Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Fiji

Before landing in Australia, I chose to take an additional Pacific studies course at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. While there, I stayed with a homestay family with three other AIFS students. We really lucked out and had such a kind and welcoming family. Our “dad” took us to his home village of Daku, where he carried out a lot of work involving environmental changes and how it affects the village. Our trip also took us to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes and then to Mana Island, one of the little, picturesque islands that surround mainland Fiji.

Whitmanythought 1: I would love to spend more time relaxing on the outer islands of Fiji.

 

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Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Thailand

The final trip I took during my time in Australia occurred during the last study break in the first week of June. The destination? Thailand. Yes, it was a study break. I had my flash cards with me the whole time, I promise!

I was extremely proud of this trip because I planned 99 percent of the week my two friends and I had in the Southeast Asian country, and executed it on my own as well. It was my first time coordinating and carrying out a trip by myself as a young adult in such a linguistically and culturally different country. Looking back at it, I am amazed at how I was able to navigate this foreign city, which speaks a lot less English than major European cities, and get my friends and I to and from our tours and appointments safely. All in all, it was an incredibly enriching and unique time, and it will always be a special trip for me.

Of course, my written posts about this trip will come, but first, I want to show you Bangkok and its surrounding jungle. This trip took us to Kanchanaburi, which hosts a working part of the Thai-Burma Railway used in World War 2, on a floating hotel on the River Kwai, to an elephant sanctuary, and to many elaborate, magnificent temples right in Bangkok.

Thinking about this trip, I really cannot believe I got to do all these exciting things and learn about new places and histories. I hope the video shows the joy I felt during my Thai adventure!

Whitmanhythought 1: I’m trying to go to another floating hotel. Who’s in?

Whitmanythought 2: Also, I am craving some mango sticky rice.

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Queenstown, New Zealand

On today’s episode of me sorrowfully yearning to be back in the land down under, I take you to Queenstown, New Zealand. I had no idea I would be so moved by this energetic city, but between the extremely kind people, breathtaking views and endless list of adrenaline-pumping activities, a piece of my heart lives in the “adventure capital of the world.” This trip took my Pop Pop and me on a bus ride through The Remarkables mountain range and over it via private airplane, on a boat on the Milford Sound where we saw seals and dolphins, on my first helicopter ride, and more. Just watching this video puts the largest smile on my face, and I hope it gives you the slightest idea of how incredible New Zealand is.

Whitmanythought 1: I hope to return to New Zealand and see the rest of this magnificent country!  

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Sydney and Cairns

During my semester in Australia, I was lucky enough to have my best friend and traveling partner visit me for a week with one of his best friends. Per usual, we made the fullest of our time and explored three cities: Sydney, Cairns and Queenstown, New Zealand. Some of our adventures took us up a 1949 Danish sailboat, a World Heritage rainforest and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef! I have not yet released my blog posts about this incredible trip, but here is a visual of all the exciting things I got to experience with my Pop Pop.

Whitmanythought 1: I remember finding this song and instantly connecting with the lyrics and overall message to live life to the fullest and to take it all in while you can, because you won’t always be here. Rest in peace to the artist of “The Nights” and beautiful, talented soul, Avicii.

Whitmanythought 2: Cherish the memories you have and seize all opportunities while you can!

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Rottnest Island

I spent a weekend on Rottnest Island, which is a little paradise just offshore of Perth. When I was there, I referred to it as a “playground,” which makes sense because it offers so much for all ages to enjoy. People can take advantage of its secluded coves, crystal-clear waters, reefs, and surf breaks. The main way to explore it is the miles and miles of bike paths that cross the land. It boasts two lighthouses and pink lakes. And of course, it is one of very few homes to the quokka, an adorable cat-sized mammal that has been marketed successfully as a companion for selfies with its endearing smile and willingness to get up close and personal with tourists.

Take a look at my weekend adventure to this little slice of utopia!

Oz Through Sara’s Eyes: Northwest Outback Trip Part 1

At this time last year, I had just gotten back from a 9-day trip to Australia’s Northwest outback. The trip was planned by Murdoch University’s study abroad and exchange office in tandem with the company Australian Adventure Travel and I was fortunate enough to get a spot on the trip along with about 40 other students.

We got to see so many amazing sights, from bluffs that dropped right off into a roaring ocean and gorges that snaked through red rock to old indigenous wall carvings and new animals of which we had never heard. We explored so many beautiful places from beaches and national parks to reefs and caves. We had early mornings and late nights. We ate surprisingly tasty food and had many laughs.

On the other hand, almost everything that could go wrong on this trip went wrong. We ended up getting stuck in a three-day cyclone which made us leave the trip early and cut us off from exploring everything we could. We definitely roughed it by sleeping in damp tents and sometimes not even having access to running water.

All of this combined, though, is what made this outback trip so memorable, even if some of it was uncomfortable. I mean, who gets to say they got stuck in a cyclone in the outback of Australia? I captured so much footage from this trip that I actually made three videos for it: two containing video from my above water adventures, and one video dedicated solely to my underwater explorations.

Here is the first video to my three-part Northwest outback adventure.

Whitmanythought 1: The song I used says, “It’s a beautiful life,” and man, that is exactly how I felt on this trip.

Whitmanythought 2: I keep imagining the deep black night sky dusted with shining stars. It was the most beautiful sky I had ever seen.

Australia: One Year Later

It has been exactly one year since I landed in Perth, Australia to study abroad. When I realized this, I could not believe the anniversary had snuck up so soon. It seems as if I have been in a state of longing for clear waters rolling onto sandy shores, ginormous waves crashing on towering rock cliffs and warm air embracing my skin for more than a year. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about the happiest and freest semester of my life and I so wish I could go back to experience that alternate universe one more time.

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My first sight of Australia

My life is so much different one year later: my late nights out with friends turned into late nights at my internship, shopping for bathing suits has turned into buying professional-wear and lounging under the sun at the beach has turned into laying in my bed reading for class (I read for class in Australia too, don’t worry). However, cooking for myself reverted back into having a meal plan on campus and not having to prepare every meal every day, so that is a plus! I am not planning cool trips to new continents or packing a bag for a week-long outback trip. Instead, I am trying to find a weekend I am free enough to have a friend visit me in New York. I am not saying anything about this is bad; it is just different.

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Cliffside in the Northwest

Studying abroad really was like living in an alternate universe, if the above descriptions did not portray that enough. However, it was more like an elongated dream; one that would eventually have to become a well-scrapbooked memory. Although my life is nowhere near as adventurous as it was a year ago, I am so thankful for what has come since leaving from Australia and what is to come in the future (more travels, please).

One year later I can say I still live with the essence of my past life. I have remained more confident in my own decisions, which I really had to learn as I was making travel plans down under. I have continued to be extremely mindful of the people I surround myself with and stand up for my beliefs instead of letting others silence them. Finally, I have continued to learn to take a break. Whether it is putting on a face mask and lighting a candle or journaling, I make sure I take time to reflect on the day and evaluate the progress I made on my daily and weekly tasks. Although I came to Australia with a deep understanding of who I am as a person, I now can better express that to others.

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Our first sight of Perth

I really do wish I could go back and to Australia and relive that enlightening, beautiful semester. At the same time, I don’t think it would be the same. My semester in Australia came and left, and now I can let the memories live on to remind me how full of pure ecstasy that semester was and to let that time shape how I live in the future.

Whitmanythought 1: Seriously, please let me go back

Whitmanythought 2: I have friends studying in New Zealand and Australia this semester and I wish I could visit them

Frisco, Colorado: Wrapped Up

It has been a week since I returned from Colorado, and I have not stopped appreciating how much we lucked out with the conditions. Now, I get to look back on my family ski trip through my lackluster memory, blog posts, pictures, and this video. Enjoy!

 

Frisco, Colorado: Good Eats

Food is a key ingredient to a fantastic vacation. Here are some of the yummy tastes I got to enjoy during my time in Frisco.

Night One:

Besides the skiing, something we really look forward to about Frisco is the incredible sushi joint called Kemosabe. It’s a small place that does not take reservations, so you need to be tactical about dinnertime, unless you don’t mind waiting for a table. Unfortunately, Pop Pop was not feeling well, so the first night was just me and my dad. Fortunately, we were able to be seated right away and were waited on by an extremely sweet English waitress we have had before.

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Dad and I split my favorite spicy tuna tower and handful of rolls. Our favorite was called the Bumblebee, and was a mixture of mango and salmon, and gave a slightly sweet and refreshing taste. I also tried something different and got the All American roll which was a roll of tempura asparagus, avocado and crab and topped with seared beef tenderloin and a sweet soy sauce.

Night Two:

We could not leave without Pop Pop having sushi, so luckily, we went back to Kemosabe and split a few rolls, which were all of course, very satisfying. I love tuna, and the tuna sashimi we ordered was a beautiful red and really hit the spot.

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Night Three:

My Coloradoan family was stuck in traffic, so unfortunately they missed dinner at The Uptown on Main, which was formerly The Boatyard, where we have eaten. The atmosphere and service was not my favorite, but my taste buds were definitely pleased. I settled on having two appetizers for dinner: NY strip steak sliders with queso and sautéed onions and secondly thai satay skewers. I was shocked by how much food was in front of me considering they were just appetizers, but even bigger than the portion were the flavors.

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Night Four:

It was Saturday night, a holiday weekend, and there was football on, and that is a recipe for crowded eateries. After waiting about two hours for a table, the seven of us ate at an Italian restaurant a few storefronts down from our lodge. I had four cheese and spinach ravioli with a pesto sauce, which was very rich. Although we waited so long for a table, the delicious food and overly friendly dining staff made it a pleasurable night.

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Night Five:

My uncle was having no part in lines, so we ended up at a Ruby Tuesday, where I finally had a sandwich, which I had been wanting. It was a relaxed, casual dinner and it was nice chatting it up with my family.

I do have to add that I was incredibly impressed with the food and food service at the mountains each day. From sushi to BBQ, there was a huge array of choices between all the mountains and it was all super delicious. Most notable were my pulled pork mac and cheese which reminded me of the same thing I ate in London, lobster mac and cheese and a Thai noodle bowl.

Although we did not get to eat at my favorite pub this time, I had incredible food on this trip eaten with even more incredible people.

 

Frisco, Colorado Day 4: Reflecting on the Trip

How does one spend the last day of a ski trip? Ripping it, of course. My dad, grandfather, uncle, cousin and I headed to Keystone Mountain Sunday morning with much excitement due to the bright blue skies and sun shining over us.

If we could have combined Sunday’s weather with the snow conditions of the other days, it would have been absolutely perfect. Regardless, Sunday was a beautiful end to an exciting trip. The first half of the day consisted of all of us shredding together, and then my uncle and cousin left me, my grandfather, and dad to do the job—and we definitely got it done! To my surprise, we stayed on the mountain almost as late as we could to take advantage of every run we could.

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Only if this trail was called “Abbey Road”

As I have said, this ski trip has been an extraordinary one. We lucked out with fresh snow three of the four days and the temperatures stayed high enough so I did not freeze my fingers off.

Secondly, I am super proud of my improvement. My dad joked that my new ski outfit contributed to my better form, but to be honest, my new ski goggles gave me way more visibility than my old ones, which upped my confidence and pushed me to not shy away from quick turns down steeper terrain. Nothing feels better than my uncle asking, “When doesn’t she kill it?” and me genuinely feeling proud of myself.

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Me excitedly skiing down the mountain

Finally, as I have mentioned, it was so special being with my family over the last few days. Goofing off with them made the days light, but also made me want to show off what I can do a bit more. Nothing beats being in a competition with my uncle to see who can spray the other one more with snow, singing Taylor Swift as my dad simultaneously sings classic rock on the chairlift or being pleasantly surprised when my “mini-me” cousin flashes a “thumbs up,” something I often do, for a photo together.

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Mini me and I

This ski trip was different. It was more relaxed, but somehow more fulfilling. I will miss hearing man-made avalanches in the distance, seeing my dad carve a line around me and feeling like I am on top of the world as I gawk at the mountain peaks surrounding me. I may be done on the slopes for a while, but I cannot wait to get back on them next winter!