Tag Archives: travel

Lessons in Passion, Dreams and Intention

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Belize will forever be a special place to me.

For years, since graduating college, I’ve internally struggled with feelings of fear, failure and inadequacy when it comes to my photography. In my head is a constant, questioning inner dialogue. Am I good enough? Is this work worth sharing? Is what I am photographing meaningful? Do I have what it takes? Is photography still my passion at all?

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This constant line of internal questioning and fear of failure led me to stop trying. I put down my camera, and I ignored my passion. In turn, I robbed myself of the one thing I have always received fulfillment from: creating.

Yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about passion and dreams, it’s that they will never give up on you, even when you’ve given up on them.

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Belize allowed me to open that door back up and rediscover what it feels like to be passionate about something. I think that’s one of the things I love most about travel; when you remove the pressure, expectations and distractions you can suddenly very clearly see what makes you happy and how you enjoy spending your time.

My camera was with me at almost all times, and I let myself see and interpret the world again. Sure, not every image came out technically perfect, but the most important thing for me was that I was taking pictures and enjoying it again.

I came home feeling energized, inspired and happy. That’s the thing about passion – you can try to quiet it and ignore it and be afraid of it all you want, but it has a way of always creeping back up on you, reminding you how good it feels.

I had started and stopped this blog, but missed writing terribly. I no longer made time for it and got caught up in what others were doing, which led to my blog feeling inauthentic and not at all like me. Again, I feared truly putting myself out there and just being me. But I couldn’t quite let it go, and it was always here waiting for me to come back. Passions are very patient.

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Belize also gave me permission to dream. So often, I shoot down my dreams just as fast as I conjure them up, but when I came home I felt a real desire and pull towards a more fulfilling, meaningful life. Travel is one of the best ways to get clarity on what you truly enjoy and want your own life to look like, and I finally gave myself permission to welcome those dreams and desires into my life, while also realizing I could make them happen.

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I dream of traveling more and experiencing the world while I have the ability. I also dream of writing, photographing, and creating every chance I get, even if it’s scary to put myself out there.

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When I came home from Belize I connected with a friend, Lisandra, who I’d met in Zumba class. We talked about my vacation and the kind of creative energy it had given me, and she showed me that these things are all connected: passion, dreams, intention. None of them can exist or survive without the other. Passion is what keeps us going, and gives us those bursts of energy and inspiration, causing us to dream. Sometimes following dreams can lead us to discover a passion unexpectedly. But passion is not a constant, and without a plan for how to make our passions and dreams reality in our lives, they quickly squander.

Belize was simply the vehicle in which these ideas surfaced in my own life, but it also invited me to dream and be passionate again. And for that, I’ll always be thankful.

Breakfast at Estel's San Pedro

The Best Thing(s) I’ve Ever Eaten: Belize

When I think of my recent trip to Belize (with 6 other women, most of them family) I think of laughter, adventure and sunshine. But I also think of the food.

Our 9 day adventure led us from the jungle in San Ignacio to the ocean breeze and sunshine of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that none of us expected the food to be as consistently good and beautiful as it was. While I have many more photos to share and stories to tell, I figured it made sense to first share the most important aspect of our travels: all of the delicious and beautiful things we ate.

Breakfast at Vanilla Hills Lodge

Everything Claudia cooked at Vanilla Hills Lodge – San Ignacio
No really, everything. During our stay with Claudia and Franklin at Vanilla Hills Lodge, (a small yet gorgeous eco-lodge/B&B outside of San Ignacio – please go there now) we ate every single meal with them (with the exception of lunches, and one dinner). We only went out because we were gently encouraged to explore.

Claudia is passionate about cooking, immediately evident in her careful choice of dishware (an extensive and jealousy-inducing collection) and natural ability to make food look as beautiful as it is delicious.

Banana Pancakes and Chocolate Mousse Vanilla Hills Lodge
The breakfast view at Vanilla Hills Lodge Belize

Breakfast included homemade breads, jams, brie, banana pancakes, farm fresh eggs and local fruits. For dinner, there was no menu. It was more a game of sit down and be surprised/amazed at what Claudia cooked up for the evening. This is a fun game and I highly encourage you to play it someday.

The food here was art. Delicious art. I am still dreaming about it. If you have any interest in staying here, I highly recommend it. The TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves.

Fry Jacks and more at Estel’s Dine by the Sea – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
I’d read about Estel’s (and pretty much every other place we visited/ate/drank) from San Pedro Scoop, which is an AMAZING guide to Ambergris Caye (and beyond) should you ever decide to visit Belize. Really, I don’t know how I would have planned this trip without that website – it’s perfect.

Breakfast at Estel's San Pedro

Anyway, the fry jacks at Estel’s just came off as one of those specialty items you need to try in San Pedro, so we all did.

To put it simply: fry jacks do not disappoint. I appreciate that I can go into a restaurant for breakfast, order not one but TWO giant pieces of fried dough and nobody judges me. It’s also really fun and mature to put them in front of your mouth and pretend they are your mouth. They also taste really good when you are hungover and need comfort.

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Fry jacks stole the spotlight here, but the fresh juices (Grapefruit and Limeade) and my lobster omelette were equally amazing. If lobster is in season when you visit, that omelette will make you very, very happy.

Breakfast view at Estel's San Pedro

It’s worth mentioning that Estel’s also has one of the most fantastic breakfast views. Sitting in sand, looking out over the Caribbean sea while palm trees sway and rustle gently in the wind, stuffing your face with fried dough and fresh lobster…it’s the stuff of dreams.

Ceviche at Wild Mango’s – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
As much as I love food, I’m sheltered. There are so many things I tried on this trip that I’d never tasted prior (lobster and ceviche to name a few). Yet I found myself ordering ceviche with confidence, like I’d tasted it a million times before.

Ceviche Wild Mango's San Pedro Belize

When I took my first bite, I wished I could taste it one million times more. I taste tested everyone else’s ceviche, and then ordered ceviche again when we returned here for our last dinner in San Pedro. Not quite a million times, but hey, I did my best.

Drinks and a view at Wild Mango's San Pedro Belize

Should you find yourself at Wild Mango’s, there’s not a ceviche there I wouldn’t recommend. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back for more. Don’t forget a panty ripper – they are ridiculously good here.

The Belize Chocolate Company – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
The Belize Chocolate Company should actually be called Heaven on Earth, or My Favorite Place Ever, or if I Could Control My Dreams I’d Go Here and Eat This Every Single Night or maybe The Place Where Chocolate Dreams Come True.

Belize Chocolate Company

At first, I tried to be practical. We were on our way to an early dinner, so I figured I would just try one. Then I really wanted 3. Then I lost all willpower and just decided screw it, it’s economical to just buy a box of 6. And then eat them all. With a milkshake on the side. (Isn’t being a grown up awesome? Nobody can tell me not to have dessert first.)

Assortment of Chocolates Belize Chocolate Company
Chocolates from Belize Chocolate Company San Pedro

I love chocolate, so it’s no surprise I loved this place. Do not miss it.

Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans & Plantains at Ko-Ox Han nah – San Ignacio
This is a meal that made my ex-vegetarian sister proud to be an ex-vegetarian. It prompted her to exclaim how much she loves chicken. It made her want chicken…for breakfast. Actually, I think it made everyone want chicken for breakfast.

Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans at Ko-Ox Han nah

The service here was friendly and warm. The restaurant is incredibly small and open air, but colorful and inviting. Stray dogs ran by the open door and peeked in while we ate, trying to appear curious but really just trying to pick out who the biggest dog lover in the group was. (It was Karen. She abandoned her meal for dog pets outside.) I loved this restaurant and meal so much that I had to go home and learn how to make stew chicken for myself.

In the end, Belize pushed me out of my culinary comfort zone. It taught me about all of the delicious things that can happen when you just say yes. It also taught me that taking an extra 5 minutes to present your food beautifully can magically make it taste better. And that there is truly no better thing than lingering over a meal, surrounded by people you love, laughing and eating something delicious in a beautiful place.

Adventures in Florida: Gatorland

image02For those of you who remember my 20 before 25 list, I finally got to cross off zip lining! A few months back the rescue group we adopted Bally from had a silent auction on their Facebook page. I ended up winning the Gatorland basket which included free admission to the park (also referred to as the “Alligator Capital of the World”) as well as 2 complimentary zip lining reservations and a free snake and gator photo. 2 weekends ago, John and I finally decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather so we called and made our reservations and headed off to the park.

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We began our day with the zip line tour which took about an hour and a half in its entirety. The course has 5 zip lines in total and the instructors had us ziplining backwards, running off the platform and cannon balling (tucking your legs up to your chest for maximum speed) all throughout the course. And since we were in Gatorland after all, the entire course sent us zipping right over the cages of the park’s largest crocodiles and alligators. Unfortunately they don’t allow cameras on the course so I didn’t get any pictures, but I swear I did it so I’m officially crossing it off my list!

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After zip lining, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then stopped to see the free Gator Wrestling show. The handler opened up the gator’s mouth to show the audience and about got his hand bit off, then he demonstrated how little force it takes to keep a gator’s mouth shut by holding it closed with his chin. I was happy to watch from the sidelines!

crocodile crocodile2We wrapped up the day by walking through the alligator “breeding marsh” (home to hundreds of alligators) and we also picked up some hot dogs to feed the alligators and crocodiles. Our zip lining guide recommended we feed the crocodiles with the hot dog attached to a piece of bamboo so we followed his advice and had crocodiles jumping out of the water to eat the hot dogs. As you may have guessed, it wasn’t long before park staff yelled at us for doing so (but it was totally worth it). On our way out, we headed to the gator and snake photo station for our free picture and got to hold a live alligator and snake (ok, John held the snake).

gatorsnakeAll in all we had a fantastic day. Park admission is only $25 which is a steal considering the amount of gators and how close you can get to them as well as the 3 free shows they offer throughout the day. If you’re ever in the Orlando area, Gatorland is a MUST see!
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Orlando: An Insider’s Guide

Today I’m super excited to be guest posting for Rachel from How Bout Some Cake while she’s away in Maui (so jealous)! She asked me to post an insider’s guide to Orlando so I rounded up a few of my favorite things to do, eat and see. Head on over to her blog to check out the post and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to tell her I sent you and make sure to stick around to check out her blog!

PS- I had a ton of fun coming up with this guide and think I might continue doing it as a travel series on the blog whenever I visit somewhere new. What do you think?

20 before 25: #1 Go on a Cruise


Our welcome sign to Nassau, The Bahamas

When I first started writing this post, I was going to give a play by play of everything John and I did while on our cruise to the Bahamas, but after mulling it over for a bit I decided it’d be way more fun to list out what made me enjoy this mini getaway so much. I’m also super excited to have crossed #1 off my 20 before 25 list!


Making our way into the port in Nassau

Our cruise ship docked in Nassau

Being around someone you have fun with no matter what.One of the things I love most about being with John is that I have just as much fun snorkeling in a coral reef with him as I do sitting at home in our PJs watching TV. He makes everything so fun and is such a joy to be around. The cruise was no exception! Sure we both had to deal with sea sickness and we missed the fancy dinner and didn’t get to sport our new outfits, but we made the most of our vacation. We also focused on the most important thing: having fun and enjoying each other’s company.



John and I on the ship while making our way to the port

Trying new things. Neither John or I had ever snorkeled before and I kind of started to panic inside when the time actually came to do it. I was terrified of seeing a shark, swallowing salt water, or having a hard time breathing through the snorkel tube. I found myself stalling when it was time to get in the water until John finally just got up and started walking down the stairs, forcing me to follow. Once I got in the water it was so fun doing something new and exciting that I’d never done before. I stuck my face in the water and was greeted by a school of tropical fish. I managed to swallow some salt water but hey, it made things a little more exciting and I washed the taste out with some delicious rum punch afterwards.


John in his snorkel gear, unlimited rum punch after

The importance of a little R&R. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life so a cruise was the perfect getaway. Focusing on nothing besides drinking, eating and relaxing really gave my body the recharge it needed. It also made it incredibly hard to go back to work on Tuesday!

Staying positive.The seas were rough during our whole cruise which unfortunately led to the captain canceling our second day in the Bahamas. We were looking forward to a lazy day on the beach at Royal Caribbean’s private island but instead ended up with a day at sea. It would have been easy to whine and complain and be angry, but instead John and I headed for the pool and relaxed together determined to enjoy the day anyway. We got to watch a belly flop contest, drink out of a pineapple, listen to a great Calypso band and see a pre dinner show, all things we probably wouldn’t have gotten to experience otherwise.


Relaxing by the pool during our unplanned day at sea

Drinking out of a pineapple (there were a few refills…)

Food (and drink). There was never a shortage of either on the boat! There was also an ice cream machine (which we visited daily) and the buffet food was great. When we got to the Bahamas we tried conch fritters and for some reason thought we could drink these gigantic tropical drinks without getting too drunk for dinner. We were totally wrong (and poor John took a drunken fall in the bathroom resulting in a seriously bruised nose). Being surrounded by so much food and drink on a daily basis was definitely a dream come true.


My first drink on the island!

Conch fritters

Our giant drinks from Senor Frogs

Our vacation definitely had its challenges (like my sea sickness and John’s bathroom fall) but I wouldn’t have had it any other way – okay I would have taken John’s injury out of the mix! It was great to spend quality time with John and to unplug from life for a few days. PS – the fact that these pictures are up here is a miracle. I accidentally sent our point and shoot camera through the dryer after the cruise (which we used to take most of the pictures you see here) and it got totally fried. Lucky for us, the SD card remained intact and our pictures lived to tell the tale! Also, a huge thanks to the ladies who helped out with vacation week last week!

What are your favorite things about vacation?