10 reasons traveling alone changes you

  1. Independence 

We get to be our true selves. Our spur of the moment decisions to do things or change plans impacts no one but yourself. If you don’t feel like doing something you don’t want to do, you don’t feel obligated. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself for once. It’s an awesome feeling.

2. Strength

Traveling solo no doubt makes you a stronger and happier person. You become content with the alone time. You enjoy your own company and have time to watch the world in peace. I did this a lot in NZ and I thank myself every day for taking that step alone. I’m very grateful how strong I’ve become. I don’t need anyone but myself to make me happy.

3. Save money

I think I spend way more money when I am with a friend or in a group setting. It’s almost like I feel inclined to spend it whilst around people. You become more frugal when it is just yourself indulging in food and activities. No peer pressure.

4. Become more outgoing

I am a chatty Cathy now. I find myself being able to talk to anyone about anything. I feel like I bond instantly with people now because traveling alone has taught me how to accept everyone and find a common ground. I am more comfortable. Another great feeling.

5. Become fearless

Along with being outgoing in society, traveling solo helps you become fearless towards new goals. I often have thought how I have wanted to do photography as a career and was always apprehensive on if it would work out. Now I say eff it!! I can do it if I put my mind and hard work into it.

6. Appreciation

Solo travelers appreciate their relationships with their family, old friends, new friends, and nature. Traveling alone you spend a lot of time embracing the surroundings while deep in thought.

7. Intuition is sharper

Solo travellers learn to go with their gut feeling more often. And this has saved me from some potentially bad moments.

8. Smarter

Solo travellers become street smart and have a better knowledge of how to navigate new places. • This isn’t necessarily true for me because I still can get lost in a simple hostel.

9. Grow mentally

Solo travellers become more aware of other people’s opinions and feelings. You learn to respect different cultures and learn a lot about the world around you.

10. Fewer regrets

Solo travellers learn from their mistakes and learn to not dwell on them. They have few regrets because they see every mistake or failure as a life lesson and a great memory.

I’ll leave you all with my favourite quote ever from the book Into the Wild.

“The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”

If you want to travel alone, do it. You won’t regret it one bit. Simple.

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Green smoothie cleanse

  
Everyone who knows me, knows that I love green smoothies, especially kale smoothies. Most people cringe their noses over kale but I think it’s delicious if you mix it right. On its own, it has a really bitter taste but it possesses culinary flexibility. Kale is a highly nutritious leafy green and a great source of calcium. It keeps your brain super healthy!!

Here is my go to kale smoothie:

  • 4 kale leaves (if they’re small, go for 6. more the merrier)
  • cup of spinach leaves
  • tablespoon of almond butter
  • tablespoon of Greek yoghurt
  • cup of almond milk
  • cup of coconut milk
  • teaspoon of cinnamon
  • teaspoon of greens powder (don’t have to but I like the added nutrients it provides)
  • half cup of mango
  • 1/3 cup of raspberries
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries
  • 1 whole banana
  • cup of ice
  • tablespoon of chia seeds
  • teaspoon of flax seeds

Blend it up and you have a killer smoothie.

Looks like a lot but it’s insanely delicious and I’m happy I have finally perfected it to my liking. You can always mess around with it to your liking. Sometimes I go with less fruit and just use bananas and raspberries.

 

 

Trip to Sydney

 


My sweet friend Brandi from Pittsburgh recently messaged me that her friend will be traveling alone to Sydney next month. How exciting!! We are all aware how traveling alone can be a bit scary. And a lot of us rely on the internet for information – from finding safe hostels, to how to save money, to where the best spots to visit are.

I first went to Sydney in December right before Christmas so the weather was gorgeous. Everything was decorated with Christmas stuff and loads of people were out shopping around. The second time I went to Sydney it was in February and the weather was still perfection. I learned a lot both times I have visited.

One thing I have learned is that all the hostels in Sydney are absolute shit. I didn’t have a good experience in two of the hostels there. One of the upsides to the shit hostels is the friendly backpackers you will meet but don’t expect a quiet sleep. I used Hostelworld.com to try to find affordable hostels. All the ratings and reviews were pretty ordinary. Lots of comments on how dirty and unkept the rooms and bathrooms were. I feel as though it is a hit or miss situation. Some people may not have the same opinion as others so my advice is to just search on what you are really looking for in a place. Read the reviews. On literally every review site about the hostel. You will thank yourself for taking the time out to do that. Ain’t nobody wants a case of the bedbugs. I’ve met people who have had them and they don’t sound pretty. They are parasites that hide or lay eggs close where humans sleep such as mattresses, bed frames, cracks in walls, and furniture.

How do you check for bed bugs beforehand? Well, from what I have learned from fellow backpackers is don’t put your bags onto your bed the second you get into the room. Check the mattress by lifting up and searching for a bug or blood spot from a previous bite. Check between the cracks of the bed frame and if it is a bunk, check above it especially in the corners for any eggs. You will genuinely know when you are bitten. I hear it’s unpleasant.


Moving on to something more pleasant, let’s talk about places to see. Besides the beautiful Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. There are loads of laid back places to spend time at. I spent a fair amount of time in Hyde Park. Hyde Park is the oldest public park in Australia right smack in the middle of the Sydney CBD. Conveniently by two major railway stations and shopping centres. It’s also within a 10 minute walk to some of the popular hostels. This park is so serene. You’ll find in the middle of the park, straight across from the St Mary’s Cathedral, a gorgeous centrepiece called Archibald Fountain. If you take the free walking tour of Sydney, you will learn the history about this beautiful fountain. The last time I was in Sydney, a man playing his acoustic guitar put on a little show for everyone in front of the fountain. It was so relaxing and nice. Along with the fountain, the park has well kept gardens and over 500 trees. It’s truly a must see for all tourists.
Back to more about the free walking tour. It’s seriously awesome even though it sounds boring. It’s free. Who doesn’t love free? They give two tours out of the day. One at 10:30 and one at 2:30. It goes on for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours and covers loads of places and Sydney information/history. You don’t have to sign up. You just meet at the town hall which is in the CBD area by the Queen Victoria Building which is another cool spot. Bring water and a snack, wear walking shoes, a hat, and sunscreen. Australia’s sun is harsh, man. Coming from a redhead with experience.


If you’re feeling a beach day, you have many options in Sydney and they are quite close. If you want to head over to Manly beach, hop on a 30 minute ferry! Heading to Bondi beach? Hop on a 45 minute bus ride! It’s all quite convenient and all from Circular Quay which is by the train station. You can purchase a smart card called the opal card at any 7/11 or railway station to use for the ferries, buses, and trains! It’s awesome and easy. There is no fee for the card itself but you will need to top it up with money and I believe the minimum is $10. One awesome thing about Sydney transit is that on Sundays there is a $2.50 cap. So if you want to head somewhere far like the Blue Mountains or one of the beaches…go on a Sunday. It’s crowded but it only costs $2.50 to go anywhere!!

Can I just put it out there that Bondi beach has free wifi…awesomeness. 

When it comes to saving money, I advise friends to cook!! You can head to a Coles or Aldi. They always have specials on food. And sometimes your hostel will have a free food box in the fridge or pantry. Eating at restaurants in Sydney is so expensive, so limit it but still have fun. My go to meal that is easy/healthy to make: Quinoa, tuna, avocado, feta – quinoa helps with weight loss and metabolic health. Tuna is a good source of Omega 3. And avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats.
Speaking of cheap, the Dendy movie theatre near the Opera house does cheap Tuesdays! We payed $13 for a movie ticket compared to $22. Good idea for a rainy day.


If you’re feeling adventurous and want to get away from the city crowd then the Blue Mountains tour is pretty sweet. It’s a bushwalking trail filled with steep cliffs and rainforests. I did a group tour for $75. That included transportation by a van there and back. Our tour guide was pure Aussie. He literally could have been Crocodile Dundee mixed with Jim Jeffries humour. I loved it. We sadly got rained out that day but it was still beautiful.

Hostels do a lot of pub crawls or events such as movie and game night. You will meet loads of people to go out with if you are traveling solo, so no worries. Just be open to opportunity with a smile on your face. It’s tough being in a new city along with a whole new country, but Australians are happy to help. 
Sydney is a great city. I really came to love it there because there is always something to do and you don’t have to have loads of money to do stuff. Accommodation is the main wallet drainer. Couchsurfing and Air bnb are other options if you aren’t feeling a hostel environment.

If you have any particular questions, feel free to comment below or email me at Alyssanicole51616@gmail.com

Enjoy!


Climb that Volcano 


         Tongariro Alpine Crossing – National Park New Zealand (Feb 2016)

Fear and doubt.

Two feelings I have lived with ever since I was little.

Fear started in first grade. Getting on the school bus every day, I cried and my sister had the pleasure of walking me to class EVERY MORNING. Fun, right? Best sister award goes to her. I will proudly say I stopped crying eventually. Champ.

Doubt came along when I graduated college and had no clue what I was doing with my life. I moved to Pittsburgh at 21 by myself and found myself feeling that I was so sheltered before and never fully figuring out myself or life. I doubted everything. I doubted myself the most.
All eye openers. But nothing can compare to traveling by yourself, to a foreign country, almost 10,000 miles away from home, with no actual travel skills, or head on my shoulders.

After 7 months in Australia, I flew to New Zealand in January to stay for a total of two weeks.
Arrived to windy and cold Wellington where my fav parts are that they have free wifi in the CBD and good coffee. A bit boring but good, relaxing time.

After a chill time in Welly, I took the awesome scenic bus ride to National Park. Excuse my language but it was fucking beaut the whole way. Who needs an iPhone or iPad when you have that glorious view to get lost in.

After a long day of traveling I finally arrived to the middle of nowhere. I made the last minute decision of hiking the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Total of 19.4 kms of volcanic terrain. Next to where they filmed LOTR, Mount Doom. All I had was some shit yoga pants, shit sneakers, and a shit raincoat that was more just a jacket that flopped in the wind while I wore it. I also had no fitness in the past couple of days while sipping cups of coffee in Welly. So naturally, I thought I was a-okay to go hike the next day.

  
That night I met a man in my hostel from Luxembourg. He was preparing to go hiking for 3 days in a tent by himself so he basically knew his shit and he knew that I didn’t know mine. He was kind enough to offer me some of his pasta he had made earlier knowing I would very well need those carbs for the upcoming hike next morning. We chatted over a big pot of pasta, stars above us, and backpacker’s laughter around us.

Day of the hike came and I packed up my backpack with the essentials. Well, the essentials I thought at least were water, banana, protein bars, two sandwiches, camera, and inhaler. Wait, no, I forgot the inhaler like always. Duly noted, I now know that I should pack way differently. We left the hostel by bus around 7am and arrived at 7:30am. The bus driver gave us a motivational speech about how many people have died in the past couple months and how it’s really hard and to use the toilets whenever there is one, even when you don’t need to piss. Feeling inspired I hopped off the bus and started on my merrily way. I felt a bit bummed not having a partner but thought, hey I’ll get to really think about life and will enjoy the walk.

  
Passing the 1km mark felt like 5 hours had already passed…it didn’t.
The weather was foggy and a bit chilly but I quickly worked up a sweat after walking up the stairs of hell. Seriously…there were a lot of stairs up the mountain. Stopped at the first site of toilets before the tough stuff. So I took off my yoga pants since I had yoga shorts underneath. I thought I’d get overheated walking up the volcano. NOPE. It was bloody freezing instantly. My nose was running, my legs were stinging and red, and I was panting like a mutha’. I toughed it out till I got to the first resting peak and quickly slapped my pants back on. Back to hiking I realised how out of shape I truly became.

Finally reaching the second resting peak I asked a stranger for some of their sunscreen. The second peak was so close to the sun I felt I could touch it. Hours went by. My feet became so tense and my knees ached. The third peak was visible and I felt a surge of energy to get it over with. This was what I thought would be the hard part of the hike. I would later be wrong. It got to the point where I had to crawl up the rocks and hold on to the provided chains that were drilled into the rocks of the volcano. It was so windy that I thought I could easily blow away at any minute. Feeling safe in a clearly unsafe area, I decided to take a quick sandwich break midway when I found a flat rock. The amount of people who walked by me saying “man, you picked an interesting place for a sandwich break” was unreal. Yes, I get it. I’m weird.

  
Finally I made it to the top of the volcano. It looked like another world up there. Almost like Mars. Groups of people sat around eating their lunches, barely speaking to each other at what I assumed was a mix of pure exhaustion and awe. I sucked down some water and went on my way. Too eager to get it all over with. Too exhausted to want to sit and chat. Remember when I said before that I thought that was the hard part of the hike? Well the rest of the hike was the absolute hardest. Going down the peak of the volcano is pure ash. So one wrong move and you slip right onto your bum. It’s absolutely exhausting on your knees and ankles. But the view of the sulphuric pools gleaming in the horizon make it so so so worth it. I took about 1,000 pictures and continued on my way again. Wondering how much longer the hike would take.

  
This is when I didn’t give a lick about chatting with anyone. I was so cranky from already being sore that I couldn’t even put a fake smile on my face. It was a whole new level of exhaustion that I can say I’ve never experienced.
After hiking the actual volcanic terrain, it goes into this weird meadow where you can see the zigzag of trail ahead of you. THIS IS THE WORST PART. Because you legit can’t tell when you will be at the end. It is the worst feeling. I trudged along. Hating how I was feeling. Cursing the idea of this 19km hike. Doubting I could go on. Fearing I would take a tumble and hurt myself. Singing and mumbling profanities. I sounded like a drunken sailor.

This went on for hours.

And then…I heard cheers. Cheers of backpackers ahead of me. Screaming and high fiving. Fellow hikers who felt the exact same way I did. To see the carpark creep between the trees ahead of me was an unreal feeling that I will never forget. I did it. I hiked 19.4 kms in regular sneakers, by myself, for 7 1/2 hours. I was so ecstatic that when I entered the carpark I blurted out “thank fuck!”
Our bus wasn’t to come until 4pm. It was 3:00. So a nap was in order. I zoned out instantly. Waking every now and then to hear more cheers. The bus came and I plopped in the seat stinking of all sorts of smells. And of course who sits next to me? A gorgeous blonde Canadian guy. Awkward chatting and hoping he couldn’t smell me the most out of the bus.

I made it back to the hostel and collapsed on my bed, bitching to Luxembourg guy on how awful it was but so insanely worth it.

And it was. I have no fear and doubt. Doing that hike tested myself and what I am capable of achieving. It produced more goals on my bucket list and a better thought process on how to go about completing them. I felt like I could conquer the world after that day.

My advice to anyone who thinks they can’t do something outside their comfort zone because of fear or doubt, do it. You’ll bitch and moan the whole time but you’ll feel so alive after.

Down under

What does the world’s worst traveler look like? Just picture a 30 inch suitcase that could fit a grown man, a duffel bag full of more useless shit, and a confused/extremely sweaty American girl looking all sorts of lost.

That would be me.

Catching my direct flight from Los Angeles to Sydney then Sydney to good ol’ Townsville, Queensland. Where winter is basically American summer. And their summer is basically what it would be like to live in hell or a wood-fire oven. Your sweat is sweating.

I chose to take a huge step. I’d like to say it was the biggest step I have ever taken but there were many more huge steps to come after getting on that flight to Australia. Stepping off the plane was like a butterfly stepping out of its cocoon. I was stripping myself of whoever I was in America. Wiping a clean slate. Starting afresh. I thought I would change. And I hoped that I would change. And looking back after 10 months of being away from everything and everyone I knew in America, I can most definitely say I have changed. I look back on my old diary posts where I ranted about guys or talked about my low self esteem and now I have become rather boastful. I did it. I lived almost an entire year by myself in a foreign country. How many people can say they have done that? Sometimes my depression truly masks how amazing that is.

I couldn’t have done the first 6 months alone without the amazing comfort from my host family in Queensland. Taylor, the au pair I replaced, and Stephanie, the host mum, truly did everything to make me feel happy and safe my first month. And I’m forever grateful for that.

So since I am far too lazy to write all about my actual trip right this second, I will begin my first post with a small bucket list I have created that I think everyone should do if they come to Australia.

1. Eat vegemite straight off a spoon – because I was bullied to…

2. Hike Wallaman Falls – highest, permanent, single drop waterfall in Australia.

3. Boat trip to the Whitsunday Island – stop at Whitehaven Beach for sheer beauty.

4. Obviously hold a koala and pet a kangaroo – with a selfie or two.

5. Snorkel with sea turtles and stingrays – while in the Great Barrier Reef.

6. Stargaze an open road – don’t knock it till you try it. Australia’s open outback roads are intoxicating at night. Plus you’d see a car coming and whatnot…

7. Josephine Falls – you can slide down a natural waterslide and not hurt your bum. The most fun I’ve had since I was 3.

8. Drink in Airlie Beach – the most fun I’ve had since college. Seriously..you will drink with the most fun backpackers I have ever met.

9. St. Kilda at 9pm – you can see penguins waddle in from the water.

10. Hike Castle Hill in North QLD – you will actually feel like you are dying but a view at the end that’s well worth it.

11. Enjoy a rooftop bar in Melbourne – Melbourne has genuinely the best rooftop bars and hidden beer gardens.

12. Go to Byron Bay – I don’t need to give a reason. It’s fucking beaut.

13. Wilsons Prom – I have yet to do this but will before I leave…I hear it’s all sorts of wonderful.

14. Eat fish and chips by the beach – if you feel like getting mauled by seagulls.

15. Run up Sydney Opera House steps – you will look like an idiot but it’s still fun.

16. Hike Tongariro Alpine Crossing in North Island New Zealand – the most epic thing I have ever done.

I have a couple more weeks left in this fine country and now all the memories are flooding back to me. Might as well continue this whole blog thingy!!

What does the world’s worst traveler look like after 10 months? A 75L backpack that smells like a dead person, barely any clothes, and I still sweat a ton while always looking confused.

Cheers. x