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My Complete Caribbean Island Packing Guide

Are you planning a Caribbean Island getaway?? YES! I’m stoked for your adventure!! So, have you given any thought to what’s going on your suitcase? Maybe I can help 🙂

As someone who is fortunate enough to have visited the breathtaking island of Caye Caulker, Belize eight times over the last couple of years, I’ve nearly perfected my packing list. Like most travel, it’s always trial and error, right?! Well, I’ve learned a lot along the way… For example, don’t try to wear a long dress and ride a bicycle across the island. My glamorous dress didn’t look so hot when I got it stuck in the bike chain riding on the beach. It was such a mess that I had to recruit the help of a friend to cut me loose (thanks Andrew!).

Clothes:

• 3-4 swimsuits

• 3 jean shorts

• 3-4 tanks or t-shirts

• 1-2 Lululemon or active shorts

• 1 pair of yoga pant

• 3 swim coverups or light SHORT dresses

• 1-2 sandals

• sashguard – BodyGlove makes some really cute ones

• 1 closed-toe casual shoes or tennis shoes

• 1-2 long sleeve shirt/sweater/light jacket

• Sarong (MUST!!) – Can be used as a travel blanket, dress, coverup, towel to sit on the beach

Toiletries:

Poopouri!! (you can thank me later)

• body spray (doubles for room spray)

• travel shampoo and conditioner

• travel toothbrush & toothpaste

travel razor

• dry shampoo – still searching for a fave (what’s yours?)

• lotion

• travel Hairbrush

• hair-ties and Bobby Pins (for diving)

• hand sanitizer

Rx:

reef friendly sunscreen

• sunburn lotion or cream

• anti-itch lotion or cream

• bug spray – I like Off Smooth & Dry travel size

Bonine – anti-nausea for motion sickness (dive boat necessity)

• stomach meds: Pepcid AC, Zophran, Pepto-Bismol

• Benadryl (just in case)

• chapstick

• Excedrine or Tylenol

• hangover prevention – ex: Blowfish, Airborne, Dihydromyriceitin

Other:

• backpack – not too big. Something easy to tote around the island with me

• aluminum water bottle – Swell make several fun ones. I put a vinyl Mermaid tail om mine 🙂 

• a microfiber towel – I love these because they’re lightweight and easy to roll up and carry

• sunglasses

• small bluetooth speaker

• earbuds, or headphones

• snack bars like Kind – to have in the room or to grab a few when I’m headed out to dive

• dive gear – although most of my gear stays on the island to reduce my airport baggage

• cash & credit card (NOT debit) – the island uses Belizean dollars and US. Make sure to check you destination’s currency.

That’s my list!  I will also enhance this basic list depending on the nature of my travel. Here is my last food for thought, TJ Max and Homegoods have so many resonably priced suitecases. Buy one that is lightweight, has 4 wheels, rolls in any direction (I’m sure there is a term for that), and something in a bright color or easy to spot if you are  checking your bag ANYWHERE including water transfer service.

Have the best time in paradise!!! As they say in Caye Caulker, GO SLOW!!

Please let me know if this list was helpful. Also, what would you add or remove? 

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How to Make the Most of Your First Solo Adventure

Congratulations! You are about to embark on your first trip by yourself. The decision to just take the plunge is the biggest hurdle, so celebrate. Think about it, how many times do you hear people say why they don’t travel alone? They don’t have the money, they’re worried about safety, it’s awkward eating at a restaurant by yourself, they don’t want to be lonely, and dozens more. The truth is ALL of these reasons are valid. That’s what makes this trip so empowering, so let’s get to the fun part….PLANNING!

While you are brainstorming all of the fun-filled deets of your trip, here are five ways to make an exciting venture, even more promising!

1. Get PSYCHED, wherever the Destination!

Your first solo location may or may not be your choice. Say you have a work trip scheduled to Denver in a month. This is prime opportunity to tack on a few a play days to either end of the trip. Stacking trips is a great way to save some cash and vacation time. Plus, you get to explore somewhere not even on your bucket list (yet).

Alternatively, if you get to choose your where you’re going, then hooray! It’s time to get stoked!! Download a countdown App on your phone, computer, or do it old school and stick a picture on the fridge. T minus 30 days to vacay!! Having a trip to look forward to is very motivating and does wonders for your work performance.

2. Check out the Tourist Scene

Being a tourist is a blast even, if it’s in the town you live in now. One key benefit to being a tourist is getting to see the popular attractions. Don’t pass up this opportunity to explore the sights that put your destination on the map. For some great suggestions, I like using Trip Advisor to get some great suggestions. Look for the sights that have the most positive reviews and choose a couple to consider.

On a recent work trip to Phoenix, I chose to take a Hot Air Balloon ride. It proved to be one of my best ventures yet! Once I decided that was going to be my focal point of my trip, I planned everything else around it. It was perfect!!

3. Scope out the Local Scene

What’s almost as fun as being a tourist? Acting like a local! So how can you find places and events that locals frequent? Why not ask them? The best Uber/Lyft drivers are the ones that give you buku suggestions on restaurants, clubs, shopping, etc.

Now, I realize for planning purposes, it’s not strategic to wait to you’ve already arrived to get the local scoop. So, here are a few sites/apps that will give you a jump on it. Yelp! When it comes to local food favorites, Yelp has it in the bag. Just type in the area you’re headed and search for “local picks.” Stick with the spots that have the highest star ratings AND the most reviews.

Another great place to look up local outings in the area is Facebook. Go to your Facebook Events page and search the location and dates you will be visiting. Often times, you’ll discover local farmers markets, concerts or even yoga classes! Bonus, many of the events posted here are free!!

4. So Much Room for Activities!!

Choose 2-3 activities that your destination is known for and make plans to go! For example, are you visiting somewhere that is known for rock climbing, water rafting, outdoor activities, or shopping? If so, you should probably add it to your Tentative Itinerary.

During my Phoenix trip, I kept hearing locals talk about Camelback Mountain, a local landmark, you can see from virtually all over Phoenix. Even though it was in the middle of the summer I decided I had to check it out. Of course I like to push my limits, so I chose the hardest path, Echo Trail to the top. After an hour and a half, a dozen quivering muscles and a bucket of sweat, I made it to the top. Oh the view! Camelback was one of my favorite parts of the trip and BONUS, I met so many locals!

5. Schedule Down Time

Lastly, and perhaps the most importantly… allow yourself plenty of time to rest and catch your breath. You are going to be so excited to get out there and explore everything, see all the sites, eat all the food, and live it up! But you will need a few moments each day for R&R. Maybe you need this time to look at your agenda and figure out your next steps or you’re just exhausted from the day and need a nap. However you use your downtime, it’s important to schedule it in so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. Remember, an adventure doesn’t have to be constant action. Make the most out of it by giving yourself the breaks you need. Don’t worry, if you love your trip, you can always make plans for solo round two or maybe this time bring a companion?!

Have the BEST TIME on your first Solo-venture!!! Please keep me posted in the comment section!!

Namaste 🙏🏻

How Can YOU Help Save the Sea Turtles from Extinction?

In my previous post, I shared the moving story of how my mom and I got the extraordinary opportunity to rescue baby Sea Turtles by helping them out of the sand and set them off to sea! By lending our help, we give them a greater chance to survive and overcome extinction. Read it here and check out the video!

I’m so grateful to have had that experience and want you to do the same! If you aren’t in a position to travel, no worries, you can still help!

How Can You Help Save The Turtles from Home?

Donate! Donations can be made to SeaTurtle.Org. (Comment below with other donation centers, dedicated to turtles or other endangered animals).

Reduce your plastic footprint and save the Sea! Did you know that plastic straws kill Sea Turtles? Say no to plastic straws, by replacing it with a reusable straw like this one I use and LOVE, Final Straw (they also make great gifts, ask all my friends, haha). Not only straws are dangerous to our ocean and the animals that live there, millions of pounds of plastic pollute our seas everyday. Over 120 countries throughout the world have banned the use of single plastic, until the US and every country joins the movement, it’s our responsibility to reduce use when we can.

My favorite color Final Straw (I use this everyday!)

Recycle whenever possible and sponsor organizations that are dedicated to cleaning up our oceans, like 4ocean. For ever bracelet that is sold one pound of trash is removed from the ocean and coastlines. Bonus, all of their bracelets are made from post consumer recycled plastic and glass. For 15 ways to reduce your plastic use, check out the article here.

4Ocean Bracelet

We have the extraordinary chance to make a difference everyday, no matter how small. Live you most generous life for the well-being of Our planet and the animals we are privileged to live with 🙂

Rescued!

Rescue Baby Sea Turtles in Cozumel

How did this experience begin?

I just returned from taking my mom on her first cruise and first trip out of the country. Since she has never traveled, she had been looking forward to this trip for over a year. So much time and discussion went into planning all of the details, but when it came down to the wire, all that was left was to decide was which excursions to do. So many cruise excursions are similar; Beach Day, Island Relax and Margaritas, ZIP Lining, Mayan Ruins, etc. On the last page of the excursion brochure, there was one excursion that stood out and instantly grabbed my attention, “Save a Sea Turtle Experience.” Finally, an excursion that wasn’t about us, but something much greater! After I read through the description, I was set! Convincing my mom was no issue, because she had also seen it on the list and planned on asking me. So it was settled! Baby turtles, here we come!!

The day we arrived in Cozumel (I love Cozumel btw) we loaded up on this cute little safari bus and headed to the Turtle Sanctuary on the other side of the island. The bus ride was beautiful because it traced the coast on the south side of the island!! We did a big loop around the island so that Nacho, our guide, could tell us about the city.

The tour bus

When we arrived at the turtle sanctuary, we we were briefed on next steps by one of the members of the Turtle Protection Committee. I VERY loosely translated that from “Comité Municipal de Protección de la Tortuga Marina.” Please send me a message if I wrongfully translated because this group of people deserve all of the praise for what they do!

The nesting beach. Red flags are active nests.

Why do the baby turtles need saving?

Well, first they’re endangered. They have many enemies on land and sea so the babies that are able to make it out of their nest and to the sea (while still so vulnerable), do have the chance to grow up and live long lives, 50-80 years on average for Green Sea Turtles.

If you are a diver like me, hopefully you have had the honor of swimming with these docile animals. They’re extraordinary to encounter in the wild and some are huge; I’ve seen some bigger than me!

The Green Sea Turtles in Cozumel lay roughly 100 eggs 3-5 ft below the surface of the sand and 45-55 days later, the eggs will begin to hatch. A majority of the babies are vital enough to break free from their shell and sand, but many are not and die in the nest. This is the reason human intervention is necessary! Without groups like the Turtle Protection Committee monitoring these nests and organizing rescues (like the excursion), the Green Sea Turtle population would rapidly decline and extinction would be a certainty.

Our Heartwarming Experience

The dig sites marked with flags. Blue buckets are used for collecting the babies we dig out.

After we received a briefing on the rescues process, we we began to dig in the sand with our hands. After several feet deep and lots of sweat later, we pulled our first live baby turtle out of the sand. This was the most intense emotional feeling to see and hold a baby turtle. It was then that we realized our efforts were rewarded and this inspired us to work harder to break these babies out. An hour later, we cleared the nest, rescuing 10 babies. Combined with the other digging groups, 59 baby turtles were saved that magical morning.

The straight deep holes are the most effective way to retrieve the babies.
Two babies pulled directly from the sand. So precious!!
A baby after he was dusted off
They are almost ready to swim!
Bucket-O-Babies

My Favorite Part: The Release to the Ocean

Almost there!

All of the babies were placed in buckets so the researchers could confirm and record the number of babies. Once the coast was clear of any birds, came the most moving part of the process; the release into the sea. One by one, we picked baby up from the buckets. This was also the cutest part because these little guys are wide open, ready to go as soon as they leave the nest. It’s so funny to see their little flippers flapping like they’re trying to fly. The instant you set them down on the sand they race to the waters! See the video here 🙂

And they’re off on their voyage ❤️

Go find your Dad!!

It was truly a powerful experience. Knowing that without our help, those babies may not have had the chance to swim in the ocean and live!

I wanted to take a million pictures of them, but we were on a mission to these little ones to their new homes

How Can You Help Save The Turtles from Home?

Fortunately, many Mexican beaches participate in this mission. I whole heartedly recommend getting involved in this rescue if you ever get the chance to visit. All experiences must be coordinated through your groups on the island. If you are visiting on a cruise, book through your excursions, but if you are traveling independently check out Blue H2O Cozumel

Read more here to learn how to save the Sea Turtles from home…

5 Must-Visits while Day-Tripping Down Natchez Trace

What’s great about wandering is you can truly plan your trips on a whim. Where should we go? Which route should we take? Should we stop along the way? How long should we stay? Spontaneity gives us the ability to choose our own adventure. And so we did!

Last Saturday, I woke to the bright summer rays shining through my window and quickly decided, it was too beautiful of a day to waste. Why not explore somewhere new? So I packed my day bag consisting of a swimsuit (because you never know), blanket, shorts, bottled water and some snack bars, loaded up my favorite furry co-pilot, Sally Boo, and we set sail for the Trace!

Spanning 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee down to Natchez, Mississippi is a beautifully maintained scenic highway known as Natchez Trace Parkway. Since I live in Jackson, I frequently commute on the trace, but…. I’ve never headed Southbound before now.

Natchez Trace is a travel experience all its own. Saturated with historic landmarks, campgrounds, parks, picnic areas, and many other sights, it’s easy to spend weeks exploring and never leave the trace. On this particular adventure, we (Sally & myself) set our tentative destination for Natchez, MS, the origin of the trace and only 100 miles from Jackson. We were off!

1st Stop: Owens Creek

Our first stop was Owens Creek Waterfall. Decades have reshaped this quaint little brook that the community of Rocky Springs used to spend their hot southern summer. Now, it’s disguised by a small turnabout along the Trace, just south of the Rocky Springs exit. You wouldn’t know it was even there unless you were looking. I pulled into the half moon drive to scope out the creek. It was perfectly serene! A quiet cool spring in the middle of the forest. I was surprised the stream was clear, unlike most of Mississippi’s muddy water. Immediately I knew we found our first destination. After exploring the waterfall, capturing some landscape pics, and a short yoga practice, we continued on down the Trace.

2nd Stop: Windsor Ruins

Every time I hear the word “ruins” I immediately think of ancient Mayan burial grounds and ghost stories. Well the Windsor Ruins aren’t quite that creepy, but theres still something about them that takes you back through history.

These 45-ft-tall masonry columns are all that’s left of the Windsor Plantation home built in 1861. What was once one of the largest private residences in Mississippi before the civil war, is now ghosted by these 29 century-weathered pieces of supreme architecture.

If your traveling on the Trace, the ruins are only a 10 mile detour, but definitely worth the visit and a few pictures. If you are a motorcyclist like me, this is a beautiful ride and exhilarating bike ride from Jackson.

3rd Stop: Sunken Trace

The sunken Trace was an impulsive stop, but was also one of those nostalgic landmarks that change the way your appreciation for the parkway today. Here, we followed the short path to a bend, where we found what looked to be a dried up ditch bank. What I didn’t expect is that this ditch bank once paved the way for thousands of travelers in the 1800’s. As they ventured 500 miles, through swamps, forrest and rivers, they undoubtedly suffered the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and disease along they’re journeys.

The ditch has become eroded over the centuries and is now a depression of the earth. Hence the name “Sunken Trace.” While traveling north of Natchez, pause here to walk along side the old paths and take a minute to appreciate the stories this ground would most certainly tell.

We Made It: Natchez, MS

Natchez caught me entirely by surprise with its prestige beauty, Once I reached the end of the beautiful trace, I headed for the River. Since we had to drive through downtown, to reach Bluff Park. This is the center of the historical French Fort Site the French settlers built in 1716. During the Civil War, so much of Natchez’s structure and development was spared from damage and preserved since the city did not hold a strategic position. Today, Natchez is peppered with a blend of French, English and Spanish architecture. You can tour plantation mansion, antebellum homes and even stay at some that have been transformed into bed and breakfasts.

Walking through Bluff park, I admired the tall walls that protected the fort centuries ago. Today there are several running and walking trails both above and below the park. Since it was a hot day we did not go down to the bottom of the Bluffs but they will definitely be an Natchez Adventure!

Final Mention: Bridge of Sighs

As we walked through Bluff park, we crossed a pretty little bridge that offers passage over Roth’s Hill Road. On the bridge I noticed several pad locks on the cables of the. This is the Bridge of Sighs, named after the famous Bridge of Sighs of Venice, Italy. The bridge historically got its name from the sighs of despair heard as convicts got a final glance at Venice on their way to prison.

Many French and Italian bridges are glittered with pad locks as a symbol of a couples unbreakable love for each other. Since Natchez has such strong French and Spanish influence, it only makes sense for locals to express their love by repeating the tradition. Now, couples come from all over to write their names on the locks, attach them to the bridge and throw the key away in the river to pledge their affection for each other.

Bridge of Sighs, Natchez, MS

After a long fruitful journey down the Trace to Natchez, it was time to go home. However I came to the conclusion that one afternoon in this town wasn’t enough. In that spirit, Natchez 2.0 weekend trip is in planning. Stay tuned….