For Ships & Giggles: The Yacht Week Croatia

img_2509-1Croatia – August 2017
The Yacht Week

When I was told this would be the best week of my life, I didn’t quite believe it. I’ve had some pretty amazing weeks in my life so far, but as I sit here, literally crying on our flight home writing this, I can hands down say it’s been the best week yet, and I’m not sure if another trip can top it. (Except maybe our Yacht Week reunion that we made a pact to do when we’re 60.)

I’ve left with bruises, I’ve lost my voice, tons of sleep, and even maybe some of my dignity; but there’s something magical about spending a week on a boat with 8 people you’ve just met. I’ve left with memories I’ll never forget and with new friendships I’ll cherish forever.

Would I do this all over? In a heartbeat — even if I’m stuck with the dinner table as my bed again.

For those that don’t know what The Yacht Week is, it’s a week you spend on a yacht (duh), sailing alongside 20 – 30 other yachts. My crew and I sailed through the beautiful islands off of Croatia, which is the original route started by the company. Each town¬†offers a¬†new adventure, a new party, and a chance to meet new friends. TYW sets up an itinerary that your skipper will follow throughout the week,¬†like swimming in the crystal blue waters and meeting up at night to dance under the stars.

Everything is booked through The Yacht Week website, and you¬†can choose to book a cabin on a yacht with complete strangers or gather a group of friends to book your own boat. I did the latter, except we didn’t initially all know each other, but all had one mutual friend that brought us together for this experience. You’ll be assigned a skipper through the website and also a hostess, if you have signed up for one. We requested one too late, which meant we’d be on our own for the week cooking meals and cleaning the yacht. It wasn’t so bad, but with how often other boats confused me for Diridonda‚Äôs hostess (our boat’s name), I’m confused as to why no one left me a tip at the end — Ha ha. Just kidding.

More booking info here. | Suggested packing guide coming soon.

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(Note: There’s two different routes for Croatia, so not all itineraries will be the same.)

Day 1: Setting Sail

Our crew all arrived in Split, Croatia, the night prior to The Yacht Week check-in. I highly suggest getting an AirBNB or hotel for Friday night to catch up on your post-travel Z‚Äôs before getting minimal sleep over the next week. You’ll need it.

Check-in won’t be until the afternoon on Saturday, but we, luckily, were able to have a later check-out at our AirBNB before we headed to the marina. Access to your boat won’t be available until 6 pm, so this is a good time to grab groceries, floaties, beach towels, or anything else you may have forgotten.

After loading our boat, by crossing the scariest little plank of my life (Side note: It didn’t get less scary over the week), we set sail to Supetar, where we had dinner and kicked off the week at the opening party. Our skipper let us know there was a pool, so a few of us went prepared for a midnight swim.

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Day 2: Hvar

Most of you know I’m not a morning person, but waking up with the sun and setting sail each morning quickly became my favorite thing. I was even the first one awake most mornings — probably because I slept in the kitchen and didn’t have a¬†way to block out the sunlight, but still. So we set sail early towards Hvar and stopped midmorning for a swim along the way. You ever pin drop off the side of a yacht into¬†the Adriatic Sea? ‘Cause it’s the best.

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Once we reached Hvar, we had some time to explore and use the, ahem, public showers before getting ready for the party that evening at Hula Hula. This party is open to anyone, not just Yacht Week goers, so be ready to make even more new friends. Following the party, we stopped for dinner before checking out a few other bars and, eventually, heading back to our yacht where we all stayed up and laughed the night away together.

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Floaties are a must at The Yacht Week, and that was our favorite, Alvin, who we eventually lost later in the week post-raft party. RIP Alvin.

 

Day 3: Hvar

With all day partying being the main agenda for the trip, I had drunkenly agreed to sky diving the night before. Once sober, I wasn’t quite sure this was the best way to spend the day, but, nonetheless, I had already paid and was on the water taxi to the airport. I may have cried, but nothing can compare to the bird’s-eye view of the island that you could only see by jumping out of the tiny plane with a large Croatian man strapped to your back.

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The uncool, safer options for the day include a morning yoga class hosted by The Yacht Week, hiking, a beach club, and other water sports, like jet skiing or paddle boarding, but make sure you’re ready to party¬†that afternoon¬†because you won’t want to miss the famous White Party at Carpe Diem. This party ends early, so there’s time to get dinner before heading over to the after-party held on a little island off Hvar.

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Day 4: Komiza

We started the day by meeting up with the other boats to create the iconic circle raft. This is when all the boats tie up together creating a floatie party in the middle. So grab your beer and your float and get ready to party. (Tip: Dont be the guy who tried jumping off the top of the boat and missed the water, though.)

img_2510Not pictured: Our¬†awesome Relaxation Station that all 8 of us could fit in, along with a cooler for instant drink refills. Also great for standing up in and calling out other floaties for not being as cool as ours… I had great pride in everything Diridonda did.

 

The sail to the next destination is a long one, and, in our case, a rough one too. Half the crew got sick due to the rocky waters on our 3-hour trip to the next stop in Komiza. Since there’s no dock here, you’ll stay on the boat all night and take a water taxi to the party. Boat hopping drunk to get home sounded like a disaster for someone clumsy like me, so I used this as my night in to catch up on some sleep.

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img_2514I can’t even take credit for these awesome pictures. I came home with 15 pictures total from the whole week. Good thing Jay sent me all 654 from his phone. @alayonroams

 

Day 5: Vis

We headed out early, again, and this was by far my favorite morning. By the time I woke up, we were already in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. Sitting alone in silence watching the waves pass by was, on its own, enough for me to claim this as the best week ever. We made our way to Vis before 9 am and had the whole day to explore. Some of the crew opted to book a tour to explore the island by Jeep, while the others stayed in town to just wander and lay by the beach.

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Later that night, hosted at Fort George, is what’s considered to the best party of the week, the Tropical Retro Party. Per recommendation of our skipper, we had dinner near the boat, opposed to at Fort George, i.e. over-priced food for what is being served.

This location was magical and definitely the prettiest of all the venues for the parties, but like most nights, our crew left early — more specifically, I left really early because lots of alcohol at once¬†wasn’t the best idea. Sorry, mom.

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Day 6: Green Caves and Float Party

I might be a little biased, but I really think we had the best skipper of all of The Yacht Week because he always got us places at the perfect time. We started our 6th day at the Green Cave, completely alone. Only our crew and our floats inside swimming, and we were ready to leave just before the tour boats full of people started pulling in. Such an amazing experience.

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After, we headed back towards Hvar where we stopped for awhile to swim before heading to the huge raft party.

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Luckily, we were one of the last boats there, so we were able to be on the end away from the crazy. In the middle, it was full of people on¬†floaties in the water, boats packed with people dancing on top, and a DJ in the middle on his own boat. Everyone is yacht hopping from boat to boat and swimming across the raft to meet people on the other side. It had started to get chilly by this time, and our skipper had told me¬†all the boats’¬†bathrooms drain into the water (Can you say poop water? Gross.), so I gave myself a 2-hour period of partying before taking my fat ass¬†back to the boat to make dinner — a¬†decision I don’t regret at all.

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img_2930There’s an app for The Yacht Week that only people who attended your week have access to, and you can message and share pictures. So shout out to the guy with the drone who posted this for me to steal. Our huge float made our boat the easiest to spot. We’re on the far right heading in.

Day 7: Regatta

Personally, I think this event needs to be at the beginning of the week because our crew was so dead, we barely managed to put our costumes on. The idea is to race all the boats, and those with the best energy and costumes win a table for the closing party. It has nothing to do with who crosses the finish line first, but we did; and, therefore, we were the winners in my eyes. We also may or may not have left the motor on and technically weren’t even sailing. Oops.

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img_2935Like, we couldn’t even pull ourselves together enough to get a decent picture.

Following the regatta, we stopped for a final swim on the way back to Split for the last night. Although it began to drizzle on our way, it was the perfect final sail home before ending the best week of our lives dancing the night away at Club Vanilla. And the best part of the night? Half the crew left to stay in an AirBNB, so I got to sleep in an actual bed instead of the table bed again. Holla!

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Even as the best week of my life, there are a few things that I would do differently next time.

Only go to The Yacht Week. We had spent the week prior in Italy, which resulted in more clothing, a bigger suitcase, and me constantly¬†kicking strangers off our boat so no one would accidently spill a drink on my new Valentino shoes. Sorry not sorry to the annoying British girl. When I read to only bring a duffle bag, I should’ve listened. By adding another stop to the trip, I was forced to pack more than just bikinis and take the suitcase that was bigger than the entire boat. Big mistake.

Skip the food package. We had opted to purchase the food package to minimize our grocery shopping, but, the truth is, I still did daily grocery store stops, and although the package comes with alcohol and 4 apples (that actually ended up being nectarines), we were left with food we didn’t use, and we probably could’ve bought it all on our own for cheaper. (Side note: If you get a hostess, it might be helpful to purchase the food package, though.)

Stay an extra day in Split. I can’t express how much I wish I stayed a night in Split before leaving.¬†I slept maybe 8 hours total throughout the week, and def needed to catch up on some more before conquering that long flight home. *Cue meltdown number 4 of the trip.*

This one week of my life felt like¬†10 years. It lasted forever, and still wasn’t enough. We started the week as strangers and ended as family. Every day was filled with new memories that will stay with me for a lifetime — especially that time Keith used pepper instead of instant coffee in the morning. That’s one way to wake you up. Yuck.

Ready for takeoff? Flights | Hotels

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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.

Stamp Collected: Singapore

Singapore – September 2016
Flight: $692* (via AirAsia/Philippines Air)
Hotel: Fragrance Hotel Imperial ($72 /night)

*We flew from Bali, so this doesn’t reflect a roundtrip price from LAX.

Singapore, aka The Lion City, which is really a state and also its own country; and there were actually never any lions that lived there. Wait. What?

Now, first things first. Singapore is expensive, and we were warned by fellow travelers in Bali during the days prior, but I sure wasn’t expecting to go from my $2 Bintang beers to $26 Singapore Slings. We spent 3 days here, and my expenses were close to the amount I spent for 8 days in Bali — so be warned. The good news is that there are a lot of free things to do, and I’ll share where we were able to save some money during our visit.

Day 1: Botanic Gardens and Marina Bay Sands

The day we arrived we started our trip by checking out the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Entry into the gardens is free, but you will need to purchase a ticket to walk through the National Orchid Garden – $5 SGD (Tip: Bring a student ID for a discounted entry – only $1 SGD). There weren’t as many orchids blooming as in the pictures I saw on Pinterest, but, nonetheless, it was still extremely beautiful.

 

At night, we went to Marina Bay Sands. It’s a huge hotel and is the best place to see Singapore’s skyline. You have to be a hotel guest to visit the infinity pool, but there are a couple different restaurants/lounges/bars that you can visit for the amazing rooftop city view. When we found out that Wednesday was “Ladies’ Night” at C√Č LA VI Club Lounge, we knew that was our best option, because not only did we get free entry and a free drink, but it also meant that the minimum age for girls was 18 but 25 for guys; and Hello. Can we start that in America?

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Day 2: Tree Top Walk and Gardens by the Bay

It didn’t take long to find out that it randomly rains in Singapore quite often, which is also the reason I don’t have many pictures with me in them. Can you say “frizzy hair”? Why we thought our next stop was a good idea in the rain is beyond me, but we headed to Singapore’s Tree Top Walk anyway. I think in my head, I saw this bridge that you just walked off the street and crossed and it was super easy, and that was it — even though all the pictures clearly depicted a vast jungle. So here I am, in a dress and sandals, unknowingly starting a 4.5-mile hike… in a thunderstorm… and let’s not forget about all the wild monkeys. It’s also highly recommended to not cross the bridge if there are any signs of lightning. Hearing thunder isn’t a sign; right? I figured someone would stop us if it was that unsafe, except there wasn’t anyone around to do that even if it was. We, eventually, made it out alive, and the view along the way was absolutely breathtaking. Just remember to dress accordingly and be safe. (Tip: Here’s a guide to help you get there.)

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Later in the evening, post-thunderstorm and an attempt at fixing my hair, we went to see the Gardens by the Bay. I have no idea what these weird “Supertree” things actually are, but I would describe them as electrical trees, and they put on a crazy light show every night at 8:45 p.m. There are many different things to see here, including another suspension bridge and a flower dome. The show and wandering the gardens are free, but you’ll need to pay an entrance fee for the other attractions – ranging $8 – $28 SGD. Most paid attractions close at 9 p.m., so plan ahead.

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Day 3: Sentosa, Tanjon Beach Club, and Raffles Hotel

We had a mission to swim with some dolphins during this trip, and since it didn’t happen in Bali, it needed to happen in Singapore; so we headed down to Sentosa, a small island resort filled with beaches, shopping, and a Universal Studios. Being an island, I assumed we’d be swimming with dolphins in, ya know, the ocean, but that wasn’t the case at Resorts World. Raja the Dolphin was cool and all, but we were, basically, at a SeaWorld/water park crossover.

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After paying for some very overpriced pictures, we took the free monorail from the resort to the beach. We walked along the coast until we found Tanjon Beach Club. Daybeds usually have a $375 SGD minimum, but if you’re lucky, you might score one for free on a slow day like we did. Naps, tanning, and cocktails. Doesn’t get much better than that. (Tip: Ubers are not available in this area. You will need to return back to the resort before requesting one.)

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On our last night, we headed to Raffles Hotel. How could we go to Singapore and not have a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel? Don’t worry… I hadn’t heard of it either, but over 100 years ago the bar captain at the hotel created this drink, and now it’s a thing. Next round of Slings on me! Just kidding. Those bad boys are $26 each; so anyone trying to split one?

Food Recommendations:

Antoinette – I am not exaggerating when I say we ate every meal here. It’s the cutest little French-themed restaurant/caf√© and was located right outside of our hotel. The food was amazing, especially all the macaroons. I did a lot of research on this one, so I can accurately report to you all that every single flavor is delicious.

Nightlife Recommendations:

Attica – This club can be found in the Clarke Quay area. You’ll find a few different options for bars and clubs to bounce between here.

Canvas – My absolute favorite club that I’ve ever been to… ever. I can’t explain it, but it was awesome. Everyone is dancing, everyone is having fun, and everyone is so trendy.

(Tip: Tons of clubs have “Ladies’ Night.” Check websites beforehand for details.)

I’ll admit, when we were first headed to Singapore, I wasn’t thrilled. I was by no means mad, but it just wasn’t on the top of my bucket list. Come on. What kind of place makes chewing gum illegal? I didn’t know what to expect, but sometimes that’s when you end up with the best memories, and, let me tell you, I’d take all the surprise rainstorms, terrible hair, and expensive drinks all over again and again. Party on, Singapore.

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Packing Tips for Any Trip

I’m often asked by everyone how I’m able to always pack¬†so effortlessly, and by “everyone,” I really just mean my mom. I do have a few tips that I always follow when it comes to packing, though, whether it’s to fly halfway across the world or¬†a drive down the street to my best friend’s house¬†for the night. So to make your suitcase¬†troubles a little less stressful, follow some of my tricks below:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute.

My friends will ask me before a trip if I’ve packed, and I’m pretty sure it’s so they can make fun of me when my answer is not only yes, but that¬†I’ve been packed for a week, maybe two. Waiting until the last minute means you’re going to forget things, and I’m the queen of forgetting things…. Seriously, I’ve forgotten to pack underwear before. I’m not saying to be as¬†dramatic as I am, but pack at least a few days prior to leaving. This leaves you with time to remember items you may have missed during a rushed last-minute job…. or you can continue to pack as you’re walking out the door. If that’s the case, then¬†use my favorite checklist to help make sure you remembered everything (or download the digital version¬†here.)

2. Keep a travel-friendly toiletries bag packed.

img_9270I always keep a toiletries bag packed. There’s nothing more annoying than getting somewhere and not having a toothbrush or deodorant, and who wants to do that awkward let -me-put lotion-on-my-armpits-and-hope-that-works thing. To save myself the trouble of forgetting anything, I keep a makeup bag full of my favorite everyday products, but travel-sized (Tip:¬†Take advantage of free samples from Sephora to¬†fill this bag). It’s easy to grab and throw in your luggage, and it leaves more time to worry about the real important things that need packed, like shoes.

Don’t forget to keep your liquids inside a plastic bag to prevent leaks, or screw a piece of plastic between the bottle and cap.

3. Use shower caps to cover shoes.

Covering the bottom of your shoes will help prevent the soles from causing any unwanted dirt marks on clean clothes, and it will especially come in handy if your trip involves any sort of hiking and mud. *Flashback to those muddy boots in Iceland.* 

4. Don’t take the large suitcase.

No matter how long¬†the trip is¬†or if there’s the need to pack huge coats, I always try to fit everything in a medium-sized suitcase or smaller. If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, you won’t have to worry about dragging a heavy oversized suitcase to each stop (or up three flights of stairs when you find out your¬†Air BNB doesn’t have an elevator.) Here are¬†a few¬†ways I¬†save space:

Roll clothing instead of folding it¬†and place vertically in your suitcase. Since everything you have packed will be visible, this will also keep¬†your luggage organized throughout your trip¬†because digging for items won’t be necessary.

Choose items that can be mix-and-matched. You were probably wondering how a fashionista like myself keeps her¬†clothing¬†packing to a minimum. Well,¬†I’ll pack clothing items that all fall into the same color familythink all neutrals or cool tones – so I’m able to turn 5 items into 10 different outfits. Plus, if it’s a cold weather trip, no one is going to see anything besides your jacket anyway. So instead of packing an extra sweater, grab a scarf for¬†a pop of color. Be sure to pack garbage bags to keep smelly socks and dirty underwear separate from clothes that will be worn again.

If there is the need for some extra layers this trip, wear your coat on the flight. Airplanes are cold, so skip packing the heavy jacket and carry it on with you to double as a blanket.

Use the space inside your shoes to pack a curling iron/flat iron, umbrella, socks, snacks, etc. You get the picture.

Leave the giant vitamin and prescription bottles at home. Instead, take the exact amount of daily vitamins/medicines you’ll need in a plastic bag. This will help¬†keep track¬†of how many days¬†you’ve taken them if your regular schedule is thrown off by a time change.

5. Use your personal item wisely.

img_9271Instead of bringing a small purse as your personal item, opt to take a larger tote or backpack. I like to move my wallet and essentials into my backpack, pack the empty purse in my¬†suitcase¬†and switch back over to my purse once I reach my destination. If you’re flying on a budget like I do, chances are your flight doesn’t come with wifi, so use the extra baggage room to bring along your iPad, a book to read, coloring books, or, my favorite pastime, snacks. A pen will also come in handy for any customs forms that need to be filled out¬†on international flights.

If you are headed overseas, make sure you keep an adapter easily accessible too because you’ll need it to charge your devices during those long layovers while abroad.¬†I like to use this one here because you can charge 3 devices at once, and it’s universal, so you won’t have to buy a different one for each country you visit. (Note: You cannot plug your curling iron/flat iron into this. You will need a voltage converter for that.)

Now that you’re all packed, hopefully you’ve saved enough room to bring home some souvenirs. So make sure to keep¬†a luggage scale handy to help prevent any surprise overweight fees at the airport.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

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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.