As the product of a biracial marriage, I grew up with an immense amount of diversity. My father grew up in Iran (also known as Persia) speaking Farsi. My mother grew up in LA with a Native American Mother and Mexican/Spanish Father speaking Spanish. I spoke English, Farsi and Spanish as a child.
By age 7, I had traveled out of the country multiple times and even lived in Iran with my parents for a year. That’s where my love for travel began. Leaving home always felt scary and exciting. It almost felt like living on a different planet. The food, the smells, the sounds; everything was so different. As cliche as it sounds, the one thing that remains the same to me in any country is: love. A smile is the same in every language.
After college, my true adventures started as I embarked on my first study abroad trip. Shortly after returning to the states, the study abroad company hired me as their logistics coordinator. My tasks included (but were never limited to) welcoming students as they arrived to the airports, assign hotel rooms, classroom schedules, museum/club/restaurant recommendations, accompany students to our host universities, social media promotional campaigns, answer student/parent questions about the program, serve as liaison between our program and students’ home university and plan professional visits to companies like:
Louis Vuitton – Istanbul, Turkey
Codornui Cava/Winery – Barcelona, Spain
Tous Jewelry – Barcelona, Spain
United Nations – Geneva, Switzerland
L’oreal – Milan, Italy
World Trade Organization- Geneva, Switzerland
All Images (Meetrah )
My life traveling was glamorous in retrospect. It was hard work living out of a suitcase, spending holidays alone in airports and being away from my loved ones. However, my experiences abroad gave me enough stories to last a lifetime. Meeting students from all over the world, helping them navigate foreign territory, witnessing their personal growth from the day they arrived to the day they left and seeing them create life long friendships were by far the most rewarding parts of my job.
A glimpse of my life as a study abroad logistics coordinator:
My Top 5 Travel Must Have Items
When it comes to packing, there are 2 types of packers. Those who throw everything in a bag and go, then those who look at packing like an art. I’m the type that packs meticulously, everything has its place and I know exactly what I want to wear on what day of my trip (I’m that annoying.).
Warning: Many of these are super cliche but let’s be honest- they are still must haves for most travelers.
These are a few little travel hacks/items that I use that make life a little easier.
1. Travelo– Its a perfume/cologne refillable atomizer made for travel. Most of the perfumes I love are not made in small travel size. You can use a scent that you already have, take the top of your perfume or cologne off and pump it into the bottom of the atomizer. They come in a variety of colors and safe to store in a carry on bag.
Only $2.38 on amazon
2. Waterless razor by Gillette Venus at Bed Bath and Beyond – Doesn’t matter if you forgot to have your face, legs or underarm – this is every man or woman’s must have during a busy trip (especially a beach trip). I love how the gel leaves no razor bumps or skin irritations. Only $2.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond.
3. My Donut Donut – Obviously neck pillow donuts are a must have for flights or road trips but who doesn’t love a donut donut? Its unique, so no mixing it up with anyone else’s neck pillow. It’s also memory foam , aka super comfy. I found this one for $7.99 at Tj Maxx
4. Tech Junkie pouch – There are many versions of the tech to-go bag. This one was perfect for me – it fits 3 different chargers for my phone, ipad, wireless selfie stick (don’t judge me), earbuds, USB and portable wireless phone charger with a little spare room for various cords or adapters. This one was $10 at Nordstrom Rack
5. ReTrak Bluetooth Selfie Stick (I told you, don’t judge me) – I know, I know *hangs head in shame – So ridiculous. However, let’s be honest … as silly as these things are, they are so nice to document a badass trip without bugging people you dont know to snap a pic of you in front of some random cool spot. I’ve gone through a few selfie sticks and this one has been my favorite. It’s compact, bluetooth, wireless, long charge life and has a simple button to snap a pic. I found it for $20 at Target
For my 30th birthday, I treated myself to a Hawaiian getaway. It had been a rough year, but a year to celebrate. This trip was exactly what I needed and wanted. It didn’t hurt that my bestie there waiting for me to arrive!
DISCLAIMER: Hawaii is expensive. *que the “Kanye shrug”
Where I stayed:
The Modern Honolulu-
I loved this hotel. From top to bottom, this place was the perfect getaway. It was walking distance from the beach and great restaurants. Front desk was kind and helpful. The bar decor was probably my favorite. I’m a fan of modern decor so the ambiance suited me. Room was comfortable and clean. After the initial sticker shock of the price, I quickly settled in and enjoyed because after all – life is short.
I’m pretty sure I paid the insane amount of $16 for a small fruit parfait that room service brought to my room. However, it was delicious and it was my birthday.
I would definitely stay here again and highly recommend it.
Book The Modern
What I saw:
My first stop after being picked up from the airport was Tantalus, Oahu. My bestie drove us there to give me a panorama glimpse of the island that would be my playground for the next 5 days. It was a perfect way to introduction to the beautiful island of Oahu.
In the photo above, you can see the large mountain – Diamond Head.
Where I hiked:
The next day we woke up at 5am to go hike Diamond Head. It was a moderate hike for beginners and fairly easy for seasoned hikers. Going early was perfect for avoiding large crowds, the heat and a spectacular front row seat to the sunrise. Definitely worth seeing – you’ll be in awe of what your eyes witness from that view. It was amazing to see the sky transform from full of starts to a radiant sun.
Where I beached:
It’s hard for anyone who loves the water to pick a favorite beach- especially in Hawaii. I didn’t visit a beach that I didn’t absolutely love. Each one had a unique view, different vibe and varying colors.
Waimanalo Beach – more secluded, soft sand, amazing trees and very chill (quiet) vibes. The drive there is also phenomenal with a few cool observatory points.
The North Shore was quite the opposite – vibrant, loud, packed with people enjoying the sun and sand volleyball. Great food – lively scene. If you’re looking for a beach party- you’ll most likely find friends here. We met a friendly guy from the island who was a HUGE Dallas Cowboys fan – cooking out with his family. There are no strangers here.
Where I ate:
Surprising my favorite meals in Hawaii were not meals at all. Some people have a sweet tooth (a craving for sweets). I myself have sweet TEETH (an infatuation with sweets)- its awful, I know. However, its important to disclaim that I’ve learned through my fitness journey – it’s all about moderation. But also, ITS VACATION – So- enjoy!
ARVO – trendy, hipster-esque spot that offers amazing gourmet lattes and brunch bites. Anything you order there will be ridiculously photogenic and insta worthy! They also have an awesome (pricey) boutique attached next door that includes: clothing, shoes, plants and accessories! It’s a must visit!
MATSUMOTO SHAVED ICE – You won’t talk to anyone on the island who hasn’t at least heard of this place- expect to wait in line for a bit. Like ARVO, this place stays busy and has an awesome souvenir shop attached to it next door. You’ll definitely want to try this place out after a day at the beach. It’s in a strip near other cool boutiques and markets.
Good eats are in abundance on the island- but sweets and bites are my favorite.
No amount of time in Hawaii seemed like it would have been enough. Catching up with a dear friend, hiking, relaxing on the beach- toes in the sand, good music playing. That’s what this trip was about for me. Saying “good bye”felt more like “see you later” because I know I didn’t do, see or eat half of what Hawaii has to offer.
On the last day, I woke up early went to the beach to write in my journal and reflect on how truly grateful and blessed I felt to have the opportunity to experience this place. I also promised myself that the next time I came back would be with someone I loved – it’s truly a magical and romantic place. Perfect to experience alone but amazing to experience with the one you love. So until next time…
TOP 5 BUCKETLIST DESTINATIONS
Its seems like no amount of travel will ever halt the insatiable desire to see more of the world. While unpacking my bags from a trip, I’m usually scrolling through pinterest deciding where I can save up to visit next trip. These places always catch my eyes and I find myself more often than not, creating an itinerary of all the things I look forward to seeing when I get there.
- ICELAND- Plane tickets to Iceland out of Dallas (with a connection flight) has become surprisingly more cost-effective over the past couple of years. After seeing images of the thermal pools and the northern lights, I told myself – “I’m going there!” Conde Nast Traveler – 10 Most Beautiful Spots in Iceland– this article solidified me wanting to visit.
2. NEW ZEALAND- Although I’m not a huge fan of extreme sports, I do love hiking. The landscape looks so beautiful that my mind can’t truly grasp it without seeing for myself. Of all the destinations on my list, I know the least about New Zealand. My parents visited once when I was a chile, I just remember thinking I want to go one day.
3. SOUTH AFRICA- Before learning to conquer the art of traveling alone, I carried a sense of fear when it came to traveling to parts of the Middle East and Africa. I quickly realized – there will always be slight factors of fear or danger when traveling. It’s important to me that I never let fear deter me from seeing places I’ve dreamed of seeing. I feel like parts of Africa get a bad reputation. Regardless, something about being in a market, on a safari or even something as simple as sitting in a coffee shop in Cape Town, intrigues me.
4. DENMARK- Although at first glance of pictures, parts of Copenhagen really resembles Nederlands (Amsterdam) to me. However, after researching some more, I found the thing I love and want to see most in Denmark. Much like Switzerland, it has a large variety of terrain and vibes. You can visit a major city that’s full of people, business and the “go-go” lifestyle you would find in a city like NYC. Then you can visit locations like Faroe Islands, Denmark with an opposite vibe of tranquility. I’d love to see the secluded, quiet countryside scenery that Denmark has to offer.
5. THAILAND- After readying this blog: 10 mistakes to avoid visiting Thailand, I feel like I’m ready to conquer the beaches and sights of Thailand. I’ve always been drawn to visit Krabi and Ko Phi Phi the most. I’m a sucker for time at the beach and lounging. Something about the culture, food and the water motivates me to save all those little pennies to make them count!
Did these destinations make it onto your bucketlist?
I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of visiting Paris countless times, once with family and many time while employed by a European study abroad company.
I always used to tell students and people with a new-found love for travel: “Always visit cities with an open mind and absolutely no expectations”. If you go to Paris expecting to be swept off your feet, find the man of your dreams, eat tasty pastries that have a magic no calorie – stay thin antidote – You’ll be painfully disappointed.
Every visit to Paris for me was different. I always found something new to enjoy there. For people who enjoy the more “underground” establishments. Paris has amazing consignment boutiques. Culture, good food and scenery is there for the finding!
Where I stayed:
I stayed at the same hotel every time we visited Paris. Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon is cost-effective and attached to a train station. We would often times take trains to Amsterdam while in Paris for the week. It’s in a desirable part of town. It’s not super close to tourist attractions but you get a feel for what the rest of Paris feels like without the hype of being so close to the Eiffel Tower.
What I saw:
THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
Obviously, the Louvre Museum is a must. Even if museums aren’t your scene, at least grab a cup of coffee/tea and snack on a macaron while you walk by it. Something about seeing it in person, gives you goosebumps. The entrance fee is 17 euros (well worth it) and the museum is closed on Tuesdays. It’s the BIGGEST museum in the world. Walking through the Egyptian art exhibit will leave you intrigued and walking away with an eerie feeling – perhaps because its said to be haunted by a mummy named Belphagor.
Duh, The Eiffel Tower
If possible, visit Paris during Bastille Day (French Independence Day), July 14th. You will see the most spectacular fireworks show behind the Eiffel Tower that will leave you speechless and in awe of its beauty. Loud French music blaring while people gather in the grassy areas, picnic style enjoying a bottle of wine and baguettes.
VERSAILLES VS. GIVERNY, FRANCE
A trip to Versailles is also a must. Everyone is different – to each their own. That being said, if I had to choose between a train ride to Versailles or Giverny- hometown of famous painter/artist Claude Monet. I would hands down pick Giverny. It’s a small quiet town that has a village feel to it. Giverny is about an hour outside of Paris. Train ticket is anywhere from 10-15 Euros.
Directions: Vernon-Giverny station is situated on the main train line Paris / Rouen / Le Havre. It starts from the Saint-Lazare Paris station (which has not changed much since Monet painted it). The fastest trainscomplete the journey in less than 45 min. In the Metro, take the ‘SNCF – Grandes Lignes’ exit. Once you exit the train, take a short taxi ride to Rue de Claude Monet where the museum and home of Claude Monet is located. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in France. My body was overcome with inspiration being on this property where he painted the famous, Water Lily Pond.
These next spots may sound a bit odd but trust me on this.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
This is the burial site of Jim Morrison, writer- Oscar Wilde, composer- Chopin and many more famous individuals. The grounds are simply beautiful, it’s not uncommon for Parisians to take a stroll through this cemetery and Passy cemetery – where composer Claude Debussy, painter Manet and Princess of Iran Leila Pahlavi lay to rest. It’s not as creepy as it sounds to walk through these beautiful cemeteries to pay your respects to so many amazing legends. They are actually quite the tourist attractions.
What I ate:
You can’t leave Paris without trying a simple French cuisine. The most common would be the Croque Madame/ Croque Monsieur. You can find this at almost any diner in Paris. You also must try the traditional Crème brûlée and/or a macaron.
Maison Claudel or Chez Habibi – affordable wine bars near the Hotel Mercure.
Macarons from Laudree or Gerard Mulot are a must!!
There are simply far too many restaurants to mention or even begin to recommend in Paris. However, a trip to Paris really isn’t complete (in my opinion) without giving these a try. No blog or yelp review will ever truly do this city justice it’s simply a place that needs to be experienced. There is also nothing that could possibly prepare you for the awful smell of what is the city metro but it’s all a part of the amazing experience that is Paris.
voilà – There you have it in a nutshell.
Merci beaucoup for reading ❤
Goondocks Getaway: Oregon Trip
Portland, Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside & Cannon Beach
My family and I got a chance to getaway to Oregon for a few days. I have no clue why we picked Oregon but I’m so glad that we did! It may have had something to do with The Goonies & The Kindergarten Cop being filmed there.
We flew into Portland airport where we rented a car and drove to Warrenton where our Airbnb was located.
What we ate:
After landing in Portland and picking up the car, we stopped for some coffee and a quick bite to eat at The Bread & Honey Cafe. I would pass on the lattes here but the biscuits and cinnamon roll are a must-try!
Once we arrived in Warrenton, we ventured off to Seaside, Astoria and Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach by far, was my favorite town.
We tried – Tom’s Fish and Chips, Insomnia Cafe, Cannon Beach Bakery, Crepes and Bruce’s Candy Shop.
Bruce’s Candy Shop is definitely worth sneaking in for a peek. Fun goodies/gifts to take home to loved ones.
Cannon Beach Bakery was a piece of heaven. The coffee is good but not the best. You want to try the almond bear claw and the snickerdoodle cookies here!
Crepes are super tasty here. I had to order the Goonies Crepe (Of course!). It did not disappoint!
If you try one thing in Cannon Beach, let it be the Chai Latte from Insomnia Cafe. We will forever be craving this latte and will compare all future lattes to this one! The pastries taste as amazing as they look too.
Skip Tom’s Fish and Chips and try Driftwood instead. You’ll pay a little more but Driftwood is much tastier with a better view and ambiance.
Our last night, my mom took advantage of the amazing outdoor kitchen at the Airbnb. She did a phenomenal crab boil that left us all licking our fingers! Afterwards, we enjoyed the fire pit and roasted marshmallows for s’mores. Perfect weather and way to end our trip.
What we saw:
While in Portland, we visited the Japanese Gardens. I feel like it was a bit overpriced. However, my family enjoyed the scenery and view of Portland. Good way to stretch our legs before our mini road trip to Warrenton.
Portland Japanese Gardens
Ecola State Park
Fort Stevens State Park
The Goonies Scenery
The Flavel House
Indian Beach Sites in Cannon Beach
I’d go back to Oregon in a heartbeat to hike in Ecola State Park again. We only did two trails there. We would have loved to hike the whole park. This was the a great getaway to relax, hike and enjoy all the beautiful scenery and glorious weather!
Travel- Chicago Edition
The Windy City
I go to Chicago every four months or so to visit my Dad. However, it was Dane’s first time in Chi-town so I wanted it to be memorable. We hit all this tourist hot spots then a few “hidden gems” of the city. Early fall is by far the best time to visit – cool enough to walk everywhere but warm enough to not freeze getting place to place.
Where we stayed:
Dana Hotel and Spa – Chicago
I always use the Hotels Tonight app to book all our hotels.
– The key to getting the best deal: Check to make sure there are not any major conventions, events or sporting games going on in the city that would cause a spike in rates. Then, I usually wait the week or even the night of my stay to book the room.
Also, use the promo code below to get $25 off your next booking!
-Dana is by far my favorite hotel in Chicago. The doorman, TJ always remembers my name and the manager Tim is beyond helpful and friendly. The location and modern design are ideal for couple’s getaway.
What we ate:
Yolk: Visit Yolk
Great coffee, Mexican Omelette and the banana nut bread French Toast!
Firecakes: Visit Firecakes
We tried the coconut donut with vanilla ice cream and a chai latte, did not disappoint! Also, loved sitting outside on the bench to enjoy the weather.
Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.: Visit Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.
My Dad and brother raved about this place so we had to try it but must be honest: We were not impressed with this pizza nor the host/manager (not very friendly). The pizza looked amazing but way too salty for our taste. I enjoyed Lou Malnati’s pizza much more.
Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe: Visit Wildberry Pancakes Cafe
This was by far my favorite breakfast/brunch we had on the trip! We tried the pumpkin frapp, pumpkin spice pancakes and the southern eggs benedict- Delish!
The Signature Room: Visit The Signature Room at the 95th
Warning: you will pay a lot of money here and as far as I could tell – You’re paying for the view. The food was very underwhelming. We ordered the tuna tartare appetizer: very good. For our main courses we ordered the pork chop and steak with whipped potatoes and brussel sprouts sides. The sides were much tastier than the main dishes. Desserts were a little better: keylime cheesecake and creme brulee.
TIP: Skip eating here and make reservations at the lounge to enjoy a drink or two with a great view.
Portillos: Visit Portillo’s
This is a true chicago style hotdog spot- it’s always busy and tasty! It’s casual dining in or to go. I was a little nervous when I saw how greasy the bag looked but oh, it was worth it!
Do-Rite Donuts: Visit Do-Rite Donuts
Yum, Yum and more YUM! Do yourself a favor and order the Vera Cruz sandwich and any donut here. So tasty! Skip the coffee- it was a bit bitter for our taste.
Nutella Cafe: Visit Nutella Cafe – Chicago
I wish we’d had time to order something to eat here, everything looked so good but we tried the Mocha Latte (of course, made with NUTELLA). Definitely worth popping in for a taste or even just a smell of the nutella!
Small Cakes: Visit SmallCakes – Chicago
I’m glad we walked here from Wrigley Field, it was pure sugar overload! The staff was friendly and patient as you desperately try to decide what to try because everything looks so delicious! They basically put a layer of ice cream and cupcake into a cup and viola! Enjoy!
Lou Malnati’s: Visit Lou Malnati’s
This place always has a wait but its worth it. Make sure you go hungry!
It’s my favorite deep dish pizza in Chicago (many will debate over this). I suggest the sausage pizza, easy on the sauce. So good! My dad got to join us here.
What we saw:
Chicago Theater: We bought tickets to see comedian Jim Jefferies at the Chicago Theater. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard in our lives! Best date night ever! We were cry-laughing. This theater was built in 1921, so beautiful inside and out. Apparently, there were some protesters that did not find Jim Jefferies’ skit on circumcision very funny. (Oops 🙈)
SkyDeck Chicago at Willis Tower: Although, it’s a bit over-priced- I highly recommend visiting if you’ve never been to Chicago. It’s an amazing view of the entire city from the 2nd tallest building in the U.S. Formerly known as Sears Tower, the building will always be photo worthy.
“ Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis? – I still call it Sears Tower”
Navy Pier: Perfect for a stroll with a view, its similar to the boardwalk. You can hop on an architecture tour on the water from here too. Great for couples or families.
Shoreline Architecture Tour: This is one of my favorite things to do in Chicago when the weather is nice. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the views from the water.
The Bean/ AKA: The Cloud Gate: The iconic landmark in Millennium Park. Shaped like a bean or to some, a cloud. You can find tons of people visiting to take pictures with reflections of the skyscrappers in the background.
Wrigley Field: I’m not a big baseball fan at all. However, this field is famous for wild fans and surrounding fun bars. Its definately worth walking by to experience.
The best free things to do in Chicago:
-Lincoln Park / Lincoln Park Zoo
“And all that Jazz” ~ Chicago