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. 

Subject: 
Two Truths and a Lie

Email:
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 ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday: Sweden

Today's Wanderlust Wednesday is inspired by my coworker Shawne who just returned from Sweden with sweet candies for the office and a gift I can't wait to put to use from the Swedish travel store Fjällräven.

Her photos made me want to take the ferry from Ikea in Brooklyn straight over the Atlantic Ocean to Scandinavia. After a bit of research, call it an extended wanderlust, I came across this eco-friendly boutique hotel, Treehotel. Skip the tent and spend the night in a modern treehouse in the middle of the forest.

Stay bitten ;)
photos courtesy of Treehotel


Monday, August 18, 2014

Maui EEEEEATS

More often than not, my travel experiences are driven by the question "what's for lunch?" followed by "what's for dinner?" What can I say? This travel bug loves a good bite.

During our trip to Maui back in May, I stuck to the advice of one of my favorite food bloggers, Steph, who was sent to the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, to eat and write about it. Her post on Maui's Top 10 Eats guided us to our favorite meal on Maui, not to be missed, Lahaina Grill. If you manage to score Justin as your waiter, even better.

The Infatuation (formerly known as Immaculate Infatuation) recently pulled together their coverage of where to eat in Maui. Click here to check out their rundown of quality eeeeeats.

And for what didn't make their list but made mine:

Mama's Fish House is a honeymooner's staple in Pa'ia. A bit on the pricier side but the sunset views and fresh fish make it worth it.

Choice is the best way to kickstart the day before heading to the beach. Pick up healthy smoothies, juices and acai bowls at this surfer joint.

Kupu Maui is held on the third Saturday of March, May, July, September and November. While it didn't work for our timing, this pop-up dining experience is one that I read about and look forward to the next time around as it's supposed to a great culinary farm-to-table meal.

Stay bitten ;)
Pictured below, licking spoons at Ululani Ice and the dessert from Lahaina Grill.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Happiest Hour

I returned from my date to find the girls enjoying drinks on the deck of Mahina Surf, the condo we were staying at for the majority of the week. 

It was an ideal place for families as we noticed that "happy hour" was daily ritual on the property. Everyone would congregate around the pool as the day turned into night. The kids would swim until their fingers were pruney and the parents would look on, with an adult beverage in hand, making use of the outdoor grill while taking in the view of another postcard-worthy sunset. And if you're lucky, depending on the time of year, you could spot a whale or two.

For Mary, her one wish of the week was to see a turtle. Her enthusiasm for this was childlike and feverish. Over a glass or two of wine, Mary jumped out of her chair and was questioning if it was her imagination or if, in fact, it was a turtle head popping out of the water to say hello on our very last night in Maui.

Without hesitation, we ran down to the rocky beach. She wasn't imagining it and the turtle wasn't alone! He was swimming with a bunch of his friends. I must have exhausted my sense of fear after my hike earlier that day and Mary was too excited to think twice about losing her footing. Mary and I quickly tiptoed to the furthest rock so that we could be as close to the turtles as possible. The five of us girls waved bye to the turtles and to our week in paradise.

Stay bitten ;)



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Bachelor: Maui

When you have a girls' night out in Maui, you might find yourself waking up with a text message or two from the friends you make at the local bar. Things were a little blurry for all of us but in true spirit, I had made plans to go hiking. With the hot bartender. Before I snap my fingers and turn into an eat, pray, love cliche, well, yeah, I can't make that promise on vacation.

I invited my friends to join us and make it a group date. They passed and opted to go shopping on our first rainy day and our last full day in Maui. Instead, I took that leap. We had not explored the northern most point of the island and I figured what better way to see it than with a well-seasoned local (insert "yolo" here, again with the cliches).


This Ironman (in flipflops!) scaled cliffs and paved the path ahead for me. Somewhere in between the slippery rocks and frightening waves, I put my trust in this laid-back athlete and followed behind nervously laughing, telling him how just crazy he was to be challenging me to this seaside climb.


In hindsight, I was a little too trusting of my life to a total stranger. Hot or not, you have to listen to your gut (and not just his friendly surfer vibes). While he did not get the "final rose," he was in fact, a gentleman, an explorer and one hell of a tour guide. It's a shame we can't be as spontaneous without taking caution these days but sometimes you have to go out on a ledge because you never know who or where you might meet someone. And like the start of any relationship (or adventure), it's a risk worth taking.


Stay bitten ;)





Andazing

I received an email yesterday from my friend Aaron who is on vacation with his wife. He said "it's more than amazing... it's ANDAZING. It's truly paradise, in paradise."

Before you start to question whether or not I work for the Andaz in Wailea, I'll just let you know that I only truly, rave about the places worth revisiting. Typically, I spend more time outside the hotel room, exploring the area, making new friends, embracing the culture. But we had already done much of that earlier in the week and the resort gave me an ongoing list of why not to leave, especially during our guided tour of the property.

And here's just a few reasons:
- Hawaii's first LEED-certified hotel
- organic sunscreen available poolside
- guests receive water bottles to refill (and commit to their eco conscious policies)
- open air lobby on the 5th floor looks out on the entire property (ideal for sunsets)
- a separate adults-only pool
- private lanai and plunge pools for ground floor rooms (no short end of the stick here)
- ideal setting to get maui'ed
- Morimoto.
- an apothecary lounge in the spa to create your own lotion (pre-massage)
- interior + exterior design, design, design

Stay bitten ;)



Friday, July 25, 2014

New Kid on the Block

There's a new kid on the block and it's the one you want to hang out with. He's a little bit cooler. The rest of the neighbors have been around for a long time. Your parents, your honeymooner friends from five years ago, that guy in finance, they all recommend a stay at the trusted, reliable one, because, well, it has been for years. But you are insistent on testing out the relatively unknown.

And that's the case with the recent addition, the Andaz in Maui. Driving thru Wailea, to your left a pristine, well-manicured golf course, to your right, another resort. When we pulled up to the impressive outdoor lobby, one that blurs the lines of the exterior environment with the interior, we knew this was not your traditional, next door neighbor. Take the amenities you're accustomed to and give it a refreshing upgrade, tuning into the once-overlooked details combined with the right blend of modern luxury.

You can use your points, book thru your antiquated travel agent over the phone or you can make your way next door, hang with the cool kids and enjoy the right stuff.

Love, surf and stay bitten ;)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An Appetite for the Andaz

As I bit into my lobster grilled cheese, glancing out at the tiered infinity pools, I realized that even thought I had checked in to the Andaz in Wailea just a few short hours ago, I had no intention of checking out as I developed quite the appetite for the place.

Start off the morning at Hawaii's version of a farm-to-table restaurant, Ka'ana Kitchen. With locally sourced ingredients, each item off the menu is selected and provided from nearby vendors, be it the 'ohana farmers or friendly fisherman. My pick: the poached eggs and hash browns (made of molokai sweet potato) accompanied with an avocado-watercress salad. An on-site breakfast beverage mixologist delivers the pressed juice that warrants a refill.

The Mokapu Market, open 24 hrs, boasts artisanal goods as well as pre-made sandwiches and salads, easy to pick-up for the Road to Hana or a day of exploring the island. Not to mention, stylish "aloha" cropped tanks and surfer hats to sport around Maui.

For lunch, the ahi poke kale salad, to be enjoyed poolside. Wash it down with a refreshing cocktail (or two or three) from the Bumbye Beach Bar, followed by an ice cream sandwich. I'd recommend the ginger molasses cookie with coconut ice cream.

To cap off an already indulgent day, treat yourself to the freshest sashimi at Maui's very own Morimoto. I had to try the abalone (pictured at the bottom) after reading this piece in my travel writing class by our teacher and his abalone diving experience.

And for the record, calories don't count on vacation. Only experiences.
Stay bitten ;)