Bali Blogs: Feeling Comfortable Traveling Solo

Bali Blogs: Feeling Comfortable Traveling Solo

I spent the first half of November traveling solo around Bali. It was magical, blissful, invigorating, and rejuvenating. I love to travel and while there is something so special about traveling with a friend, partner, or family and getting to create and share memories together, there is something really empowering and relaxing about traveling solo.

I know for many people traveling solo can feel a bit overwhelming. I’ve gotten many messages on Instagram along the lines of “You’re doing that alone?!” or “I could never do that!”  If traveling solo holds no appeal to you, read no further. But if it’s something you’ve thought of doing but aren’t quite sure if that’s too far out of your comfort zone, keep reading, I’m sharing my tips for making traveling solo accessible and most importantly – FUN!

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eating solo at Crate Cafe

I’ll start with saying I didn’t wake up one day and decide my first solo trip would be halfway around the world to Bali. I’ve been traveling abroad since high school when I decided to take Spanish for a year so I could spend the summer in Cadiz, Madrid, and Seville. In college, I went abroad twice, first to Australia and then to Copenhagen, and since then I’ve traveling both throughout the States and abroad as much as my bank account and vacation days allowed. Getting comfortable traveling takes time, and like anything, the more you do it the easier and more natural it becomes.

Leading us to tip 1: start small. take a day trip to a nearby town you’ve been wanting to visit. wander around, take yourself out to eat, see the sights of the place. Then maybe take a weekend trip a few hours away, then maybe fly to a different state, etc. etc. Whatever feels accessible to you right now, start there. As you get more comfortable traveling in general and on your own, expand your horizons and the distance you go.

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waterfall showers

No matter where I am traveling to I like to have a plan in advance and do a bit of research. The less I know a place, the more I prepare. For Bali this meant reading up on the culture a bit, reading blogs to find out what other people enjoyed or didn’t, searching for restaurants, researching hotels and Airbnbs, and noting all the sight seeing or activities that I wanted to do. There is so much information out there in the digital age, with a bit of patience and time you can find everything you need to know! Once I have my favorites I save them in a list on google maps. These points stay available even when I don’t have service so I am able to navigate to and from places without worrying about roaming or Wifi. Before I leave I have a rough outline of what I plan to do each day. This also helps me to fit more in because I’m not spending time on my trip trying to figure out where to go or what to do.  Tip 2: Do your research. Pin your favorite places.

Contrary to Tip 2, Tip 3 is to deviate from the plan as necessary. A plan is great but so is spontaneity and being flexible. Opportunities may arise to do something new or you may feel incredibly jet lagged and taking a nap sounds way better than a strenuous hike. Let your plan provide the framework, from there go with the flow. Traveling is your vacation time after all, the less you worry about changes along the way, the more you will enjoy your time.

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swinging over the jungle in Bali

While you’re traveling solo, keep in mind that that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. Tip 4: ask for help! If you need a recommendation of where to go or how to get there, just ask! Hotel concierges and Airbnb hosts typically know the area well and can provide great recommendations of where to go. Or ask a stranger. I’ve only had positive experiences with asking people. Be kind, courteous, and grateful, but definitely reach out when you need to!

Tip 5: Be safe; Trust your gut. I operate on the theory that all people are good people and that the universe will keep me safe. That said, no matter where in the world you are traveling, the later you are out at night and the more you drink, the more likely you are to get into an unsafe situation, get lost, etc. When I’m traveling solo (and honestly really all the time) I’m back home early and avoiding the club scene. If going out & drinking is something that you want to include in your travels, be mindful and careful just as you would in any city. Along with some caution, trust your gut. If something doesn’t sit right with you – listen to that, don’t do it. I’ve canceled Airbnbs and plans because something felt off to me. There might not be a concrete reason but if my gut tells me no, I head that.

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Walking the Campuhan Ridge

And lastly, make the most of the time to yourself. Not only does this mean you get to determine what the day holds for you, but it’s really precious time to take to reflect, journal, meditate, and simply be.

Have other questions about traveling solo? Leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you 😽

National Park Packing Essentials

National Park Packing Essentials

Alex and I are headed off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow and as I started to pack I thought it might be helpful to share with you what my packing essentials are for any National Park or hiking trip we go on.

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National Park Packing Essentials
  1. Comfy Clothes: Comfort is king when you’re on the trails all day. Look for soft, breathable materials that will feel good to move in. I like to bring layers with me as I am 1) always cold and 2) elevation changes can have a major impact on temperatures. For Bryce I am packing these cozy green leggings and tank made in collaboration by Beyond Yoga and Parks Project. Bonus: each product supports conservancy projects in National Parks.
  2. Hiking Boots (not pictured): Depending on where you are hiking and the type of trails you will be on, trail sneakers may be enough but I highly suggest hiking boots if you have them or the budget to get a pair. Hiking boots are more durable than sneakers, provide good grip on trails, will help keep your feet dry, and will prevent injury. I got mine at REI (I think, its been years honestly). Sierra Trading Post tends to have great deals if you’re on a budget!
  3. Backpack: A good backpack is necessary to carry all of the below items and most importantly SNACKS. I got this Fjallraven backpack last year for a trip up to Washington State and love it! It’s not too big but holds everything I need for a day hike. I will caution that the side pockets are on the smaller side and don’t fit large wattle bottles.
  4. Sunscreen: If you’re outside all day, especially on open trails, sunscreen is a MUST. I like Bare Republic’s sunscreen because they are biodegradable and reef friendly, made without chemical additives, synthetic fragrances, or parabens, they protect your skin (UVA/UVB) and the environment.
  5. Water Bottle: This is common sense really but worth noting that the amount of water you bring with you should be in line with how many miles you’re hiking, how hot it is outside, how humid it is, etc. Better to be safe than sorry – always bring more than you think you need. And always bring it in a reusable bottle 😉 I love my Faucet Face bottles that I won in one of the first Instagram yoga challenges I participated in. Made of glass, these bottles feature fun designs on the side and donate a portion of all proceeds to clean drinking water charities.

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    Bryce Canyon at sunrise, illuminating all of the hoodoos. pc: BryceCanyon.org
  6. Journal: I like to bring a journal to jot down the hikes we did, any anecdotes, stories, or things to remember. This helps me to remember the trip more vividly and is always fun to look back on.
  7. Camera: I am SO excited to finally have a DSLR camera to bring with us on this trip. For former trips all photos were taken with my iPhone, which was completely fine, especially when a nicer camera wasn’t in the budget. Alex and I recently sprung for the Nikon 5300, which is a good, entry level DSLR camera for beginner photographers.
  8. Face wash: I wear very little makeup regularly and basically none while hiking (I always wear mascara because I feel like my eyes disappear without it). I like to keep my skin routine as simple and gentle as possible when traveling. Natura Culina is one of my favorite skin care brands; their products are paraben and sulfate free, non-toxic, and cruelty free. They have a chamomile face wash that does a great job cleansing the skin without drying it out. You can get 10% off your order with my code “julia”.
  9. Chapstick: I’ve forgotten these a few times and regretted it so much. Between the sun, being outside all day, and hiking, my lips need some TLC. I love the Hurraw chapstick. They are vegan, cruelty free, and super nourishing.
  10. Compass: This is either the most or least necessary of the list. Most likely you won’t need a compass at all and it’s just a fun add on to bring with you but JUST IN CASE, it never hurts to have one. Phone batteries die, compasses don’t. I think it is kind of fun to think about navigating with one of these too.

That’s it! Did I miss anything you always bring with you on your hiking trips?

What National Parks are you dying to visit?

lmk.

xo

Jules

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree Recap

I had all intentions of writing this ASAP after a mini trip to Joshua Tree a few weekends ago. But then life happens, things get pushed to the back burner, and here we are. As I just started a new job, I am pretty limited on vacation days, so Alex and I took advantage of the long weekend for President’s Day to take a quick trip up to Joshua Tree. From San Diego it’s about a three-hour drive, so very do able for a weekend. I was teaching a class Saturday, so we left early Sunday, came back Monday and the drive still wasn’t bad.

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Joshua Tree National Park

There is a small town that has been built up around the park, but for the most part the park is in the middle of nowhere. The park itself has no wifi (love it) which makes it the perfect place to disconnect, go off the grid for a bit, and just enough the scenery around you. For any trip Alex and I make that is nature oriented, I love to leave my phone behind as much as possible or leave it on airplane mode. Between being out in nature and away from all other distractions, it makes the trip extra relaxing.

Joshua Tree is popular among both hikers and climbers. Although we aren’t climbers and did not do any climbing while there, it is always fun to see people scaling up the rocks. The first day we explored around the park, walked the Willow Hole and Split Rock trails, and scrambled over rocks. We may have done another trail but my memory is failing me here. Wanting to get back to our Air Bnb before sunset, we called it a day after that. The house we stayed at was so impeccably put together; the owners had clearly put significant effort both in renovating the home, but also adding personal touches like essential oils in the bathroom, chocolates for each guest, lots of cozy blankets, etc. It was the perfect zen spot.

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sunset outside our air bnb

At the Air Bnb, I rolled out my mat for some easy flows, snapped a few pictures at sunset, and then popped my feet up with a glass of wine and a bowl of vegan chili 🙂 After the sky got nice and dark, we went outside to stargaze. Being far away from any city lights makes an incredible difference. The entire sky was lit up with a million shining specks. If you are into star gazing, I highly recommend the “Sky Guide” app. You hold the phone up to the sky and it will tell you which constellations you are looking at – so cool!

We woke up well before the sun Monday as we wanted to catch sunrise at the Cholla Cactus gardens. It took us a bit longer than expected to weave our way through the entire park, but we caught sunrise as we drove and made it to the gardens as soft beams of light were just beginning to come through.

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Cholla Cactus Garden @ sunrise

After that, we went back to Skull Rock. There were way too many people there the day before and I prefer to be out in nature with as few humans as possible 😉 We had all intentions of hiking Ryan Mountain, but I had greatly underestimated how cold it was going to be and the wind was STRONG, so we opted for one of the easy loops. This ended up being a very good call as shortly after we finished, dark clouds rolled in and it hailed. Yup, hail in a desert. Given the weather, we opted for brunch instead of anymore hiking and then made our way back to San Diego.

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Me @ Skull Rock

I cannot stress enough how much putting my phone away for this trip made it feel so rejuvenating and like a much longer getaway than just an overnight trip. Whether it’s on vacation, for a day over the weekend, or past a certain hour each night, I am trying to more consciously spend time disconnected from technology and connected to the present moment and those around me.

 

xo, Julia

Zion Adventures

Zion Adventures

One of my favorite parts about living in San Diego is the abundance of National Parks within weekend-ish distance. This year, I took advantage of the couple extra days off of work over Thanksgiving to make the mini trek out to Zion National Park. The drive is about 7 hours from San Diego (no traffic) and a fairly easy drive as you’re mostly on one highway the entire time. We took off early Thursday morning and arrived at the park mid-afternoon. Here’s a breakdown of my favorite hikes from the weekend 🙂

Angel’s Landing: This trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 4 hours in Zion’s trail guide. Round trip, with photos and snacks, it took us about 3 hours but we were definitely pushing the pace a bit on the way up. This hike starts with switchbacks going up and down the side of the mountain called “Walter’s Wiggles” that will give you a solid glute workout. After the switchbacks, it is a fairly easy hike with a slight elevation gain till you get the Angel’s Landing. This is where the trail gets fun.

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Looking out over Angel’s Landing. Photo: Andtheretheygo.com

If you aren’t someone who enjoys heights, you could stop here and still get some great views. I’m not the fondest of heights, but can say the trail forward looks more treacherous than it actually is. There are chains to hold onto along the way and a few spots where you have to scramble over the rock, but for the most part the trail is a steady elevation gain with enough rock to get a solid footing. The views at the top are beautiful and there are lots of flat rocks to sit on, have a snack, and soak up a little sun before heading back down. Overall, Angel’s Landing was the most unique hike because of the challenge of having to wind your way, somewhat precariously, over the cliff.

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View from the top of Angel’s Landing

PRO TIP: get up early and go first thing! I thought it was busy as we were going up, but coming back down there were major lines building up to go across. The ridge has a bunch of pinch points where only on person fits so if the trail gets busy, these points back up real quick.

Observation Point:

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Walking through the canyon

If you are up for a bit of a longer hike, I would highly recommend Observation Point. The trail is rated strenuous with an estimated hiking time of 6 hours in Zion’s trail guide. It took us about 3 and a half hours, including snacks and photos at the top. While I think we had a good pace, we were definitely making a point to go slow(ish) and enjoy our journey up and down. I think you could safely budget 4 hours for the hike. Similar to Angel’s Landing, the hike starts with switchbacks going up the side of the mountain.

From here, the trail carries you back through the canyon, then wraps around to Observation Point, which summits at 6,507 ft. Higher than Angel’s Landing, I think this hike gives the fullest view of the park. I found the trail up to Observation Point to be the most diverse and I think the section that goes through the canyon is just so cool and worth the hike in itself.

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View from Observation Point summit

 

PRO TIP: Again, go early. This trail was quieter than Angel’s Landing but still starting to fill up as we were making our way back down. Also, bring layers. In the morning and in the shade it is much colder than in the sun. It gets pretty variable depending on if you’re in the canyon or on the ridge. I took on and off my hoodie at least 10 times throughout the hike.

Weeping Rock: This is a super easy, quick walk from the same trailhead as Observation Point. Water that has filtered through the sandstone formations is forced out of the rock here, creating a waterfall of sorts. There are also “hanging gardens” along the side of the rock. Quick and picture worthy stop.

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Weeping Rock

Pa’rus Trail: By the time we arrived to the park the first day and checked in, we didn’t have a whole ton of time to hike so we opted for this trail as we didn’t have to worry about being back before sunset. The whole trail is paved and is more of a walking trail than a hike. The path winds through the valley with mountains on either side of you. You’ll likely see mule deer along the side of the trail who are (at least compared to the white tail deer I’m used to in NY) very unafraid of people. I saw one just a few feet away from me off the trail. Really pretty views along the trail and a nice, easy walk to end your day with.

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Pa’rus Trail

Lower and Upper Emerald Pools: These were the least thrilling hikes for me. Combined I think it is 2 miles to the upper pools with fairly easy, small sections of incline. The pools are pretty and have mini waterfalls similar to Weeping Rock. These trails can get busy as they are more accessible to families or those looking for a shorter hike. If you have the time, worth going. We did these trails after Observation Point and found they were perfect to end the day with.

Kayenta Trail: After the Upper Pools trail, instead of retracing our steps, we took the Kayenta back to the trailhead. Kayenta adds a couple extra miles onto your hike, mostly of paths that wind along the side of the mountain, providing incredible views of the valley and the Virgin River. I feel like I’ve said there are incredible views a lot, but there really are. The whole park is stunning.

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View from Kayenta Trail

Overall PRO TIP: if you are going to Zion anytime in the near future, beware that they are redoing the main road going in and out of the park. Traffic can back up for up to 30-40 minute waits on either end as you often have to wait for cars to clear out from the other direction. We stayed in the center of town and were able to walk to the entrance and avoid this madness. I loved not having to drive the whole weekend 🙂 Check the road status before you go and plan accordingly!

Packing PRO TIP: Bring snacks and water with you as there’s not anywhere in the park to get food aside from the lodge at the beginning. Wear layers and sunscreen. Bring hand sanitizer.

Last PRO TIP: As you take the shuttle through the valley, keep an eye out on the side of the canyon for rock climbers. We were lucky enough to see a group of climbers scaling the mountain as well as a guy ON A TIGHT ROPE between cliff edges.

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Observation Point Summit

Also, because hiking makes you HUNGRY, here are a few of the places I recommend:

Zion Canyon Brew Pub: Right by the entrance to the park, we stopped here both days after hiking for a glass of wine/beer and some fries. #hikinghunger

HooDoo’s General Store: Good place to grab any food you forgot to pack for your trip. Great soy lattes and a variety of wraps or sandwiches for a quick bite.

Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon: When going to a bar in the middle of nowhere Utah, I wasn’t exactly expecting excellent Mexican food. Count me wrong on this one because they had amazing burritos, fajitas, and spicy margs.

Apologies I have zero food pictures. We chose to leave our phones at the lodge for all dinners. This was part of a conscious effort to disconnect during the trip.

For the majority of the trip I was pretty phoneless. I brought it with me for the hikes in order to take photos, but left it on airplane mode all day. For meals, the phone was left behind. I really tried to not have it be present, which was SO rejuvenating. The more I take conscious breaks away from my phone, the more I move away from the need to consistently check it, the more I tell myself I don’t need to instantly respond to messages, the more I feel my stress levels decreasing. I recognize in today’s world that our phones are pretty critical, BUT, if you have an opportunity, like a trip to a national park, a day hike, or even just a dinner, turn it on airplane mode. Let the messages wait. Disconnect. Be present.

Still left on my Zion hikes to do: the Narrows. Waiting for warmer weather for that one!