiful rain forest trail, the incredible views along the way, and the waterfall at the end is totally worth it. The best part, though, is that the waterfall flows into a large swimming hole, so you can swim, sit under the waterfall, and even jump from the top of the falls.


23Another thing you just shouldn’t miss while in Hawaii is SURFING!! Sam and I had a BLAST during our private surf lessons at Kualoa Point and this may have been one of my favorite parts of the trip. And, I must say, we were pretty darn good surfers. I swear, I don’t know why I live in Ohio…

As you can tell by now, this trip was full of “firsts” for me. Another one of those firsts was attending Floatilla, Hawaii’s infamous party in the ocean. In a nutshell, Floatilla is an organized off-shore party made up of boaters and crazy people who chose to swim from shore (like we did…big mistake). All of the boats drop anchor and people float around the area on the most creative raft you can find while enjoying music, booze, and sunshine. This was a pretty rad (and unique) way to celebrate Independence Day.

Word of advice: borrow, rent, pirate, or hijack a boat. DO NOT SWIM from shore. It’s exhausting and much, much, MUCH further than it looks!

Totally worth it, though 😉


4The following day was an adventure day, for sure. We started out with an early morning snorkel trip to Hanauma Bay. Hanauma is one of the best places for snorkeling on the island, but you have to be strategic about your timing because it gets super crowded. I’d suggest going as soon as they open so that you have the most fish and the least amount of people.


56After snorkeling, we did an easy little hike/walk along the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, which boasted some gorgeous ocean views.


78Finally, we rented kayaks and kayaked to The Moks, a couple of small islands off the east coast of Oahu. (Take a look at Part 1 of my Hawaii blog – the black and white photo under the Pillbox Hike section of the post is The Moks). Although kayaking to the island was hard (again, it is so much further than it looks!), it was totally worth it. These islands were GORGEOUS with bright white sand and crystal blue water. There’s also quite a bit of exploring to do on the island, as there are several little coves, lava flows, and trails to check out.


9The next day, which was my second to last day (insert sad face here), was spent driving along the east side of the island and exploring the little hidden gems along the way. I stopped at every scenic point I could find along the ocean and climbed around cliffs, caves, and mountains. I found a secret beach and enjoyed watching the water spray from the Halona Blowhole. I watched surfers kill the huge waves coming in at Sandy Beach. I found more scenic points in the mountains and drove through Jurassic Park on the Nuuanu Pali Dr. It was beautiful and relaxing and perfect in every way.


1011I spent my last full day on Oahu doing what every Oahu tourist does – visiting Pearl Harbor, the site of the Japanese attacks during WWII, which resulted in the U.S. entering the war. As a history teacher, this is one of those things that I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. So, I got up early to make sure the memorial didn’t sell out its allotted daily tickets and spent the morning watching films, touring gardens, and visiting memorials. It was surreal being there and witnessing the destruction that remains. You can still see oil in the water surrounding the sunken battleships. It’s quite eerie.


This is one of those trips that will be with me forever. The memories of skydiving, adventuring, hiking, and just hanging out with my best friend in her new home are some of the best of my life. There’s so much value in traveling, but there’s even more value when you can be a traveler instead of a tourist, allowing you to truly experience the culture for an extended period of time and through the eyes of a local.

Head Shot

Erica Coffman is a photographer, podcaster, and travel babe based in Columbus, Ohio. She likes being a #girlboss, traveling, photographing, and petting furry animals. You can see more of her photography at and on Facebook and IG @ericakayphotography. For more info about traveling with Erica, check out her business, The Manini Experience, which specializes in taking people on kick-ass adventures, helping others, and photo-documenting it all.

Hawaii the Place of Dreams

Hawaii the Place of Dreams

Hawaii is the place dreams are made of. From crystal blue waters to boldly colored sunsets and everything in between, everywhere you look is pure beauty. And, if that isn’t enough to trigger your wanderlust, how about those rugged green mountains, incredible hiking trails, and bronzed bodies sprinkled around the crisp white beaches? Spending 3 weeks on Oahu allowed me ample time to explore pretty much every corner of the island and witness all of these beautiful things and more!

It’s pretty much an unspoken rule that all Oahu visitors visit and climb Diamondhead. Diamond head is an extinct volcano that now attracts visitors from all over the world who wish to see beautiful 360 degree views of Waikiki, Koko Head, Hanauma Bay, and the Pali Mountains. For the moderately fit, the hike isn’t strenuous (I mean, I passed a man who was approximately 87 years old who told me he was determined to make it to the top, even if it took all day), but you should definitely wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of water. Try going early or late in the day, as this is definitely one of the most popular tourist spots and it can get super crowded. Regardless of when you go or how winded you get during the hike, it’ll be totally worth it when you reach the top and are greeted by a gorgeous view of Honolulu and Waikiki and a nice little shaded area to sit and soak it all in. This was definitely the perfect introduction to Hawaii.


I’ve forever had skydiving on my bucket list, but I never found the perfect time or place to check it off the list. I’m glad I waited because I can’t imagine any other place in the world is as perfect for a first time skydiving experience than the northern shore of Oahu. After being delayed because of high winds, and using that delayed time to explore the North Shore a bit, we finally got “the call.” After watching the mandatory training video, suiting up, recording a mini interview with our camera guy, and climbing into the plane, we began our ascent in the open air plane. The view was INCREDIBLE. Gorgeous cerulean waters, rugged green mountains, and pineapple farms as far as the eye can see. When we reached 14,000 feet, it was time to jump.

I stepped out of the side of the plane and my life forever changed. The feeling that came with free-falling for thousands of feet toward the most beautiful terrain imaginable is totally indescribable. You’re free, and alive, and vulnerable, and terrified, and enamored. You’re totally out of your comfort zone in the most wonderful way. I wish everyone experiences this same sense of exhilaration and enlightenment at some point in their lives.

2While in the North Shore, we also hit up Papailoa Beach, a secret little beach that is home to a few sea turtles. We swam among them, fed them, and even had a little photoshoot with them. We topped off our visit to the North Shore by eating one of the most delicious things ever – a Kahlua Pork grilled cheese from The Haleiwa Beachside food truck. All the yum.

3The next day was SO FUN. We started the day with an amazing hike on the east side of the island called the Lanikai Pillbox hike. This hike is quite steep, but so beautiful and super cool if you’re a history nerd like me. Along the hike, you pass old pillboxes that were used as defensive lookouts by the military during the World Wars. Today, they’re graffiti covered concrete boxes that are perfect for a bit of a rest overlooking the ocean. Also, fun fact: it was during this hike when Sam and I came up with the name Manini for our business. While chatting about the business during the hike, we stumbled across a beer bottle cap on the ground. We picked it up and realized that there was a Hawaiian word and English translation on the cap. It just so happened that the word was Manini, which translates to “little bit.” It was a sign that we should adopt Manini as our name, given the fact that both of us are definitely little bits.

45After burning some serious energy, we had to refuel by eating some of the most delicious breakfast known to man. Cinnamon’s is home to the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever tasted, as well as some seriously mouth watering breakfast options like a variety of eggs benedict options (Sam and I shared a Kahlua Pork eggs benedict and a salmon cream cheese eggs benedict), creative pancakes (such as the red velvet pancakes with coconut syrup), and so much more.

We ended the day by channeling our inner pirate and taking an evening booze cruise on a pirate ship. We drank, danced, watched fireworks over Waikiki, and of course, acted like pirates.

The one thing I was dying to do while in Hawaii was camp on the beach. So, Sam made my dream come true with an overnight trip to the west side of the island. While the guys set up camp, Sam and I decided to deliver our beautiful lei to the ocean in remembrance of lost loved ones. I dedicated mine to my grandpa, who was the person who instilled in me a love for travel and adventure. I hope my adventurous soul makes him proud.

6The rest of the night was spent eating good food, drinking good beer, having good conversation, and enjoying a beautiful sunset around the campfire. Falling asleep to the sound of the ocean just feet from my tent was pretty awesome as well 😉

7Waking up to the sounds of the ocean was pretty great, as well. I woke up early, grabbed a chair, and sat at the edge of the water as the sun rose. It was peaceful, and quiet, and beautiful….everything I needed at that moment. After grilling some breakfast over the fire, we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed out for some snorkeling along the beach. We eventually headed back into Waikiki, where Sam and I rented a paddle board in the most unintelligent way possible. Trust me when I say, it’s better to pay a little more and rent your board on the beach, rather than save some money and rent it in the city, then have to carry the 5,000 pound thing for 427 blocks to get it to the beach. I might be exaggerating about the weight and distance, but I’m not exaggerating about the level of suckiness associated with it.

Also, I learned that paddle boarding just isn’t for me. I’ll just stick with surfing…more on that later 😉

The following day, Sam and I woke up soooooo early for a sunrise hike at Manoa Falls, the location where parts of Jurassic Park and Lost were filmed. It’s a gorgeous, easy hike that ends at the falls. Totally worth a few hours of your time if you have some to spare.

8Another great hike, which happens to be pretty unknown, is the Old Pali Highway Trail. As the name says, this trail used to be the old Pali Highway that ran through the mountains before the current highway was built. It’s a tiny little road that is completely overgrown and cracked to pieces and feels completely post-apocalyptic. The eeriness combined with the gorgeous views made this one of my favorite hikes of the trip (even if we didn’t find the waterfall that is supposedly located at the end of the trail!).

9After the sunrise Old Pali Hwy hike, I headed back north for a solo adventure day along the North Shore. If you make your way to the North Shore, make sure you do the following:

-eat shave ice at the world famous Matsumoto’s (the pineapple, banana, coconut mix is the bomb)

-jump off the rock at Waimea Bay

-do some shopping in Haleiwa

-eat at Giovanni’s food truck (you definitely won’t regret this one!)

10Check back next week to read about the last half of my Oahu trip!

Head Shot

Erica Coffman is a photographer, podcaster, and travel babe based in Columbus, Ohio. She likes being a #girlboss, traveling, photographing, and petting furry animals. You can see more of her photography at and on Facebook and IG @ericakayphotography. For more info about traveling with Erica, check out her business, The Manini Experience, which specializes in taking people on kick-ass adventures, helping others, and photo-documenting it all.

Breathing Together

I should have learned the phrase, “I’d like to keep my towel on, please,” in Polish before my trip to Europe.

I was 20 years old, not only traveling abroad for the first time, but for the most part traveling alone. Bright-eyed and yearning to see the world, I left my comfortable home in Utah and met up with a group of strangers in Gdansk, Poland to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

After a week of laying concrete for the new apartments being built, we had a day off. I ventured on my own to visit Sopot, a nearby beach town. I decided to visit a local spa to make a “treat yourself” day out of it, since I had never done such a thing and the price was right in a country where the currency was 31 zloty to the dollar.


I found a quaint day spa, which was hooked onto a YMCA-type family gym and water park. With a closed-mouthed smile, the English-speaking receptionist gave me a white terry cloth towel with matching slippers. She explained that the massage would be first, just down the hall and to the right. Afterwards, I could make my way to the essential oil infused saunas.

“Gin-koo-yay,” I stumble, trying to say thank you, or “dziekuje,” in Polish.

With the towel wrapped tightly around my body, I clung to the top of it with my armpits, slippers timidly shuffling along the tiled hallway. Peaking through the doorway of the instructed location, a sturdy, middle-aged man greeted me with a hard H, “Hhhhhhello.” He firmly shook my right hand as I held up my towel with my left.

The room was as white as his short-sleeved frock and thinning hair. White massage table, white walls, white counter tops, white, white, white.

“Get on table,” he instructed before I could answer back with a broken “Dzien dobry,” greeting. With no sheets to slip under, I slyly unwrapped my towel, climbed on the table, and placed the towel on top of me without showing the slightest of private part.

The Polish man dimmed the lights and began massaging my neck and head. His soothing masculine energy invited me to relax. I was just starting to breathe deeply until I felt a slight tug on my towel. Assuming it was naturally slipping, my reflexes placed a hand on my chest and on my lower stomach to keep my privates private. While my hands were in a secure position, I felt another harder tug.

I opened my eyes to see the polish man’s disgruntled upside down face. “Towel off,” he commanded.

“Towel on,” I quivered as I pressed my hands down tighter to my body.

“Towel off,” he tried once again.

“Towel on!” I declared with a bit more confidence.

Years later, after traveling to over 12 countries, becoming a massage therapist myself, and experiencing all sorts of different healing cultures, this type of thing wouldn’t have thrown me. But here, I was a young female, not yet comfortable with the world or myself, for that matter, trying to hold on to my dignity in the form of a terry cloth towel.

“Meh,” he grunted in defeat, and the massage continued on with a new awkwardness in the air.

After the massage, still clutching my towel, I thanked the Polish man with a nervous smile and another firm handshake. He smiled back with a slightly confused, slightly amused look on his face as I turned and shuffled down the hall, seeking sanctuary in the saunas.

europe-2005-0911The hallway opened up into a large, open area. Small, blue-green squares tiled the walls and floors. A thin layer of steam hazed through the air. Scattered throughout were hot tubs and saunas, implanted like they sprouted up from the floor. I saw a few people in the distance shuffling from sauna to sauna and a few were sitting happily in a hot tub, chuckling and rambling hard consonants I couldn’t understand.

I took a deep breath, my shoulders lowered, and my hands unclenched as I debated about what magical sauna door to go in first.  I shuffled over to door #1 and got a closer look at the area. My hands started tensing again as I noticed I was the only woman in the room, and I was the only one still wearing my towel.

My shuffle turned into a trot as I went to the nearest sauna door. An older gentleman slowly nodded his head at me as I passed him and his floating potbelly in one of the hot tubs.

Door #1 couldn’t have come soon enough. As I opened said door, a waft of steam poured over my face and instantly relaxed me with the scent of lavender. Finally, some relief from this Polish sausage fest. As the steam cleared and escaped through the open door, I realized that I thought too soon. I was all of a sudden front and center with a real life Polish :: ahem:: sausage.

Frozen in time and space, all I could do was stare. The tan, well-sculpted man, probably in his 30’s, was sitting on the bench. His right foot was on the ground, his left was up on the bench, legs relaxed open, letting everything hang out. His arm was resting on his left knee. He was poised in a very Rico Suave pose, but there was no wooing here.

“Hhhey,” he grunted as his chin and left hand nodded in unison.

“Um, sorry.” I squeaked and slowly backed out, step by step, of door #1.

Determined to get some form of relaxation in my “treat yourself” day, I tried one more door. I skipped door #2 just for good measure and went to door #3. I slowly opened the door, let the steam clear, and even called, “hello?” No response, no men. Finally.

I found a nice little corner, kept my towel on for safety of course, but I let myself breathe, inhaling and exhaling the refreshing powers of the eucalyptus oil. Each breath released the tension and trauma created from not only the spa experience, but the whole two weeks of being in a foreign land with words and ways that felt so different from my own.

And then the door creaked open. “No. Not now,” I winced to myself, but there was nothing I could do. I was in the back corner, furthest from the door. A now generic, stout, older Polish man walked in, but luckily he had a white towel wrapped around his bottom half. We half-smiled at each other as he waddled over to the bench kaddie corner from me. I could barely see him when the steam had formed again, but I did see the white towel whip off from under him and heard his skin flop onto the bench.

My first thought was to bolt out of there as fast as I could, but for some reason I stayed. I stayed and sat with the Polish man, and we inhaled and exhaled together.

biopicRandi Kay spends most of her time helping people heal with yoga, bodywork, and self care coaching. Her other areas of nerd out include traveling, the outdoors, writing and playing music, and freelance writing. Keep up with her adventures at and on IG @naturallyrandikay.


Happy New Year NOLA Style

Happy New Year NOLA Style.

I cannot believe it is 2016 already! This is the year so many things are happening in my life including graduating with my bachelors degree (I cannot wait!). We decided to kick off the year by visiting New Orleans, which was a first for my husband and I! We stayed at the Hyatt in the French Quarter which was nicely decorated for the holidays. One thing I noticed while there is the Christmas decor was seriously over the top, which for me is perfect! My hubby said he had heard from someone that since it snows very little in a lot of southern states they go all out on the decor to get everyone in the holiday spirit. I am a fan.

As many of you know I always try to be completely honest about all of my travels whether good or bad. That being said I have to be honest. I think New Orleans and I got off on the wrong foot. I know this place is known for the debauchery that we all hear about when it is Mardi Gras time however I was not expecting it to be crazy during New Year’s Eve. I know people would still be partying and Bourbon Street would still be Bourbon Street but for some reason I was no prepared for the chaos of the French Quarter.
Check-InHotel-DecorationsHotel-Room-BathroomHotel-Room-BedHotel-Room-CouchWe kicked off our evening with reservations at Cochon, which is a Donald Link restaurant. He is a James Beard award winning chef in Louisiana. We have obviously never eaten here before so my opinion is solely based on the New Year’s Eve menu. Out of all of the courses we ate I only enjoyed 3 of them. The soup, the steak, and the dessert (for me only because it had nuts and my hubby is allergic). The rest of the items pictured below were mediocre at best. They lacked any flare and since this restaurant is supposed to be known for their southern cuisine I can say I was let down for the most part. I have never really had “southern cuisine” and I was very much hoping to have my fill of it while I was here. I also did not get to eat any creole or cajun food while we were visiting either. Other than to food I was not impressed with the service one bit.

We decided to sit at the counter next to the kitchen instead of at a table (which may have been our downfall) because we were early for our reservation and wanted to eat. It took forever for our waitress to come to us and see if we needed any drinks. Once she did it took forever to get them. They came out about the same time as our first course which we probably waited a good 20 minutes for after she came to take our order. The cocktail I ordered tasted nothing like description and it actually reminded me of a moscow mule. This was fine but I felt like it was not what was promised to me. The other thing I noticed that is different in other places I have been is that there is the person who takes your order and then there is another person who changes out all of your utensils and delivers all of your food and drinks to you. I have never had this happen where our waitress has not delivered anything to us so it felt weird tipping her at the end of the evening (we did but it felt weird).

When the food was on point it was delicious. The green soup was flavored well and seasoned appropriately. All of the flavors worked together and it was very satisfying. The steak was my favorite main and I would have ordered another if I could have. The end of the meal was delicious too which was the cake with a lemon cream sauce and pink grapefruit. Normally I am a chocolate dessert type of person or I like something very rich and intense but the flavors of this dessert were amazing. I even enjoyed the grapefruit, which I normally do not like. I will say the presentation of it was not very appealing but overall I was happy.      Cochon-RestaurantCochon-InsideCochon-MenuCochon-KitchenCochon-Server-StationCochon-Meal

After we left dinner we headed back into the Quarter. Alex suggested we go to the Napoleon House, which is one of the oldest bars in New Orleans and one of the cheapest. It was an interesting atmosphere. The inside was so old looking but in the most charming way. The walls had years of wear on them with peeling paint and wallpaper. They were playing classical music inside, which seemed to fit in with the New Year’s celebrations. We arrived shortly before midnight so a lot of tables were clearing out to get out onto the streets to toast the New Year. I grabbed a table while Alex ordered our drinks. We toasted to 2016 with the cheapest champagne (it tasted awful but it was kind of fun too). Fireworks started booming outside and we could hear people singing and yelling in the streets as we headed outside. By then Alex and I were finished for the evening so we headed back to our hotel. Napoleon-House-NYENapoleon-House-Inside-NYEWall-of-Signatures-Napoleon-House-NYECheers-Napoleon-House-NYEAlex-and-I-Napoleon-House-NYENapoleon-House-Outside-NYEFireworks-French-Quarter-NYEGetting home from the evening was when New Orleans and I started to have problems. I think what bothered me the most is the touristy part of the city. That is not my thing. I want to support the local economies when I visit somewhere but I do not want to do what every out of towner does. I enjoy discovering the local haunts and their customs. Bourbon Street was a nightmare. Our hotel was located on a part of Bourbon even though the main entrance is one street down from it. We decided to walk home from the bar and we had to go down Bourbon to get to the side entrance to the hotel. Walking home was gross to say the least. The first thing that really bothered me was the mysterious liquids in every crevice on the ground. I was not sure what the liquids were but I did not want to find out. The second thing was the amount of people that were so drunk they were literally stumbling around. I had one guy almost fall into me as I was trying to move out of his way. He kept going the same direction as I did and finally I got around him. As I passed everyone on the street it felt like dodging someone who was about to get sick every two seconds. I also saw a good amount of people actually getting sick, which was disgusting. We finally made it back safely without an incident and I was so relieved. We promptly went to bed as we were exhausted.

The next day we were able to sleep in a little and then we got up and headed out to breakfast. We visited the Bywater neighborhood and went to Elizabeth’s Restaurant for breakfast. They serve traditional breakfast fare in addition to some southern favorites. I liked the eclectic vibe of the place however the prices were very high. I think for what we ordered (which was not blow your d@$% off good) it is not worth a trip back but it was nice to say we went. Elizabeths-Restaurant-SignElizabeths-Restaurant-OutsideElizabeths-Restaurant-Outside-WaitingCharters-SignElizabeths-Restaurant-DownstairsElizabeths-Restaurant-Breakfast

After breakfast Alex wanted to watch the Buckeyes in the Bowl game (O-H-I-O) so we headed out to find a bar to sit and watch the game. He found the Chart Room, which is a nice little dive bar in the Quarter. We got a glimpse of what the bar is normally like early on in the day. It was quiet and chill. There were plenty of locals sitting around chatting with the bartenders (who were badass btw!). I knew this was a good spot when the guy from Sergio’s Burritos walked in carrying a case of hot burritos that were made fresh that morning. I wasn’t hungry but my hubby was so he snagged one. I would recommend following him on Facebook if you will be in New Orleans soon. He said they were delicious and we were given a card for next time we were in town. There was a Mr. Smith doing card tricks (again that combo of a bar and magic is just perfect. See my San Francisco Post to meet Larry). He was dressed in a top hat and a long coat and had a card he would pull out and spin around in the air. It appeared to be floating but only the magician knows the truth. I watched him throughout the hours we spent there doing tricks for the people that flooded in to watch the football games. I hope he made some good cash entertaining all of those drunks. The bar was slammed by noon and I could tell the bartenders were not used to that much volume (to say the least). I really enjoyed this part of our day as we sat back and watched the chaos unfold around us. We met some interesting people and I also got felt up by a young lady who clearly had a few too many drinks (she also felt up another lady at the bar who was next to me because she couldn’t believe our boobs were real and so nice LOL). I was grateful for the Chart Room. It was one piece of the Quarter that really gave me an idea of the flair of the people who live and work in the city. I enjoyed their vibe and I hope I can find more of it the next time we are in town.Chart-Room-SignChart-Room-PicsBurrito-GuyAlex-Eating-BurritoChart-Room-BartendersAfter we left the bar we headed back to our hotel to rest for the rest of the afternoon until dinner. That evening we visited Shaya, which is in the Garden District. This was our best meal the entire trip and I wish we were able to go back again while we were there. The restaurant is modern Israeli cuisine and it was delicious. I highly recommend you try this place while you are visiting New Orleans. The entire meal from start to finish was good. There is not one bad thing I can say about it and I highly recommend you get the Moroccan mint tea to go along with your meal. I have never tasted mint that tastes like this and it was so refreshing. Shaya-SignShaya-InterriorShaya-LightingShaya-MenuShaya-DinnerAfter Shaya we called it a night (We are getting old). The next day we woke up and decided to stay in the Quarter for the morning. We walked around and found some cool little shops along the way. We had breakfast and shopped and then headed out to look at a little section of town that has a bunch of art galleries.Art-Galler-Hop-Save-the-WorldArt-Gallery-Hop-WaitArt-Gallery-Hop-Our-Favorite-PieceArt-Gallery-Hop-My-Favorite-StudioSteve-Martin-GalleryArt-Gallery-Hop-Steve-Martin-StudioArt-Galler-Hop-Steve-MartinAs you can see I was in love with the Steve Martin Fine Art Gallery. I love his wire forms the most and plan on purchasing some one day. I just loved the vibe of the whole gallery. They were playing some really groovy music and the house was so old it made you afraid to walk on the stairs but it also had so much character. The artist was painting in the corner when we walked in and the gallery staff was just so nice. If you have a chance to visit I highly recommend it. Alex and I also fell in love with painting that is the third down in the Art Gallery pics. Unfortunately we didn’t agree on a few things so we didn’t purchase any art that day. I personally loved this artist’s style but I wanted one of her larger pieces, which was just out of our budget. I apologize but I cannot remember the artist’s name so if you know it please leave it in the comments below and I will add it. After looking at all of the wonderful art for a few hours we decided to head back to the hotel. From here we just rested until dinner. I had failed to plan anything for us while we were there and the weather was crappy so not boat tours through the swamps. CL-RestaurantCL-Menu-InsideCL-DinnerFor dinner we went to Compère Lapin, which is a Top Chef contestant restaurant. I have to be honest here for a moment. Alex and I are foodies and we try to give all places we eat a chance but unfortunately our experience here was not good. We walked in a little early for our reservation and saw that there were a few tables open. The hostess told us it would be a small wait and showed us to the bar. We did not want to drink anything until dinner so we just sat at the end and drank water. We were there for maybe 10 to 15 minutes and then they showed us to one of the tables that was open when we walked in. This was the first thing that annoyed us because it was clear they purposely sat us at the bar so we would order cocktails first. We let it go and settled into our table for our delicious meal. This particular chef is known for her caribbean influenced dishes and you can tell by some of the menu items including the conch “fritters” on the top right. These were about the only thing I enjoyed out of the whole meal. The fish dish you see on the bottom left was so overcooked we took one bite and sent it back. We promptly left our dinner early because everything was over salted or not cooked properly. This was very disappointing as this was our last meal in New Orleans and we were hoping to leave on a high note. Needless to say I personally would not recommend this restaurant for the reasons listed above. Their table service was great but the food was not.

I think Alex and I learned a few things on this trip that we will keep in mind if we ever come back. 1. we will not go during a holiday. We were told by countless people to come back when the city was just normal and not filled with visitors for the holiday, bowl game, or for other festivities the city is known for hosting. 2. We will not stay in the French Quarter. I like the vibe of the city but the Quarter is just too rowdy for us. I think next time we should Air BNB it so we get a more authentic neighborhood feel. 3. We need to stay for a longer period of time. We did not really get to explore the neighborhoods because of our short stay. We also did not get to do any historic tours or wildlife tours. I think this would have enhanced our experience had we had a chance to do one or many of these. Overall I have decided not to judge the city because we really did not experience enough to have an opinion. I liked the local people I met and the vibe I got from them so I think one day we will be back. Here is to 2016 and new adventures even if they are not picture perfect!


Oh the Places We’ve Seen in 2015

Oh the places we’ve seen in 2015.

I can’t believe the year has come to a close. It has been a rewarding and crazy one at that. I did a lot of learning with this blog this year. The first half of the year I struggled with blogging and I came to a brilliant conclusion to open it up to all of the travel babes you see featured here. Without a doubt this is the best idea I have come up with to date. Not only did I get to meet some fabulous women through the process but I also got to be included in their amazing adventures via this blog. I cannot thank them enough for their contributions and their kind words and actions of support. Without them I could not have kept this blog running as smoothly as it has let alone packed so much travel porn into one small space on the internet. Thank you, thank you, thank you ladies! Below you can see all of the amazing places this blog has taken us this year. Some are my own travels and some are the travels of those in this community. I encourage you to check out each of these and enjoy what 2015 gave to us! Cheers and travel on, babes!

San Francisco

My husband and I kicked off the beginning of the year in San Francisco with some of our closest friends! We also went to the Bay and checked out the aquarium and we traveled to Muir Woods and enjoyed the massively tall trees!


The Sky's The Limit

Seattle and Portland

My husband and I had a dream to move to the Pacific Northwest for a long time and we planned this trip in conjunction with a visit to Portland to see if we liked either of the cities. Seattle is a city of many hidden treasurers. She will not completely reveal herself to you on the first visit. I can say after I left the first time I did not like it at all but we went back to Seattle this year and she is growing on me immensely. We will be visiting again in 2016.

Portland on the other hand I fell in love with immediately. I want to move there, like now. I loved the creatives scene there and of course the food. Plus it is close to mountains and sea and it is not that far of a trip to visit Seattle on a weekend, which is a bonus.



This year we finally got to visit Austin, Texas during the 4th of July and it was one of the best 4ths I have had in a long time! It just so happened that earlier in the year I had connected with fellow travel babe Laura through Hilary Rushford’s Instagram with Intention class and we had hit it off immediately because we both love the same music as well as shopping, food, dogs and of course travel. I got to meet her and fellow IWIer Raquel when we visited Austin and was lucky enough to have my own personal tour guide in Laura. Austin is another city I fell in love with this year. I think it is because it similar to Columbus where I currently live but either way that city is bad ass and the hype is real.


Amalfi Coast

I was honored to have Rachel Maskell be my first official guest blogger on this blog and I am so glad she did! She shared her crazy adventure on the Amalfi Coast, which included avoiding not dying on a cliff road and her poor daughter getting sick. I don’t have kids but if she can get through this and still travel the world looking fabulous anyone can!

Rachel M 3Rachel-M-2Rosewell

Just the name alone makes you think of aliens. Thanks to Lauren and her gal pal Miranda we got to see an up close and personal look at this interesting town which is filled with Aliens!

Roswell 7roswell2

Lima and Cusco, Peru

Peru was a popular destination this year among travelers and the first trip we got to experience this year was from Morgan! She took us on a wonderful journey of food and their trip into the mountains in Cusco!

Machu Picchu and Puerto Maldonado, Peru

The second half of Morgan’s adventure leads us to the historic and well sought after travel destination of Machu Picchu and to Puerto Maldonado! She was able to capture some amazing views as well as give us a glimpse at what it is like in the jungle.


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Kate brought us back Stateside to visit her favorite family vacation spot in Myrtle Beach! Seeing this now makes me miss summer as she shows us around to her favorite food destinations which includes ice cream!

Denver, Colorado

I had never been to Denver until this year but I had always heard my friend Hilary speak of it fondly. Now that I have been I need to go back and explore some of these amazing places she has shared with us from her visit there this past summer. I mean there is a metal bar…just sayin



Jovanka was kind enough to take us to Italy to visit her family this year. She gave us some tips on how to do Italy right! Gelato, anyone?

Italian villageItalian village3Santa Fe, New Mexico

Emylee gives us some advice on how to take a step back in order to get inspired again and get back to getting shit done when we return! She visited Santa Fe this year and did just that for herself!

Buffalo, New York

Vicki takes us on a trip to visit family in Buffalo while doing some sightseeing with her husband Roy. I have never been to Buffalo but the falls are gorgeous. I will have to go one day!

Vicki Blog Photo 3Vicki Blog Photo 4

Burning Man

We’ve heard a lot about Burning Man over the years and I for one have always wanted to go. Rachel takes us on her first ever trip to the festival and inspires and empowers the woman in us all!

2015-09-05 09.42.55Burning Man Rachel Maskell

The Oregon Coast

My friend Erica takes us back to Oregon to explore the coast, which includes a trip to Portland and Gold Beach! Her sunset views are amazing in this post and I have now added the coast to my bucket list.

Erica Coffman Oregon 1Erica Coffman Oregon 6

Oaxaca City, Mexico

Guest blogger Sarah is living with her boyfriend in Mexico for a year, which meant she got to experience Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead festivities in Oaxaca City! We were so excited she wanted to share her adventures with us and now this destination is high on my travel to list!

IMG_1706IMG_1733Waerebo Village, Indonesia

Until Lilita wrote about this village I had never heard of it or the term UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I am so glad she shared her journey with us and to have learned about such an awesome site. The people she met during her journey seem so wise and kind. Waerebo Village was the first half of her trip to Indonesia. The second half is linked below.

waerebo image 7waerebo image 6

Bena Village and Kelimutu Lake

photo 13photo 6


Australia has been on my list for a few years now but I just haven’t been able to make it yet. I was so excited when my girl Katie wanted to blog about her trip there. She had so many fun adventures from the beaches there to kangaroo selfies; there was so much to see and do!

4_Amber & Katie1_Kangaroo SelfieColorado

Let’s be honest here, I am kind of a smart ass and this post was nothing less than the usual for me. My trip to Colorado for Thanksgiving was a blast and I want to head back ASAP. I have so much more exploring to do there especially in Denver. My husband and I really enjoyed the mountains and the Minturn Country Club was probably the highlight of our trip there (next to my new friend Tink of course!).


London, UK

This year I decided to do a Christmas Travelers series because last year I spent my first Christmas abroad and it was a real eye opener! I was so happy to have my friend and fellow travel babe Debbie share her first solo trip to London, which just happened to be during Christmas too! I want to make it to London one day and now I want to go during Christmas as well! I am sure it is decorated to the nines!
Horse ProcessionPeru

This year I have been really lucky to have a few guest bloggers contribute more than once and my friend Erica happens to be one of them. This time she is taking us to Peru to explore more of their culture, food, dress, and ways of life in a two part post.


The Trek, Peru continued


Christmas in Germany and France

Being someone who lives in the northern half of the United States I have always grown up with the month of December being cold and snowy but I had never thought of what it would be like to live somewhere where it is summer during December. Fellow travel babe and blogger Toni is used to just that, summer during December. She is an Aussie girl and she shared with us what it was like to get to spend Christmas in Germany and France in December! Let’s just say she was excited to get to wear a Christmas sweater!

Christmas FamilyDisneyland Decorated

2015 has taken us a lot of places and I am so happy all of these ladies were able to take us there! I cannot wait to see what 2016 holds! If you are interested in sharing one of your adventures shoot me an email at! We welcome all travel babes with open arms and we want to hear about your adventures in 2016! Cheers!





Another side of Flores Bena Village and Kelimutu Lake

On our third day in Flores, we left Waerebo and headed to Ngada District in centre of Flores to visit Bena, a megalithic village 16km from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie (Big Mama), an active volcano as high as 2,245 meters above sea level that is considered the highest mountain in Flores. To Bena villagers, Mt. Inerie is the abode of their god Zeta and the natural resting place of Bhaga, the female ancestors.

photo 1In Bena, there are nine tribes who inhabit the 45 units of housing, namely: the tribe dizi, dizi Azi tribe, the tribe Wahto, tribal Lalulewa roar, roar Solamae tribe, the tribe Ngada, Khopa tribes, and tribal Ago. Life in the village is maintained with a stone age culture that has not changed much since 1,200 years ago.

At the parking lot, some local ladies welcomed us with smiles on their red mouths from chewing betel nut. The sleepy me suddenly got excited when lovely traditional huts were seen from afar. These huts are decorated with hanging bones of animals that symbolize specific things related to their

photo 3photo 4photo 5photo 6Arranged in a square shape on terraced land, the houses in a village are completely cleared of vegetation. The space in the centre of the square is used for ceremonies and gatherings. Some small huts can be seen in front of the houses. Ngadhu that is similar to an umbrella or parasol, is carved out of a certain tree to be dedicated for male ancestors. This small hut is also used to hang the sacrificed buffalo. The stone base is used for the sacrifice.

photo 7

In the form of miniature Ngada house with special carving, Bhaga is the resting place of female ancestors.

photo 8There are also megalith stone altars for sacrifices arranged here and there in the village, and guess what I found? Some graves in front of the houses!photo 9We came at the same time of a ceremony when animals (buffalos and pigs) were sacrificed by men of the village to be cooked and shared in a big feast. This ceremony followed the building of a new house. I’m truly sorry if you find it cruel or brutal, so I’m only posting 1 photo of the 10Visitors can buy crafted ikat (traditional woven yarn-dyed cloth, sarong and belt) in Bena, with motifs range from animal patterns like horses, chickens, elephants, and the sacred ngadhu and bagha symbols. I used the woven belt as 11Most women in Bena wear a sarong, a kind of woven cloth in a turbular shape that is worn as a long 12Not far from the village, there is Malanage hot springs. We didn’t want to skip getting soaked in the springs because we wanted to rest and relax for a while after several days of road 13The night after a half-day drive from Bena, we arrived in Moni, a small village about 50km east of Ende to stay overnight at a homestay there to get some rest before departing to Kelimutu Lake.

At around 3:45 am of our 4th day in Flores, we left the homestay for Kelimutu, a three-colored crater lake. No long trekking needed to reach the summit after an hour drive, just a 30-minute normal walk. We got a nice view of the sunrise around the lakes. I found some sellers with nice yarn-dyed woven fabrics (familiarly called “tenun ikat”) around the parking area and I bought some scarves and a sarong for a good price. The journey wouldn’t be complete If I hadn’t brought any tenun ikat home!photo 14We ended our overland tour in Flores after visiting Kelimutu Lake. I hope to have another chance to explore other parts of flores in the future. Below are a few landscape photos that I took from the airplane window, hopefully you may find a way to come to Flores one day :-)photo 15

IMG_1051Lilita is a lover of chocolates, matcha, heritage sites, beaches, and unique cultures. As a full time wanderluster she travels the globe capturing her adventures with her camera and sharing them on her blog The Life Cycle of Lil. She is also an avid IGer and you can find her feed at lilitanurdiana!

The Trek

The Trek.

After acclimating to the altitude in Cusco for 5 days, we began our expedition to Machu Picchu.  Our first adventure was an early morning taxi ride through the mountains to the little mountain village of Mollepata where we met up with Flor from Refugios Salkantay, the woman who helped us organize our home stays during our trek.  After a briefing at her family’s small restaurant, Flor drove us in her pickup truck to our first lodging in Soraypampa.

We rode in the back of this truck along dusty mountain roads, got stuck in a horse traffic jam, breathed in dirt, bounced all around the back of the truck, and loved every second of it.

This is what I said was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

Eventually, Flor kicked us out of the truck so that we could enjoy the scenery while walking the last 20 minutes or so (really, she just needed time to get our lunches made haha).  We saw our first glimpse of Mt. Salkantay, found waterfalls, and got passed by a herd of stampeding horses.

After dropping off our bags and eating a quick lunch, we began our climb to la laguna.  It was our first climb in the mountains, and the elevation/lack of oxygen was NO JOKE.  But, we saw a full rainbow on the way up, so it was totally worth it.14

After feeling like we were on top of the world, we finally made it to la laguna.

Words can’t do this place justice.1516 We spent an hour or so at the laguna, dipping our toes in the freezing cold water and exploring the area before making our way back down to our lodging in Soraypampa.  No electricity, no heat, makeshift walls, delicious home cooked food eaten by the light of our headlamps under the Milky Way.  Pure happiness.17 The following morning was the start of our ascent of Mt. Salkantay.  We ended up taking horses for the first half of the trek because this day was a full day of hiking and we wanted to conserve our energy as much as possible.  The horses were a great choice, but they were also terrifying because the paths that wind up the mountain are basically at a 90 degree incline and are approximately 2 feet wide.  Annnnnnnd, the horses like to walk right. on. the. edge.

My life may or may not have flashed before my eyes once or twice.

(No photos were taken on those trails because there was no way I was letting go of that saddle to grab my camera.) 

Fortunately, the view from the Salkantay path was well worth every moment of fear we had.


After chilling on the Salkantay Pass for a bit to catch our breath and reenergize, we began the descent to the next village.  What followed was 8 hours of beautiful landscapes, several falls (and I don’t mean waterfalls), difficulty breathing, aching backs, blistered feet, cussing, and thoughts of suicide (kidding, mom!).

This was the most difficult day of my life.  BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT.19 We finally made it to our lodging in Collpapampa (it was after dark when we got there, which was both dumb and terrifying), where we found our host family who made us some mystery meat for dinner.  We spent the rest of the evening bandaging our wounds and applying pain relief gel to our achy legs, knees, and backs.

The following day, was the jungle day.  It consisted of 6 hours of hiking through the Amazon rainforest.  We were still in so much pain from the day before, so much of the day was spent in silence and without our cameras.  The hike was BEAUTIFUL, though.  Once we made it out of the rainforest, we entered the small village of La Playa where we shared candy with kids, chatted with women sitting on porches, and ate a delicious meal of rice, green beans, potatoes, and beef.20  After eating, we made our way to Santa Theresa, a very interesting little town that was literally developing under our noses.  New, modern buildings were being built next to run down shacks.  The sound of jackhammers filled the air while kids played in the streets with toys made out of trash.  It was a literal dichotomy of old and new.

After resting up in Santa Theresa, eating some totes delish food, and soaking in the natural hot springs, we made our way to the train station and hopped on a train to Aguas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Picchu).  Because of our blistered feet and aching bodies, we chose to enjoy the luxury of the train rather than walk the last 5 miles.

Best.  Decision.  Ever.  😉21

Aguas Calientes is a weird place.  A definite tourist town full of fast food restaurants, Americanized food, cheap souvenirs, and annoying tourists.  While it was nice to have consistent WiFi and a hot shower, it definitely didn’t feel like the Peru we’d fallen in love with.

The following day was the day I’d been dreaming of for SO LONG.  It was Machu Picchu day! I’ll let the photos do the talking on this one.222324  After Machu Picchu, I kind of stopped taking photos.  With the exception of a couple of random shots here and there, I decided I wanted to step out from behind my camera and soak up the remaining 6 days of my trip without my camera blocking my view.  The last 6 days were wonderful – we relaxed, got massages, rode on a luxury train, watched the entire Twilight series while laying in bed, worked on our travel business (The Manini Experience), and made plans for our return trip to Peru (more info will come soon about how you can join us in this incredible place).

I took the below photo from the plane on my way home from Peru.  We were somewhere over the ocean and I just happened to wake up from a nap to this gorgeous view.  Now, looking back on the trip, I’ve realized that this image is the best visual representation of my trip.  It was dark and stormy at points, but it was surrounded by beauty and wonder.  And, at the center of it all was the light that I’d been yearning for for so long…25

Head Shot

Erica Coffman is a photographer, podcaster, and travel babe based in Columbus, Ohio. She likes being a #girlboss, traveling, photographing, and petting furry animals. You can see more of her photography at and on Facebook and IG @ericakayphotography. For more info about traveling with Erica, check out her business, The Manini Experience, which specializes in taking people on kick-ass adventures, helping others, and photo-documenting it all.

My First Christmas Abroad

For the longest time, Christmas was the one holiday that I have always been home to celebrate. That one time of year where you see both sides of the family, and bask in the Aussie Summer festivities, rather than the Wintry coldness that other parts of the world experience…(even though every Christmas film is set in this season; because what is Christmas without snow, mulled wine and Winter jackets anyway?)

It is for this reason that Australians in particular relish in having a white Christmas season. It is the ultimate dream for someone who hasn’t known a Christmas that is freezing cold, and covered in the magic that is my one true love: snow.

In late 2013, I moved from Melbourne to London to do a working holiday and it was through this that I was able to enjoy two of my dream Christmases in Germany and France. Whilst, neither of them included snow on the actual day; they were very cold and as close to my Christmas movie moment that I could get. Before this, the closest I had come to a Winter Christmas involved leaving a boiling hot Melbourne and arriving in a freezing, rain soaked New York for the Times Square Ball drop the day after Christmas in 2012. Seeing all the decorations, the ice skating rinks and the city lit up with Christmas cheer, made me want to experience the real thing the following year in Europe, so I did!

My first Christmas abroad was not easy though. I was away from family for the first time; and still adjusting to living in London knowing no one after arriving that October. Luckily for me, I had Australian friends Katrina and Craig living in a small German university town two hours from Frankfurt (on an ICE train), called Göttingen. It was true German small-town charm, with decorations around the village style streets, a cute ass Christmas market and most importantly, spending it with good friends and other people they knew from home; which made up for not spending it with family.

We had a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings: turkey, potato, greens, cauliflower bake, it was a real winter Christmas feast; accompanied by Glühwein of course! We had the Christmas tree all decorated, and Christmas crackers and even had the whole Christmas jumper extravaganza happening as well; which living in London, quickly showed me how much of thing this is on this side of the world. Unfortunately when you have warm Christmases in Australia; a Christmas jumper is just not going to cut it during any part of the day; so being able to do it now made it that much more fun! (And cheap to do, thanks Primark!)

Christmas LunchChristmas in GottingenChristmas Family

For dessert, we had the German Christmas gingerbread style treat called ‘Lebkuchen’ which featured both sugar coated and chocolate coated delights; as well as the ultimate dessert: the tree ringed cake called ‘Baumkuchen’. This cake is made to look like tree rings with layer upon layer of the same cake mixture being added and browned on a spit which results in the tree ringed look. It is every bit the deliciousness it sounds. The famed patisserie in town, ‘Cron & Lanz’ is a definite must stop here…for this cake and many other treats too!

Gingerbread and Tree Cake

In the days following Christmas when everything re-opened; my friends and I were finally able to experience all the Christmas market festivities with Göttingen’s own market: Bratwurst, Glühwein, banana, Nutella and coconut crepes (the true party in your month, let me tell you!), and the many other German delicacies which were on offer and enjoyed in our gluttony. We also made our way to another town called Goslar, which had the best market I’ve ever seen. From all types of Glühwein flavours including cherry, raspberry and my favourite, a toffee like one called ‘Feuerzangenbowle’; which is made by setting a rum soaked sugar loaf on fire, which drips into the wine mixture. This one kept the good times rolling that’s for sure!

Gottingen DecorationGottingen

The best feature of this market however, were all the lights and how they were set up around the stalls; plus it had a one of a kind Christmas tree forest, which we could drink our Glühwein comfortably in whilst nestled inside the pine smelling wonderland. What an amazing time we had here!Goslar Market

A German Christmas is pretty much a MUST in every traveller’s life!

Last Christmas, I headed to Paris with my sister who was visiting from Australia over the festive season. Since I had worked for Disney UK & Ireland for the past year; we were given free admission to all Disney parks and a 30% discount inside. So it ended up being a VERY cheap Christmas in what is normally a very expensive day out. I actually received 4 tickets per visit, and gave the additional 2 to a couple who were about to buy tickets, so hopefully they managed to use them; but hey, that was my Christmas inspired good deed in any case.

Disney Characters

We spent our day on the various rides in the park; some of which like the ‘Haunted Mansion’, were solely in French in their verbal instruction before the ride; which was interesting since neither of us speak French, and we just had to go along with it. But it is France so it will happen. It just wasn’t easy to follow what was happening all the time.

Disneyland Paris

The weirdest thing for us, was how full Disneyland Paris was. Majority of people we were around were speaking French, so it wasn’t all foreigners filling this place up. For Christmas day, when many things are closed in Paris; it was very weird for us to find the park as vibrant as it is on a Summers Day!

Disneyland Decorated

Whilst there was no traditional Christmas meal for us this year, I did enjoy the French delicacy that I have been in love with for many years, ‘Croque Monsieur’, a toasted sandwich that has ham, cheese and a béchamel sauce. Delicious is an understatement and Disney did it very well!

There was also no snow on this day unfortunately; but we did have a castle that was lit up in the most magical of ways; an ultimate array of Christmas decorations (it is Disney, of course); and some fake snow generously gifted to us by Elsa during the ‘Frozen’ parade. It was close enough to the real thing…(maybe!)

Snow at Disneyland

Over the following days, we explored Paris. We took in all the beautiful decorations and the Champs-Elysees all lit up with lights. The Christmas Market along there was also quite lovely, with the German-inspired stalls. It was a lovely time to be in Paris and really felt like Christmas once again in the Winter elements.

My sister and I

Christmas has always meant family to me. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, as long as I am with people who are family or feel like family, it is enough. But when you live abroad and are blessed with seeing Christmas through the eyes of other cultures; and are able to participate in Christmas markets and days at Disneyland? Well it’s pretty exciting an experience to have. Sometimes, it is a once in a lifetime experience; so you’d be silly not to take it.

I am so thankful to have these amazing experiences to look back on now that I am home and heading back into the Summer weather.

But there is always next year to think about…Canada maybe?

image1 Toni is originally from Melbourne Australia and is an avid traveler. She is the founder of Enchanted Serendipity where you can read more about all of her travel adventures. You can also follow her on IG @enchantedserendipity or on Facebook!