Friday, October 24, 2014

The Hangover / The Layover

I had one of the above. Vegas is synonymous with The Hangover but for us the only headache we had was to figure out how to spend the free time before our flights back home. The morning following our incredible hike of The Narrows, we headed west of Springdale, drove through a landscape that reminded me of an early episode of Breaking Bad. 

Like most people who visit Sin City, Eric and Liz immediately took to the tables. I joined them for a hot minute, won $36 and walked away. You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them...

Or in my case, I wasn't much of a gambler and after a 13 mile hike, all I really wanted to do was relax poolside, put my feet up before my redeye flight. I called a couple hotels only to receive the quick reply of "hotel guests only." I blame (and thank) my grandmother, the former Vogue model, for instilling this stubbornness in me. She taught me that behind every no is a yes, you just have to ask the right person. I'm sure she batted her lashes and flirted just a little bit. Either way, that tenacity and the distance a smile will go, was passed on to me and come hell or high water, I was finding a lounge chair!

I contemplated booking a hotel room for the day but came across this Travel + Leisure feature on the "Best Pools in Las Vegas." I left the tables in The Venetian and headed next door to The Palazzo as I read that I could crash the day party at Azure for a small fee. After chatting up concierge, I was headed in the right direction to make use of one of their pools. 

Just my luck, free of charge.
Stay bitten ;)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

On the bottom-up route, there's a fork in the road forcing the decision to go left or right. There's no scarecrow to give advice so we opted for the longer option and went left. 

Further up the river, we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. It became a turning point for most. People saw the big boulder (not the one pictured below) and let their fear (or sensibility) take over and turned around, heading back to where they started from. We witnessed a lot of that and were forewarned that the water would be up to our chin if we tried to swim around it or climb over it.

Being waist deep in water (and in rental gear) we chose to challenge ourselves as I'm a firm believer to do something that challenges you daily, from scaling a boulder into high water to taking on a new project at work. Every now and then it's good to step out of your comfort zone. Plus, we didn't have to worry about taking the wet clothes home with us.

It is at this point we made new friends, a couple taking a break from their collegiate studies. They were our guinea pigs as we watched them attempt to navigate up and around. And then it was our turn. Together, we hoisted each other up, provided support, verbal guidance and reassurance that what's on the other side would be worth the risk. Isn't it always?

Stay bitten ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Look Up

Another luxury condo, a skyscraper trumping the height of a neighboring building. Scaffolding left and right, signs of gentrification accompanied by sirens blaring and taxis honking. On some days the sounds of the city overwhelm me. The noises cloud my thoughts and make me crave for a change of scenery.

Last year, I made a resolution to see more of my backyard. No, I don't have coveted outdoor space in New York City. I began to realize that there's much of the United States I haven't seen and made a pact to make a conscious effort to explore America, the beautiful, one state at a time.

So off to Nevada, I went. I arrived in Sin City with a hint of guilt as it was the holiest day of the year and I probably should have been in temple. I reassured myself that I would feel more in tune with my thoughts when I'm isolated in nature than I would people watching in synagogue. I could reflect without distractions and really take the time to reevaluate the past year and my goals for the future. For me, this hike proved to fulfill that and much more.

There are miles on the Virgin River where it was just us. Our cellphones were in airplane mode and I could only connect with nature and the people on the trail. I had to pay constant attention to the ground below me as every step is from one slippery rock to another, hoping not to lose footing. But every now and then, I would stop, take in my surroundings, the rock formations, the patterns, the range of oranges, reds, the fifty shades of gray. In awe of this place, what a beauty it is to just look up.

Stay bitten ;)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Travel Tip Tuesday: Passbook

Just the other week, between domestic West Coast flights, my friend Liz looked at me with much confusion and asked why I didn't use passbook.

Passbook? When I couldn't find the Virgin America app in the app store, I resorted to printing out my boarding pass. Archaic and wasteful, I know. Well, thanks to Liz, I'm kicking off tips for Tuesdays and this one is my recent introduction to Passbook.

Passbook keeps your boarding passes, movie, concert tickets, etc. all in one place and shows them in your lock screen when you need them. After I received an email to check in, I was able to add it to my Passbook and check in leisurely. 

Stay bitten ;)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Started from the Bottom

That Saturday morning I woke up with the excitement that paralleled a child on Christmas morning or the first day of summer camp. We're hiking The Narrows today! I sprung out of bed, put on Lauryn Hill's Zion for a good laugh and tried to contain my enthusiasm.

My college roommate Sarah, one whose travels I had followed from New Zealand to Peru, had raved about this hike, claiming it was one of the coolest things she has ever done. And one she would do again and again. With all that hype, I couldn't wait to experience it for myself. It was an easy sell to Liz and Eric, two friends of mine who are now living on the West Coast, to come join me on this adventure. 

We headed over to fill up on breakfast at the Spotted Dog as we had a full day ahead of us. Next door, we rented our hiking gear and watched an informational video on what to do in the event of a flash flood. Not to be taken lightly, noted.

And just across the street, we took the shuttle over to the Temple of Sinawava, the starting point of "the trail" of the Narrows. While there is no set trail as we found ourselves wading through the Virgin River, there are two main routes to take.

Top Down: requires a permit and since I'm not one to plan too far in advance, this was not in our cards.
Bottom Up: Like Drake, start from the bottom and make your way upstream and back. Ideal for a day hike although there are 12 campgrounds on the park to use.

Stay bitten ;)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From A to Zion

Getting from point A to Z.

Option 1:
Fly into Las Vegas. Rent a Car. It's a 2.5-3 hour drive to Springdale, Utah. 
(keep in mind the change in time zone from Nevada to Utah)

Option 2:
Fly into St. George, Utah. One hour drive from the airport to Springdale.
(much closer to Zion but not a main airport hub, flights are a bit pricier)

Option 3:
Make a road trip out of it. It's a 6+ hour drive from Los Angeles.

Flanigan's Inn.
A convenient, clean and comfortable stay. Of all the places I researched, this was one of the best options in town. Plus, according to google maps, it was as good as it gets to the trail entrance.

Alternate option:
Cliffrose Lodge & Garden

Zion Adventure Company (located next door to Flanigan's Inn). Call ahead to give your measurements to reserve waterproof pants (highly recommended as people who did The Narrows in shorts were cold and wet from the 50 degree water). The morning of the hike you can pick up the gear for roughly $40. In addition to the pants, this will include the footwear package (with neoprene socks, walking stick and canyoneer shoes) and will save room in your suitcase.

To Zion:
Across the street from Flanigan's Inn is the shuttle bus stop that takes you to the Zion National Park Visitor Center where you will purchase your entrance fee into the park. From there, you will take an additional free shuttle for 45 minutes to the start of The Narrows trail.

A well-earned post-trek meal:
The Spotted Dog Cafe.
Bit & Spur, a local Southwestern favorite.

Stay bitten ;)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Narrow Minded

Find whatever it is you want to do and find a way to do it. It may not happen tomorrow but if you keep it at the top of your mind and make steps toward that goal, when the time is right you'll get to where you want to be.

For me, one of those I'll get there someday dreams was Zion National Park. Specifically, The Narrows, a trek dubbed by Conde Nast Traveler as "One of the World's Best Hiking Trails" and by Lonely Planet as one of the 10 best in the world.

All it took for me was one photo in 2010. Ever since I saw one of my college roommate Sarah, waist deep in water, hiking thru a narrow slot canyon, I have wanted to make my way to Utah. But it's not the kind of trip you can just book the following weekend and go.

She forewarned me that it's important to check the weather as Zion is at high risk for flash floods. There are certain times of year to go there and if the water level is too high, well, I would have to take a raincheck as her parents unfortunately once had to forgo their tripAfter much planning and research, it became clear that this October would be the opportune time for my schedule and the weather conditions.

Now is the time to do what you've always wanted to do. Or at the very least, get one step closer.

Stay bitten ;)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday: Utah

I love when I see a photo of a place and have to guess where in the world it is. And I love being completely wrong. Last week, I caught a glimpse of my friend and her husband in the middle of the desert. Are Ashley and Doug in Israel? Morocco?

It stopped me in my tracks and I immediately had to search their geotag of "Amangiri" only to discover this luxury resort is in Southern Utah. I pledge allegiance to the flag, to America the beautiful...

Stay bitten ;)
photos courtesy of Amangiri

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ever Upward

For those of you that do not subscribe to The Listserve, here is my post that ran last Friday. 

Two Truths and a Lie

I have a travel blog.

I was on the show Survivor.

I killed a bear chicken with my hands.

Two truths and a lie is a game I love to play with strangers. It's a great icebreaker. When I play with friends, I have to get creative, as they usually know what actually happened and what's a figment of my imagination. But with strangers, it is easy to pull from the archives.

A year ago, to this day, I found myself in the company of four other strangers, who quickly became fast friends on our eight-day trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. We had reconvened in the tent after hours of hiking thru the picturesque Tanzanian terrain. Oddly, I must have given a different impression to the group, as the immediate and general consensus was "No, you don't have a travel blog."

My adventure travel companion and best friend, Jackie, sat in the tent tight lipped trying her best not to reveal any clues. I clarified to the group that I meant to say that I killed a chicken with my bare hands and not a bear chicken but they were still adamant that I didn't have a travel blog and swore they recognized me from the great American television show. (Unfortunately, this was the lie as I have yet to be on Survivor).

Shortly after the trek, I returned home to my bright (and teary) eyed family and friends to answer numerous questions about this oh so challenging but ever so rewarding experience. After a few questions about the loss of oxygen (and my mind) with increasing altitude, summiting Kili and you know, not showering for eight days straight, I found myself stuck with the same question.

“So, what’s next?”

It’s a year later and the question still lingers, as it should. I’m not going to sign up to conquer the remaining seven summits. Not yet. Nor am I going to spend the rest of my vacation days climbing Mount Everest. Every morning, I’ll take to the city streets of Manhattan just as I took to Mount Kilimanjaro with the New York state motto, Excelsior (Ever Upward) in mind.

While I’m nostalgic for the past and find myself digging up a good throwback Thursday pic, I remind myself to always move forward, one foot in front of the other at my own pace. It’s not about the mountain or where the path will go - it’s the steps I take to get there. Maybe today’s the day that I… call up an old friend I lost touch with. Say yes to a blind date. Dump a bucket of water and donate to ALS. Take on a freelance project. Or study a new language.

My advice to you is to make that step too. Take that leap, in life, in love, in work, whatever it may be. Just jump into something you feel passionate about and continue to challenge yourself, learn something new, and inspire. And travel, often. Embrace and engage with the people you meet along the way. It’s the best way we can learn from each other.

Listserve friends, I’ll leave you with a quote from the ever-inspiring Nelson Mandela:
“After climbing one great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Feel free to check out travelbugbites dot com.
Ever Upward. Stay bitten ;)

Monday, September 8, 2014

It's Your Turn

What do you write to 24,000 strangers?

No, I don't have 24,000 followers on this blog. It's just you and my sweet supportive mom. And maybe a few others.

Two weeks ago, I came home Sunday night after a long weekend at the beach. I unpacked my bikinis, t-shirts and flip flops, and retired to my couch, resting up for the busy work week ahead, prepping for three back-to-back photo shoots. And then I received the email that I never thought I would receive. The subject: It's your turn.

"Hey there, you've been chosen to write to the rest of The Listserve. You have 48 hours to respond..."

I quickly closed my laptop. F*ck. I dialed the phone and cursed some more as I paced around my apartment. Jackie picked up and her response was quite the opposite. With much excitement, she was giddy that one of us had been selected and it wasn't her.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with The Listserve, Jackie had introduced me to it roughly two years ago. It is an e-mail lottery where one person a day wins a chance to write the growing list of subscribers. Every day, I look forward to the email as it's a break from the 15% off e-commerce spam that floods my inbox. Jackie and I briefly discuss the daily email. Was it inspiring? A waste of time? Did it make me laugh? Cry? I always thought to myself that maybe I should have an email prepared in my drafts in the rare event that I get selected.

But reality sinks in, life gets way too busy and I questioned what the odds were, that I actually win The Listserve? Well that Sunday night, I was 1 in 24,389. So I procrastinated. And procrastinated some more. 24 hours in, Adam and I were making dinner and I was bouncing ideas off of him. 

I felt good about the direction we eventually landed on over grilled corn on the cob and decided I'd write it after dinner. Evening turned into morning and the clock was ticking and my email to The Listserve was still blank at 8am. In true last minute Lauren spirit, I took to my computer before another busy but exciting day at my favorite start-up. In true candor, I wrote and went on with my day.

Stay bitten ;)