Oahu, HI

No words will do this trip any justice. This was my third trip to the island, but by far the most memorable experience. I can truly say I've felt the spirit of Aloha. Contrary to popular belief, Oahu is severely underrated. Anyone who says otherwise never left Honolulu. 

Follow along as I recount our 2 week vacation in paradise.

Day 1: We kicked off our trip hiking Lanikai Pillbox, then relaxed on Lanikai Beach. The hike is one of the easiest on the island and offers spectacular views on clear, sunny days. 

Day 2: Kandace's only request for this trip was to go to a luau, so I put her in charge of picking one. Per a recommendation from a friend, she chose Cheif’s Luau. I would've likely chosen something less touristy, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. 

Day 3-5: No trip to Oahu is complete without visiting the North Shore. Surfers from all over the world visit this particular region to catch waves. After a day of cliff jumping, we grabbed dinner at North Shore Shrimp Truck, then walked over to Sunset Beach to witness God's beautiful work. Over the next few days, we came back to do it all over again. 

Day 6: A friend of mine suggested that we hike the Pink Pillboxes, so we made our way to the westside of the island for the very first time. I had no idea what to expect, but this day trip ended up opening my eyes to the best side of Oahu. After a treacherous hike (it was NO joke), we relaxed at Makaha Beach

Day 7: We enjoyed the westside so much, we decided to go back again the next day to explore it further.  Our first stop was Upper Makua Cave. The views were incredible, but the hike was brutal (straight incline). After torturing ourselves, we discovered our new favorite spot on earth - Makua Beach

Day 8: Honolulu isn't my forte, but I'm a sucker for colorful murals, so we made our way to the city. I hate to admit this, but I ate the best burrito of my life in Hawaii. King Street Tacos gets a Texan stamp of approval and I don't throw that around casually. We met my cousin Chastity for drinks at Barefoot Beach Cafe, then spent the rest of the evening at the coolest craft bar on the island, Bevy.

Day 9-10: After a week and a half in paradise, we officially adapted to island life. I stopped planning our days and just went with the flow. I grew deeply fond of Makaha Beach Park, so we just relaxed there for a couple of days, napping on the beach and eating Hawaiian shave ice. 

Day 11: With the end of our trip approaching, we had to get back to our itinerary. Chastity, Kandace and I spent the day driving around the island, stopping at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens, Makapu’u Lookout, Halona Blowhole and Cockroach Cove. That night, we had dinner at Kickin Kajun, then laughed our stomachs sore watching Girls Trip. My idea of the perfect day. 

Day 12: Chastity's roommate Abby invited us to go swim with dolphins. The pods arrive early in the morning, so we woke up at 4am to watch the meteor shower at Ka'ena Point, then slept on the beach until sunrise.  Around 9am, a pod of dolphins were spotted heading towards us. We swam 100 yards out, then waited until they circled around to pass us. When swimming with dolphins in the wild, it's important not to chase them. They are more likely to interact with you if you don't interfere with them. I cannot put in to words how fleeting this experience was. After that exciting morning, we stopped by Tacos and More for lunch. The bartender Patrick makes the best paloma on the island, which is rare for the area. After lunch, we surfed at White Plains Beach. Needless to say, we all slept good this night. 

Side note: Research "mask squeeze" before free diving. I descended too quickly without equalizing and had a terrible experience when swimming to the ocean floor. 

Day 13: I was determined to do at least one thrilling hike while in Hawaii. Despite my ambitions to conquer the infamous Stairway to Heaven, I opted for Crouching Lion instead. We weren't entirely sure how to access the trail, so we ended up scaling the mountain. We later discovered, that there was a shorter (safer) way up, but where's the fun is that? I expected this hike to be scarier than it actually was, but it should be hiked with caution. 

Day 14: Our last day was bittersweet. We went back to Makua Beach in hopes of seeing the dolphins, but they did not swim close enough for us to interact with them. We both agreed this was the best trip we'd taken and would love to do it all over again next summer. 

California & Nevada

Summers in California are a tradition that have stuck with me since childhood. I grew up exploring the west coast from May-Aug with my dad, so it's only right I do it annually as an adult.

Kandace and I spent 2 weeks road tripping from Orange County to Vegas and everywhere in between. We made stops at Death Valley National Park, Seven Magic Mountains and Salvation Mountain. 

I highly recommend this trip, but not during the peak of summer. The temperatures reach up to 134º in certain areas and are nearly unbearable to visit after 10am. I enjoyed the experience, but I would like to do it again without melting. 

New York, New York

For as long as I can remember, I've been in love with NYC. I took my first trip in 2004 and used to visit just about every year for an annual girls trip.  

Now that I'm older, my fascination with New York has expanded beyond the party scene. As I continue to grow in my craft, I force myself to revisit places I've been and capture it from a different perspective. I truly got to experience the pulse of NYC on this trip. 

Notable stops: DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Cafeteria, Latitude, Top of the Rock, Chinatown, Kinfolk 90 and Output

Chicago, Illinois

As we continue exploring the U.S., we decided to visit one of our favorite cities in the country. There's truly nothing like summertime Chi. This was our third trip to the Windy City, but easily our favorite trip. 

We visited Garfield Park Conservatory, Skydeck Chicago and Giordano's on our first day. The second day we indulged in a little retail therapy on The Magnificent Mile, then relaxed on Lake Michigan. We went to St. Louis for a week to visit Kandace's niece Brynlee, then returned to Chicago for one last hoorah. On our last day, we stopped by The Bean for a few photos, had drinks at London House, then ate the best brunch ever at Nookie's

Albiet brief, it was the perfect kickoff to our summer travels. I can't wait to do it all over again next year. 

 

 

American Southwest

"Traveling doesn't have to be far, foreign or expensive, but it does have to be different. Different enough to see the world in a new way." - Unknown

This year for Spring Break we decided to visit Kandace's brother in Sun City, AZ and road trip to a few attractions that had been on our domestic bucket list. We spent the first few days relaxing by the pool, then set off on a 3-day adventure through Arizona, Utah and Nevada. 

Over the next 72-hours, we stopped at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ, Monument Valley in Utah, Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and Seven Magic Mountains in Las Vegas, NV. 

We genuinely enjoyed every minute of this trip. Going to the Grand Canyon and exploring Seven Magic Mountains with our friend Andrea were our favorite moments, but camping in Monument Valley was a huge highlight for me as well. Something about this trip put me a great space creatively. God took his time creating the American Southwest and I'm incredibly thankful for this experience. Road trips truly are good for the soul.

Accommodations: Utah - Airbnb

Denver, Colorado

After going around the world last year, our travel goal for 2017 is to explore the U.S. more. Denver has been on my domestic bucket list for several years, so what better time to visit than for Valentine's Day weekend? 

The first stop of our 3-day weekend was Loveland Ski Area . I convinced Kandace to snowboard with me, so we took a lesson on the green slopes and had a hilarious time. Kandace spent most of the day falling, but I applaud her for not breaking any bones.  

Day 2 was dedicated to photographing Colorado's landscape. We started our adventure at Loveland Pass, then explored the backcountry where many skiers and snowboarders finish their descend from the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, I lost my GoPro playing in the snow, but it was small sacrifice for all the fun I had. We spent the rest of the day making pit stops along I-70, which led us to a scenic lookout and frozen lake.  

We spent our last day hanging out in Downtown Denver with family and friends. Kandace and I both agreed that Denver became one of our new favorite US cities. If you ever visit the area, definitely check out Denver Biscuit Company for brunch and Viewhouse

Nassau, Bahamas

Last trip of the year. No extreme adventures or detailed itineraries....just rest and relaxation. This trip was a much different experience for us. Nassau is much more commercialized than we are accustomed to; I definitely see why the Bahamas attracts American tourists. We spent the week resort hopping and pina colada touring. We visited Atlantis, Melia Resort, Cabbage beach and Arawak Cay. 

Closing the year with a renewed sense of purpose and drive. I'm thankful for the tranquility of Nassau and the ability to sit with my thoughts and conceptualize the goals I have for 2017. This will be my best year yet! 

Montego Bay, Jamaica

What do you do when you have 2 days to explore Montego Bay before a wedding ceremony? You float down Martha Brae's river on a bamboo raft, eat as much jerk as possible, drink a dozen pina coladas and relax on the beach. I now understand why everyone loves Jamaica so much. The locals treat you like family, the food will touch your soul and it's absolutely beautiful.  

San Juan, Puerto Rico

There's a strong possibility that when I retire, it will be in Puerto Rico. Everything about this trip was perfect....from our Airbnb to the food to the live music. I can't put into words how inspiring this trip was for me. I've visited quite a few islands in the Caribbean, but Puerto Rico is the best hands down (Barbados runs a close second). I cannot wait to return to this magnificent place. Thanks to my homie Nana for the images of Kandace and I.

Apia, Samoa

The South Pacific is a unique place. It's literally in the middle of nowhere. Many people visit islands like Fiji, Bora Bora and Tahiti, but there are countless other islands in this region as well. I wanted to go somewhere unique that had not been commercialized, so I narrowed my selection process down to the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga. Each island had something different to offer, but I essentially let my burning desire to visit To Sua Trench overrule swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. 

If I had to summarize our trip to Samoa, I would definitely refer to it as a learning experience. International traveling is not always as glamorous as it's perceived. Sometimes you can book a wallet-friendly 5 star hotel with an ocean front view and other times you can get a solar powered bungalow in the rain forest with no hot water, no wifi and a 1 ft mutant centipede. Do y'all remember the Chilligan's Island episode of Martin? I've got a similar story to the "puppy" scene. Despite the challenges we faced, I'm grateful for the experience. Life in Samoa is simple and their culture is fascinating. I came home with a new sense of gratitude and inspired to live more authentically.