Do This, Not This ( NYC tour guide)

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Living in New York I love going into the city on the weekends (probably because I don’t work there). New York is my playground, and I enjoy getting to explore her ever changing scenery. When friends from out of town come to visit they often have their list of touristy things they’d love to do in the city. I often tweek this bucket list just a little so they can get the most bang for their buck, and avoid the hassle of over priced tourist traps. Here are some things to avoid in NYC and what you can do instead.

Skip Lady Liberty (well not completely)

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Instead

Take the Staten Island ferry and you’ll get to see her for free. A boat leaves every thirty minutes and you’ll get to enjoy the water and a great view of the city while taking her in. I highly recommend doing this at night. Remember, you’ll be in Staten Island when you get off the boat. Be sure to ride back to return to Manhattan.

Skip the Trendy Brunch spots

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Instead

Picnic in Washington Square Park, or Central Park. Don’t get me wrong I love a good brunch, but in the city they’re a dime a dozen, and they’re not all good. Grab a few of your favorite snacks from the grocery store, a pizza from Joe’s, spread out a blanket, and relax. You’ll get back to the site seeing soon, but take a moment to people watch New Yorkers in their natural habitat. You’ll find we make ourselves very comfortable in public spaces.

Skip the Museums

Instead

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If your an art fan you might have a list of Museums and exhibits you have been dying to go see #cultured. If you don’t have the dough to enter every Museum in Manhattan I say go to your top pick then hit the streets. The city is crawling with street art and free exhibits. Follow instas like @fomofeed to get the latest information on what’s happening, art wise,  in the city.

Skip Uber

   (Just me living my best life)

(Just me living my best life)

Instead

I have found that when my suburban friends come to visit they don’t understand what I’m about to tell you next. Skip the Uber and always walk (if weather permits). First, you came to explore and you can’t jump in and out of a cab every two seconds to peek into the cute vintage shop you just drove by. Second, the GPS might say ten min drive, 25 min walk, but what it doesn’t say is how much traffic there is. There is always traffic. In the end you’ll get to your destination faster by either taking the train or walking. Ditch the cab rides and use those feet so you can really explore. Also, this isn’t an episode of Gossip Girl. Wear sneakers and ditch the heels too.

Skip Times Square

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Instead

Hit up the Highline and then Chelsea Market. If you want the iconic Times Square picture then go ahead, but then catch the train to Chelsea. You won’t regret grabbing a juice and strolling along above the city. I’ve found this is a great place during any season, but of course it will be more crowded in the summer months.

There are hundreds of things to do in the city on a daily basis. Some are worth the hype and other things are not. The best part is never knowing what you’ll run into or discover. Be open and just take it in. My greatest trips are the ones where I haven’t planned every detail and just see where the city takes me. Safe travels!

-Chantel M. Rivera

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Packing Tips for the Savvy Travel Warrior

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Written By: Gina Verrastro

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I took my first airplane ride when I was three months old. My mom says I was very good, which probably means she was traumatized and her mind is blocking the painful memory of traveling with an infant. Since then I’ve done loads of traveling, from cross-country road trips to international adventures, and I’ve picked up some packing wisdom along the way.

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My first trick is an oldie but goodie: I like to make my packing list a few days in advance. I mentally go through my daily routine and jot down the products I use – toothbrush, deodorant, etc. – and then I refer to my list the next morning when I’m getting ready to make sure nothing important was overlooked.

One item I always like to pack is a plastic bag – or four. They’re great for sticking your shoes in so they don’t get your clothes dirty, or packing wet things for the return trip like bathing suits or that loofah that feels dry until you open your suitcase at home and everything smells like mold.

When it comes to air travel, I hate checking bags. There are times when it’s unavoidable, depending on where you’re going and for how long, but whenever I can I take two carry-on items: a duffel bag and a backpack. The duffel bag goes in the overhead bin because unlike a rigid suitcase, a duffel bag has a better chance of actually being crammed into a small space. My backpack goes under my seat and contains my laptop and my liquids. When going through airport security, it’s faster and easier to wrestle items in and out of one bag than two.

I’m not afraid of flying because I have done it a lot, but if you are, there’s a great trick that works for calming anxiety in general and it also works on planes and other modes of transportation. Identify five things you can see, five things you can smell, five things you can hear, and five things you can taste. Some of the senses are easy, but some are more difficult. You may need to stretch to five things you could taste on a plane: peanuts, ginger ale, the purple crayon the kid next to you is coloring with – you get the idea. Happy travels!


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The Last Minute Girls Trip

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Written By: Kimberly Davis

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With summer coming to a close for most of us, you might be panicking that you didn’t get to do everything that you wanted to. More importantly, you might be noticing that you didn’t get to take that crazy fun girls trip with your besties. With crazy packed schedules, work, and just life in general it can be hard to coordinate with other people. But don’t get discouraged! A last minute girls trip doesn’t have to be hard to plan!

Step 1: Assemble your friends!

Figure out who is definitely going, and who can’t make it. Once you have a definite head count, create a group chat where everyone can pitch ideas and so you guys can figure out where you want to go.

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Step 2: Save the date!

Pick a week that works for everyone. Try and go 3-4 weeks out so that everyone can make arrangements at work for time off.

Step 3: Budgeting! (A realistic one)

Time to start saving money! But try to keep in mind other people’s financial situations and goals when you’re planning. You don’t want to isolate a friend because they can’t afford to do a specific activity. Try to plan so everyone can go, after all it doesn't matter so much what you do, but who you do it with.

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Step 4: Give everyone in the squad a task!

This gets everyone involved, and prevents one person being responsible for everything.

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Step 5: Plan activities!

Like any trip you plan, try not to get too crazy with your itinerary. Schedule things such as sightseeing and spa time but always plan for down time to allow for a more organic experience to flourish. The best memories usually come out of the things we don’t plan!

Step 6: Shopping spree!

So I realize this king of contradicts step 3, but who goes on vacation without buying new clothes? Plus, you may want to coordinate one of your outfits with your besties. Maybe one night everyone wears head-to-toe white, or you guys buy matching t-shirts, whatever it may be make sure you guys look fabulous! But more importantly, buy something you feel fabulous in.

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5 steps to help you live abroad

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Written By: Gabriela Pereira ~ @gabineedscoffe

Living abroad is not as easy as the movies make it sound. There’s a lot of logistical decisions you don’t see when you are planning your big move, and obstacles that show up unexpected. However, it’s still one of the best decisions you could make, since you get to experience a new culture, language, cuisine, and a whole new set of friends that are in with you on this adventure!

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There are some things I wish I’d known before I moved, so here’s my comprehensive list of what I wish someone had told me before I packed my things and shipped off:

  • It will get lonely. You’ll be in a new country away from your family and friends, and it takes some time to get used to living without your support system 24/7. Be patient with yourself, and give it time to settle in.

  • Join things! The best way to meet people is to join activities. Combine the the best of both worlds, and choose a hobby that will occupy your free time, give you some happiness, and allow you to meet people with the same interests as you.

  • Make time for exercise. Most likely the stress of going through all the bureaucratic process of living abroad will accumulate on you, so set some time to blow off some steam. If you don’t like the gym, try walking or jogging in the parks, yoga classes or just biking around a couple times a week.

  • Don’t worry so much about the language. Locals are usually very accommodating to the fact that you don’t speak the language fluently, so don’t be afraid to stumble in your words, or even say the wrong thing. There’s so many translation apps these days, don’t be scared to use them or to take your time communicating with someone. You’re still learning.

  • Have fun! This will be a lifetime experience, so travel, try new food, laugh with your friends and document it so you can remember it in the future.

     


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Portland Is Not Weird

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Written By: Michelle Davalos ~ @michelle.g.davalos

When thinking about my next vacation, it’s easy to divert to relaxing on a Caribbean beachside while quenching my thirst with summer water (Rosé). But this year is different because I realized I’ve only explored a quarter of the 50 states. So, I decided play in our backyard and take a Northwest tour to Portland and Seattle. Here are my touristy hotspots of Portland.

Light rail: try to take public transportation everywhere you go. It’s fast, dependable, immersive and for the most part, safe. It’s a great way checkout the landscape and the first glimpse of the cleanliness of a city.

Lardo: if you love pork shoulder and kimchi, order the Korean Pork Shoulder sandwich!

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Powell’s Books: this was my primo stop to make while in Portland. Book worm or not, this book store is an incredible, electrifying, seductive being. Allow yourself at least two hours to browse and get lost.

Ex Novo Brewing Company (non-profit); “Better Beer for the Greater Good”. This brewery donates a large portion of their profits to those in need around the world. So, you can drink beer and help humanity…it’s a win-win.

Pips and Bounce: Ping pong, beer, cool jams, wood paneling and 80s-90s nostalgia sprinkled out the establishment is great fun of reminiscing about the past while dominating with ultimate backspins.

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Blue Star Donuts = best donuts on the West Coast. I totally dug into their hipster artisan boujee donuts. My favorite was the Mexican Chocolate donut; smooth, dark chocolate with a soft linger of chipotle pepper.  

Modern Times Beer – Portland: Mondo Macho Man piñata was hanging from the ceiling instantly brought good vibes for a taste and some food. I was surprised to learn the food menu was all vegan. I had heard so many positive reviews about the beyond burger, so I gave it a try. If you ever think about trying this faux meat, abort, abort…. I repeat, abort! I admire vegans; it takes dedication and determination to sustain a vegan lifestyle. I was a vegetarian growing up, I sort of get it. With that said, faux meat is not okay and you’re playing yourself if you like this monstrosity.       

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Lang Baag: I watch a lot of Netflix docu-food-mentaries. So much, my husband and I keep a funning list of restaurants featured on shows. Lang Baan was on our list. We tried to reserve a table, but it was booked for the next six months. So, we decided to stop in to see if they had a bar or any cancellations. After the Uber driver dropped us off, we used navigation because there was no visible sign. After walking up and down the street, a gentleman popped out of Paa Dee restaurant and asked if we were looking for Lang Baag. He walked us in and we mentioned we didn’t have reservations. The look of regret and sadness upon his face will be forever embedded into this story. That’s when I knew Lang Baan was a remarkable, mysterious place but it was completely booked. So, we settled at Paa Dee’s bar ordered a couple drinks. After 5 minutes, a waiter comes over to me and said, “I think it was your destiny to come in here tonight” and I replied, “Yep, I think it is”. They had a last-minute cancellation for two and dinner was starting. We hooped off our stoles and walked past the kitchen, to a book shelf door that led into small room that dined twenty-four food enthusiasts. The format was a chef’s table where you watch the chefs prepare a twelve course Northern Taiwanese dinner. It was magical! Each dish was better than the next. My favorite was the Nahm prik kha (relish of ground duck breast with galangal, market greens).

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Portland was a great host, it’s a little quirky but not weird. Next week, Seattle!

Much love today and always,

M.


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Chillin' in Seattle

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Written by: Michelle Davalos ~ @michelle.g.davalos

Pike’s Place, Starbucks, Amazon, and copious amounts of rain are the first things that come to mind when thinking about Seattle, but the city has so much to offer than the traditional touristy hotspots. Especially if you’re looking for a chill, no drama, relaxing vacay. Here are my highlights of my northwest tour:

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Starbucks Reserve: skip visiting the original Starbucks! The lines are horrible unless you go at 5am. Only monsters get up at 5am while on vacay. Instead, take one or two hours to visit the Starbucks Reserve. The well laid out tasting room has three sections: a bar that serves specialty cocktails, a confection tasting bar, and the experience bar. We enjoyed the experience Bar, which is at the far west end of the store. We ordered three flavors of siphon-brewed coffee. The experience was amazing, and the coffee was astonishing. Honestly, I don’t care for Starbucks coffee, but I’ve had a change of mind after visiting the reserve.

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Portage Bay Café: surrounded by warehouses converted to lofts for Amazon employees, this must visit restaurant is the primo spot for breakfast/brunch. This establishment exudes pride while serving organic, local and sustainable foods from Pacific Northwest farms. Expect a wait but it will be worth it! I had the best huevos rancheros I’ve had in a long time. They are known for their breakfast bar menu which consist of swedish pancakes (GF), carrot cake oven baked french toast, vegan banana pancakes and so much more.

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Bainbridge Island: the island is a day trip out to a beautiful, commuter, retirement community. I know, that description doesn’t sound appealing but its stunning! To escape the Seattle’s hustle, visiting the island will help you reset your traveling intentions. The island provides an opportunity to take in the peaceful surroundings which should always be mandatory while traveling. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in taking pics for the gram, we forget to slow down and chill. Bainbridge Island will make you slow down and chill. When we arrived, via ferry, we first stopped at Eleven Winery for a tasting of their local wines. Preeettyy delish! The locals are delightful and welcoming in this charming town. They see their fair share of tourist, yet they provide exceptional customer service. You won’t regret it; Bainbridge Island is a must.

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Seattle Public Library: typically, libraries are not on my destination list, but Seattle’s library is phenomenal, and I encourage everyone to take a few extra minutes to check it out. The architecture is astounding, obscure and a work of art (naturally). When we arrived in the downtown, it was the first building I noticed, I was immediately struck by the size and modern architecture. They offer and audio/cell phone tour for out of towners. We started our tour at the 10th floor and worked our way back down to the 1st floor and each floor did not disappoint.

Seattle was another great Northwest host! I encourage everyone to explore their backyards!

Much love today and always,

M.


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Small Town Girl, Big City Lesson

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Written By: Gina Verrastro

I arrived in Philadelphia at the age of twenty-two, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed product of a small town. Fortunately, I had a mentor who grew up in a rough part of the city and she was willing to take me under her wing and teach me how to walk home alone at night in areas that aren’t the safest without getting myself killed. I now pass that wisdom on to you, not to scare you but to prepare you. So – you’ve been out with friends having a great time, but now it’s late, and it’s time to walk home…

First things first: if you’re carrying a purse, take out your house key and your ID. Those are the things you need most, and that will be the most difficult to replace in a hurry, especially if you live alone. Tuck those items into an interior coat pocket, or in your bra, or undergarments. A mugger isn’t going to frisk you. If there’s room, you can add your debit card to the secret stash. Don’t bother trying to conceal your phone. They’re all too big and bulky nowadays to conceal it with subtlety, and if you try and fail you risk revealing your key and ID as well.

Now that you’ve gotten your necessities safely tucked away, it’s time to start walking. Walk briskly and with purpose, as if someone is expecting you and you’re running late. Never look at your phone, your watch, or any other distracting item. Be aware of your surroundings, but resist the urge to look around. You don’t want to appear lost or nervous. Try to avoid walking past parks or areas with nooks and crannies where someone could be lurking. Cross the street to avoid these areas if you have to.

There’s someone behind you. Are they following you, or are they just going in the same direction? There are a few tricks you can use to figure it out. Try varying your pace – pause briefly to glance at an interesting piece of architecture, speed up, or slow down. If the person behind you stops or varies pace with you, making an effort to match your footsteps, it suggests that they’re attempting to mask their presence. If you can safely do so, cross the street without waiting for a light or a crosswalk. If they follow, cross again.  If they’re still behind you, there’s a good chance you’re being followed.

Don’t panic. Find a business that’s still open – or where there are people still inside who might let you in if you knock – or a well-lit area that’s populated. From there, you can wait them out or call a taxi or a friend. Never take out your phone or appear distracted unless you’re in a safe location. If there are no refuges to be found, all is not lost. There is one strategy for deterring pursuers that is tried and true: out-crazy the crazy. Turning to face the lurker and barking loudly like a dog has been known to be effective. This has also been known to work on street harassers. You’re an easy mark when you’re predictable, but as soon as there’s no telling what you might do, you become less appealing.

You’ve made a solid go of it, but you still find yourself being mugged. Your heart is racing and adrenaline is coursing through your system. Tempting though it may be, don’t look at the mugger’s face. You’re less of a threat if you can’t identify the mugger. It won’t help your case when you speak to the police, but you’ll be safer in the moment. Throw your purse away from you and then walk – don’t run – away as calmly as you can. Don’t resist, struggle, or fight to protect personal items! Only fight if your physical safety is threatened. No purse and no item in your purse, no matter how sentimental its value, is worth getting hurt over.


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