Mission Accomplished: 30 countries under 30 years old

Five years ago, at the age of 24 and with just two counties under my belt, I made a pact with one of my friends – we’d travel to 30 countries before we turned 30 years old. I was committed to making sure I accomplished the goal and was so thrilled about the many lessons and adventures that would result from such a journey.

My latest trip to Argentina in November 2018 became the 30th country I’ve had the pleasure of exploring with 8 months to spare before my 30th birthday I finally made it! In addition, this was my first time in South America and the first time that I can say I have been to 6 of the 7 continents in the world.

In honor of this milestone, I’m sharing my list of “bests” that I have been to thus far. Here goes!

  1. Best food: Rome, Italy

Italy is carb heaven! I usually try my best to stay away from carbs when I’m at home, but Rome is definitely my splurge destination. The various pasta dishes are irresistible and there are so many restaurants and cafes everywhere! My favorite dishes there are pesto pasta or carbonara. And, let’s not forget dessert! The gelato here is the best I’ve had and something you can also find on every corner. Be prepared to eat your way through Rome!

  1. Best beaches: Honolulu, Hawaii

One of my favorite things to do in Honolulu is rent a car and drive around the entire perimeter of the island. You find so many random beaches and spots that offer some of the most breath taking and picturesque ocean views. I love that you can stop by 7 different beaches and each looks totally different with it’s own personality, vibe, views, etc. It feels like going to a few different countries all in one place.

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  1. Best hospitality: San Blas, Panama

I wrote a separate blog on this entire experience (link here) but in summary, we met a local tribe of people known as Kunas People. They were so simple, happy, and nice. They took us around on a boat from island to island, offered us fresh food and drinks, and made it their sole mission to ensure we had a great time. And they really didn’t expect anything in return – they were just really nice people. This is another place with unbelievable beaches as well!

  1. Best big city: Hong Kong, China

Phew, talk about an overwhelmingly beautiful industrial utopia. Even descending into Hong Kong during my flight, I looked out of the window and was just floored. The mix of endless sky scrapers, bodies of water and mountains makes it one of the most scenic big cities I have ever seen. When you are landing, be sure to get a window seat and take in the view or once in the city check out Sky Terrace 428 at The Peak.

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  1. Best prices: Phuket, Thailand

Ah Thailand, home of the $9 dollar 3 course meals, reasonably priced resort style hotels, $5 massages, and shopping prices you can negotiate down to great deals! This is the place to go on a budget. While the plane fare may be high depending on where you are coming from – once I got there I didn’t spend much. Great value for an unforgettable experience!

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  1. Best lituation: Cancun, Mexico

Mexico holds the title of my favorite country right now – I’ve been at least 10 times. It’s always a celebration from landing to take-off! On a typical day, I wake up, grab my unicorn floatie and head to my favorite infinity pool at Hyatt Ziva to enjoy mimosas and trap music while admiring the gorgeous turquoise beach views. Next, I head to a boat turn up that starts with an adventurous snorkeling excursion and ends with unlimited drinks and partying! Finally, after relaxing in my room or the spa for a moment, I end the night with a club crawl through the popular club zone. So fun! I know this sounds like a tiring day, but Mexico is my favorite country for it’s balance of beach relaxation, partying, and exploration. You can always find a healthy balance between partying and relaxing. This is also the home of Tequila – my favorite drink of choice! Total win!

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  1. Best relaxation: Adelboden, Switzerland

Adelboden is a small country ski town where there aren’t any large building, lights, taxis, etc. Instead you find miles and miles of farm land, cows, greenery, and a few resorts. I love infinity pools and the one at The Cambrian overlooking the Swiss Alps is just amazing! During my trip there, I was in the pool and spa for majority of the time just taking in the view and hydrotherapy services – the most relaxing thing ever. The cell signal is horrible, so you really get a chance to unplug because you can’t use your phone much, unless you opt for Wi-Fi.

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  1. Best solo exploring: Bruge, Belgium

I love a place that I can walk around and explore with no map while still feeling safe, secure, and adventurous – especially as a solo traveler. Bruge was perfect for this! I took a quick train over from Brussels for a day and was in awe at the colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, city center activities, and picturesque boat tours (a must do!).

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  1. Best nature scene: Limerick, Ireland

During my trip to Ireland, I started in Shannon, rented a car and drove the entire coast stopping at cafes, castles, and shops along the way. The entire ride, I was in awe at how green everything was. It had a countryside, simple feel. The best nature scene though, came when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. This was one of my first international trips (country #3) and I had never seen anything like these majestic cliffs in my entire life.

  1. Best hidden surprise: Budapest, Hungary

I stopped in Budapest for 2 days during a quick summer adventure in Europe, thinking it’d just be a country I could add to my list. Honestly, for some reason I was a little scared to go there solo just based on what I remember hearing about the country as a kid. Once I arrived, I did not want to leave! It’s such a scenic place, with the most youthful, romantic, and adventurous vibe. The food, the views, the architecture, the people, the river and more all came as a pleasant surprise. Granted, I did very little research on what I’d do there before I arrived and had low expectations – I quickly realized I needed more than two days to take in the cities beauty and culture. That said – I’ll be back!

  1. Best shopping trip: Paris, France

Every year, I make my way to Paris for an annual shopping trip during their major sale season. You can find many items for half off and they’re usually super unique statement pieces you wont find anywhere else. Shopping there is the best! From endless shops on Champs Elysees, to taking in endless options at Galleries Lafayette, to the random boutiques you can find interwoven throughout the city – my annual shopping trip is always a hit!

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  1. Best views: Santorini, Greece

I’m a sucker for good views and Santorini takes the cake. The deep blue Aegean sea, combined with the unique white architecture and numerous blue water infinity pools scattered throughout Santorini make this one of the best spots for laying out and just taking in views that leave even the most unimpressible people awestruck.

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  1. Best wildlife adventures: Sydney, Australia

Koalas, kangaroos, and the great barrier reef! Need I say more? The aquarium in Sydney is also one of my favorites!

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  1. Best dance: Montego Bay, Jamaica

I love cultural dances. I went to a local dance club in Jamaica one night and they had groups doing impromptu dances in the middle of the floor. There is something so fascinating about the way the women whine with so much control, and how the men dance with so much swag and power – it was definitely a sight to see!

  1. Best culture: Lagos, Nigeria

This is my home so I may be a little biased lol, but in my opinion Nigeria rocks! I am so obsessed with my people and my culture. We are brave, ambitious, proud, and hilarious. The food, dances, languages, attire, traditions, etc. are just so fascinating. I always encourage people to take a moment to explore Nigerian culture.

Whether you’re a solo traveler, doing a group trip, or baecation these countries are great places to visit and explore! If you love to travel, create a list of your own and share!

Infinity Pool Memories

It’s no secret that I have mild obsession with infinity pools. There’s something so captivating about the endless views, the thrill of an edge, the raw beauty, and lets not forget the amazing photo opp! I seek these out everywhere I travel. And while some are simply too stunning to put in words or capture in photos, here’s reminiscing on some of my favorite infinity pool moments of all time – featuring Switzerland, Mexico, and Greece.

Aloha!

Hawaii is one of the most scenic places I’ve ever been. One of the reasons why I love it so much is because every beach has its own story and it’s own personality, and I am always uniquely intrigued by each. Whether it’s a shore filled with black stones, white sand, or brown rocks every experience unfolds magic. And while pictures can never do it justice, here’s a peek at Hawaii’s raw beauty. Until next time, Aloha! 🙂

Check out Hawaii travel tips and how you can get to these specific beaches here: https://www.explorefuntravel.com/oahu

Stineology: Unexpected Gifts from Panama

“As I walked through the port on the way to San Blas, I noticed, many of the locals had no shoes, they lived in mud huts, the shoreline was filled with garbage, and they were the happiest people I had ever seen in my life”

When I went to Panama, City Panama I didn’t know what to expect, especially as a solo traveler. Yes, I went alone. I arrived and checked into my suite at the Hard Rock Hotel and Resort. I was blown away by how big this place was. It included several restaurants, a nightclub, a rooftop with amazing views of the water and the city, and an infinity pool. You’ll learn through subsequent blogs that infinity pools are an obsession of mine. Anyway, I got to my room and for a second felt sad that I was a solo traveler with so much space. There was a spacious kitchen, living room, huge separate bedroom, and modern bath. My favorite feature of the 60th floor room, was the crystal-clear glass balcony overlooking part of the city and the Panama Bay. I almost didn’t want to leave my room, but I hadn’t come that far just to Netflix and Chill.

After exploring the entire resort and attached shopping mall, I headed over to book my Panama Canal Tour and would highly recommend to other travelers. On the tour, we visited both the modern and the colonial sides of Panama. We then went to the canal where we were able to witness the magic of the canal locks as a ship passed through from Japan. One of the joys of solo travel is in meeting other solo travelers. During the tour, I noticed three other individuals. We were each alone, noticed we were each alone, and all clicked immediately. For the next day, we became inseparable. We ended up meeting again for dinner where we shared stories, laughs, and even tears. We bonded as though we’d known each other for years, just a few old souls reconnecting.

The next day, we left the main city in pursuit of San Blas, a group of more than 200 islands with white sandy beaches and water so clear, I felt like I was staring into an ocean of drinking water. The port to the island is about 2 hours away from the city and luckily, we were able to recruit the nicest Uber driver to take us there. Aside from Ireland, this was the most scenic ride I’d ever been on. It was a natural rollercoaster of winding and undulating paths overlooking hundreds of miles of rainforest. I also saw spiders the size of my head and learned very quickly never to roll down the window. We finally arrived at the port where we were met by many locals, of a tribe called Kunas.

As I walked through the port area, I noticed that many of the locals had no shoes, they lived in mud huts, the shoreline was filled with garbage, and yet they were the happiest people I had ever seen in my life. My mind was blown. My newly acquainted travel companion said, “I wish we could give them shoes and more stuff.” I begged to differ. With my nice shoes and clothes, penthouse, and daily luxuries, they were still happier than I can ever recall being. There was something more to their happiness than material things, and I wouldn’t dare want to disrupt that. It was such a humbling and joyful sight to see.

We set sail to island hop throughout San Blas, and the Kunas people were simply amazing. They took us from island to island, offered us drinks, and fed us fresh food. We even stumbled across a famous Latin American dance duo that was also vacationing San Blas. After going to several islands, we stopped at a natural swimming pool (literally a patch of shallow water way out in the middle of the ocean). We snorkeled and frolicked with a few Patrick Stars before heading back for the port where our Uber driver patiently waited for our return. We fought sleep as we rode back to the Hard Rock after an amazing day of random exploration. The last day was spent lounging around the rooftop hot tub and amazing infinity pool overlooking the city. Finally, on the 4th day, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my newfound friends.

Even today, we still keep in touch. Though we came from opposite ends of the country (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto) we bonded in a way that I will never forget. Panama was an amazing experience. For anyone afraid to take the leap into a solo international trip, fear not. While I always encourage that everyone be cautious and safe, some of my greatest travel experiences have been just getting up and going: No friends, no plans, and no regrets.