Shang-High & Dry

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I’m a planner. Some might even say I’m an over-planner. But, hey, it makes me happy. And when we accomplish 3 days worth of things in one carefully planned day, you’ll be happy too.

So this always involves me feeling the need to get to the airport early. Like I made Sarah wake up at 3 am once, and we were so early that we had to wait outside the airport for an hour because it wasn’t open yet. Oooops. And like any other trip, we were early to LAX, once again.

Normally not a big deal, but had I known the day ahead of us, I probably wouldn’t have been in such a hurry.

As we sat in LAX at our gate, an hour after our scheduled takeoff time with no word of boarding, we started to question if we had made a mistake. I knew I didn’t because of how carefully I plan, but ya never know too.

Soon enough, boarding begins and we make it to our seats. Our connecting flight was departing only two hours after our first flight landed, so I was starting to prepare myself for a sprint through the airport once we touched down in Shanghai.

Like I always do on flights, I doze off, but only to awake an hour and a half later to find us still on the runway…. IN LOS ANGELES. So now I have no service, no way to change our connection, and have a very anxiety-filled 15 hours ahead of me.

I sleep, I read, and I stress eat my way through almost all my snacks as I try to make a game plan — which doesn’t work out too well when you have no internet access.

We eventually land, and only 20 minutes past our connection’s departure time. Maybe it was delayed too? We hurry towards the door for our gate, only to be turned away and sent to a long line of others who have also missed their connections.

I told myself it’d be okay. It was a full moon, after all. And if there’s one thing about full moons, it’s that I’ll always be positive during them. So we waited, and I didn’t even cry despite the fact that this was a very typical “Tara’s gonna cry” situation, as Sarah has learned over the years of traveling with me.

And we waited. And we waited. And the calm, cool, and collected girl I am made sure to inform the much taller and buff guys trying to cut us in line to not even play this 5’3″ hungry and sleep-deprived blonde. Because I may have been worry-free, but I still ain’t no push over.

And after 4 hours in line and a new set of friends around us — sans buff guys — we reached the front.

At this point, we were well aware we’d be missing our next connection in Kuala Lumpur the next morning, since the next flight out of Shangai wasn’t for another 17 hours, so I had done my research of flights while in line and prepared my speech to ask to be put on the direct flight to our final destination instead of what our boarding pass stated. I had the flight number ready for the attendant and everything.

Now, I’m the one who’s been traveling for the last 24 hours, and this fool is the one who has the mental breakdown when I ask to go to a different city. Whatttt?

We eventually get our new flights, stand in another hour long customs line, find our abandoned luggage — thankful I didn’t have the Valentinos in there because no full moon would’ve stopped those stress tears — and proceeded to the bus stop, where we waited another hour before reaching a hotel provided by the airline.

Nothing quite like your head hitting that rock hard pillow at 3 am after the longest day ever. Sweet relief. Ahhh!

The next morning we wandered our way down to breakfast where we had our choice of rice or noodles — and no matter how hungry I am, I can’t find any reason to eat either of those for breakfast — so instead, we chatted with all our new comrades to see what everyone’s plan was for the day.

Hanging out at the mall seemed to be the general consensus for passing the next 6 hours, but we just couldn’t get on board with that.

We were in a whole new country, and we needed to make the best of this situation.

After a quick Google search, it appeared that there really wasn’t much to do in the surrounding area. So we dug a little a harder… and just down the street, we found our answer… Disneyland.

At only $79 for a day ticket — a bargain compared to the Disneyland we have back home — we happily entered the park. Being barely a year old, everything was still so new and beyond cute. We were able to race around the park in about an hour, since it’s also smaller than the original Disneyland, and without a whole day available to spend there, we chose to ride Tron and Pirates, neither of which disappointed — and¬†neither of which I could understand the commentary during, aside from the occasional “Jack Sparrow.”

So after passing the time until our flight at the happiest place on earth (uncertain if this catchphrase applies to all Disney Resorts or not?), we boarded our flight to Malaysia. Thankful for the misfortune that turned into a grand adventure.

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A Quick “Toast” to Iceland

It was our first day in Iceland. We woke up that Tuesday morning — or Wednesday morning. I’m not sure. That time change had me jacked up. — but THAT morning, we woke up. We were full of cheer, full of energy, and ready to get our adventures started.

We had a 2-hour drive ahead of us, and since we were staying outside of the main city of Vik, we planned to stop for breakfast in town along the way. The first stop was a black sand beach, and¬†perfect, because there was a restaurant too. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was only 8:30 am and the restaurant wouldn’t be open until 10, but since town was technically still up the road 15 minutes, we decided to keep driving.

In the time it took you to read this sentence, I drove through the whole town. That’s it. I blinked, and I missed it. Clearly, finding a restaurant wasn’t going to be possible that morning. No biggie, though. We had snacks. We¬†always have snacks. We’d eat lunch once we reached the next town.

Well, we eventually reached our destination… on the other side of the country. My options were eating a postcard from the souvenir shack or something I found in the porta potty. I’m just still thankful that, by some miracle, I stopped 20 miles back and filled up the car’s gas tank. Otherwise, we’d be stuck¬†and hungry at this point. Do these people not eat?

After some exploring, we started our long drive back to the AirBNB. Surely, we must have missed something. Then we saw it. A restaurant sign. “Breakfast and Dinner.” “Imagine if they don’t serve lunch,” we laughed. Plot twist: They didn’t serve lunch.

So back on the road once again, this time in the middle of a snowstorm. How it was even possible to have to use the bathroom after all that deprivation, I’m unsure, but there we were, on the side of the road, me peeing in a bush, both of us freezing, and so damn hungry.

We continued down the road and eventually pulled into the parking lot at the national park. We were exhausted. We had the intention of hiking but could barely pull ourselves out of the car. I’m relieved. A cafeteria! Could have practically peed my pants again out of excitement.

Oh, but look again. A sign that said the cafeteria was closed for the winter. Are they bears? Do these people hibernate in the winter and not need food?

We ended up inside the gift shop, standing in front of a fridge full of yogurt. At the bottom, one sandwich. More specifically, the grossest looking ham and cheese sandwich I had ever seen. If you know me, you know that I take my food very seriously, so the selfishness in me wanted to grab that sandwich and run, but I agreed to split it with Sarah.¬†Bless my soul. I’m such a great friend.

Maybe I was really hungry — definitely really hungry — but that was the best half a sandwich I’ve ever had in my whole life. At this point, my hangry level had gone from a 100 to a 99.7, and the only thing that kept me going was the thought of how skinny I’d be coming home from vacation.¬†Sorry ’bout it.

We finished our hike and continued towards home. Luckily, we knew about the restaurant at the beach for dinner. We pulled into the parking lot and headed up to the door, ready to put an end to this series of unfortunate events.¬†Why is everyone standing outside, though? It’s freezing.

The restaurant closed at 6 pm. And are you ready for this? It was 6:15 pm. Coooooooool.

Eventually, we were able to find something on Google. It required some backtracking and turning down some tiny little roads, but we found food. Hot food. I’d survive until tomorrow.

The next morning came.¬†Here we go again… We headed east. “Caf√©,” we saw. Perfect. Breakfast. But, apparently, caf√© means “gas station,” and you could choose between a sad looking apple or a stale muffin.¬†No, thanks.¬†We headed east, again.

The problem in Iceland is that stores look like houses. Hotels look like houses. Everything looks like houses, and I was a few minutes away from knocking on someone’s front door to ask for a bowl oatmeal.

A “Restaurant” sign.¬†Finally! I pulled in, eagerly jumped out of the car, and we found ourselves standing in front of a locked door with a key pad.

This can’t be it. So I walked towards the other side of the building but only stumbled across a dumpster outside of the kitchen’s back door.

Confused, we looked at each other. Sarah shrugged and tried the door. To our surprise, the door opened. Inside, a cute — extremely small — open seating dining room.¬†Food! That’s all that mattered.

We quickly found an open table, and I headed to the bar to pay for this precious slice of heaven we had found.

“Hi. I want to pay for two breakfasts.”

Even more confused than I was, the waitress responded that breakfast is included with our room.

I processed this, slowly returned to Sarah, carefully deciding how I was going to relay this message.

“Breakfast… um.. is included with¬†our room,” I finally said. We sat there quiet for a minute.

At this point in our friendship, Sarah and I have been through a lot together, but were we really ready to take the next step? Were we really going to steal breakfast? Were we really that desperate?

Sarah broke the silence. “I’m so hungry.”¬†Thank goodness. Hallelujah!¬†Turned out, we were that desperate. With limited options — Go figure. The hotel probably couldn’t find food either¬†— we scarfed down two pieces of toast. I skipped coffee, so I was miserable, but my heart was pounding off all that adrenaline, so who even needs caffeine.

We got out unnoticed and deserving of Oscars for those performances and started our day. That night when we reached the city, we treated ourselves to the biggest dinner ever and an even bigger ice cream donut dessert. Duh.

Looking back, these are always the memories I end up cherishing the most months later. So in the moment when we found ourselves knee deep in a mud pit while exploring The Golden Circle the next day, all we could do was laugh and blame karma for the time we stole a piece of toast.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

Bali or Bust…

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The way I like to tell the story is that I flew halfway around the world for two weeks with a complete stranger, but that’s not entirely true. Sarah and¬†I did have¬†a few encounters prior to all this happening.

It all started¬†a few years ago while I was at work one day. I know¬†it may come as a big surprise to those of you who know me, but I talk a lot¬†at the salon… to my clients, to stylists, to myself, to other clients… which led me to meeting Sarah, Amy’s client and friend. Sarah and I would exchange a few words anytime she was in the salon getting her hair done by Amy, but I’m talking verrry few words, considering Sarah usually gets her hair done on my days off.

We eventually started following each other on Instagram, because that’s what Millennials do, and I saw¬†her post that she visited a new city, state and country every year. How cool! I thought,¬†I could do that too!

Well, flash forward to a conversation I was having on Tinder (no shame) with a guy who was headed to Bali. I had never thought about Bali. I had never even considered going to Bali. Where even was Bali? I Googled some pictures¬†and knew that I¬†had¬†to go. So I looked up some flights, quickly decided I couldn’t fly 24¬†hours by myself and started asking everyone I knew to go with me.

Sarah was in the salon that week, miraculously on a day I worked, but, of course, I was headed out the door as she was coming in.¬†We exchanged our few words, and I was on my way. The next day,¬†Amy mentioned to me the idea of Sarah and I traveling together in the future.¬†Except Amy knew I had literally just booked plane tickets to Europe, so I wouldn’t be able to¬†join Sarah on her next trip… to Bali.

If that wasn’t the big sign I needed, my¬†horoscope that day said to say yes to decisions that might not currently make sense financially, and on top of that,¬†it was a full moon, so I went ahead and messaged Sarah asking what day to buy my plane ticket for.

Like for reals… I slid into those DMs.

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We met up once between that day and our plane leaving.

Sure, this could all go completely wrong. Sure we could end up completely annoyed with each other. Amy said we were similar, but maybe we were so similar we actually wouldn’t get along… But I never even feared any of that. Come on, even if it was bad, I was still in Bali. Things can’t be that bad if you’re lying on a beach in Bali. (Side note: we never actually laid on a beach.)

So we bought our flights, booked hotels, grabbed some bikinis, and started our adventure.

Amy¬†tagged along to the airport, and as she¬†likes to tell the story, Sarah and I¬†didn’t say anything to each other the whole hour car ride to LAX. But what the heck are you supposed to say to someone you’ve never hung out with? Have you ever been on a first girlfriend date? Because those things are way more intimidating than actual boys dates….

But all it took was one, technically two, short terribly long flights for us to bond over our mutual love for donuts and to start creating some of the best memories of my life. The entire trip went better than I ever expected. In fact, nothing about this trip was even slightly difficult, except for taking underwater GoPro selfies. I really underestimated how hard it is to look good while submerged in the ocean.

So don’t ever be afraid to take a risk, because you never know what might happen or who you’ll end up meeting. I could have easily let fear keep me from stepping out of a comfort zone and stayed home that summer, but then I would have never gained this friendship or all the amazing opportunities I’ve had so far to explore so much within the past year. So, thank you, Amy… and thank you, Sarah, for always being up for an adventure, especially the¬†one where you let a stranger tag along.

Read more about our first trip to Bali & Singapore.
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And,¬†yes,¬†it is always confusing having to¬†explain that I’m Tara, and she’s Sarah.
Just imagine how tricky that got when Kara met up with us for three days.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

Take off…

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There’s never a “good time.” There will always be a reason to stop you from buying that plane ticket. A feeling that tells you it probably isn’t the right time. There will always be something¬†going on in your life. So why not just make this the perfect time?

Obviously, I’m not saying to miss big events like the birth of your best friend’s baby (Hi. I’m looking at all 4 of you moms-to-be right now…) or, in my case, the week before Christmas¬†when all my clients need their hair done, but know that everything else can be adjusted and worked around.

Work deadline? Finish early. The hours I work before and after a vacation are insane, but I put in those consecutive 14-hour days because I appreciate my clients for always working with me.

Birthday dinner? Celebrate before…

Paper due in college? Drop out. That’s why I didn’t go to school. Please don’t actually drop out.

I’ve definitely had to trade in some special moments for adventures over the last few years, and it is hard to not be there in that moment with everyone, but how great is technology that we can still be connected? Your friends will understand, or at least I hope they do as I write this…

Because this is your time. Your life. These are your¬†special moments, and, now that we’ve agreed that you have the time, don’t let them go because of all the “what ifs.”

Take that chance. Fly halfway across the world with a girl you’d only spoken a few words to. I did… (Read more about that here.)

“What if you get there and don’t get along?”

Okay, but what if you get there and it’s amazing? (Plot twist: It was.)

So if you’re waiting for a big lit-up sign to tell you that now is the time, well, here I am telling you to hit “buy.”

“Omg, I want to go there…”
Then go. 

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.