Category Archives: Vacation

Meeting a Manatee!

A couple of weeks ago, I embarked on my greatest adventure to-date! Inspired by my amazing friend Tricia’s solo trip to Belize (P.S. she just killed it in the NYC marathon!), I decided to take a selfie trip to FL to finally meet a manatee!

Crystal River, FL

Crystal River, FL

I’ve traveled by myself for business before, but this was my first solo vacation. And so “solo vacation” gets both added to and an simultaneously crossed-off the bucket list!

My adventure started with an evening flight into Tampa. My only creeper encounter happened at the car rental desk when the night clerk complimented by bag, asked where I was staying, and whether I was visiting my grandmother or aunt. I felt like little Red Riding Hood telling the Big Bad Car Rental Wolf to get lost.

My alarm was set for 3:30AM so I could get dressed, check-out and be on the road by 4:30 headed to my manatee adventure.  I was the only car on the pre-dawn road so I rolled down the windows, blasted some tunes, and squealed every time I saw a mile marker counting down the distance to Crystal River.

Three Germans joined me on my manatee adventure, and the Bird’s Underwater (http://www.birdsunderwater.com/) tour Captain swiftly nicknamed everyone in their group, “Germany” and me, “New York”. We were shown a manatee safety video which instructed us how to avoid frightening or interfering with their natural behaviors. Essentially, you have to wait for the manatees to approach you, and you can only pet them with one hand otherwise it’ll appear that you’re grabbing them.  So basically, it’s just like attracting dudes at bars.

Is this real life?

Is this real life?

Once the sun rose and provided enough visibility, we grabbed a noodle and jumped into the water. Captain John almost immediately spotted an baby manatee who was curious and interested in playing, so we all swam over and our manatee adventure began.

Snorkle Selfie

Snorkle Selfie

I’ve included a video of my manatee encounter at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeD7ojkXZzI

This was the greatest experience ever. I loved it. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who isn’t afraid of sea-life. October is still off-peak so we only encountered about 6 manatees during our 5 hour adventure, but during the winter months the river and springs are full of 100+ manatees! I’ll be recruiting adventure buddies to join me for my next trip.

My solo vacation continued after a short drive down to Clearwater Beach. I checked into my beachside hotel and spent the afternoon lounging by the pool, crushing Orange Crushes, and reading trashy magazines.  Heaven!

Vessel of Pain

Vessel of Pain

Saturday I went solo kayaking in Honeymoon Island State Park. It was another first for me. I paddled out to Caladesi Island, which was only a 15 minute trip, but halfway there I was sure my arms were going to fall off and I would never make it. Fortunately, after some self-directed pep talks, I finally made it ashore. I parked my kayak, collected some shells, took a few more selfies (what else are you gonna do on a solo-cation?), and sent some S.O.S texts to friends to let them know I would be living on this island for the remainder of my life.

Island Life

Island Life

Eventually I found the strength for the return trip. Upon docking on dry land I felt so exhilarated by my physical accomplishment, I decided to hit the bars!

Later whilst sitting at the bar at Frenchy’s Rockaway Café for dinner, I noticed and inquired why the bartenders were all wearing face paint and zombie make-up. It turned out there was a  zombie pub crawl starting at a neighboring bar, and they were doing zombie make-up for the crawlers. Fate!!

Zombie'd

Zombie’d

I headed over to the neighboring bar, ordered a drink, and got zombied-up.  And that’s where my plan ended… ggrrrrrrreat.

By then my awkwardness was masked by beers and zombie blood, and thankfully a cute non-zombie asked me to play corn hole, then darts, and I ended up joining their group for the rest of zombie crawl.

Meeting locals… bar crawling with strangers/temp friends… swimming with manatees… By the end of the night and the end of the weekend, I felt like a champion solo-cationer!

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had this year. While I always love to have my friends, family, and travel buddies by my side, it feels incredibly brave and adventurous to stake out and explore on your own.  But next time you’re all invited! I promise.

 

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VEGAS!

Parents are the best! Or perhaps more accurately, being spoiled by your parents is the best!!

As the biggest supporters of this year-long bucket list, my parents gifted me with an amazing opportunity to join them on a weekend trip to Vegas. For sure a Vegas trip with your parents is a lot less scandalous than a trip with your sparkle crew, but I made the most of my weekend by eating, drinking, and sequin-ing my way down the strip!

WYNN

I arrived at the Wynn late on Thursday night, and my dad and I immediately began drinking our signature Manhattans. Friday I enjoyed a massage at the Encore Spa which was quite impressive. I do consider myself a spa connoisseur, and I would rank the Encore in my top 3 spa experiences!

My aunt and uncle were in Vegas for a “work reunion” and we were able to meet them for a pre-dinner drink (more Manhattans) on Friday. The topic of conversation turned to my bucket list progress, remaining milestones, and how universally bucket-list-y the items on my list appear to be.

Mom and Me

Mom and Me

On the way to dinner, my mom and I posed for selfies, got super confused about where we were (the Manhattans), finally hopped in a cab and made it to the restaurant where my dad was able to join us. Cocktails, steaks, and more cocktails eventually lead us to the Roulette tables, and after a few winning spins, we called it a night.

Lucky Hook Hand

Lucky Hook Hand

Saturday morning I donned my second sequined outfit, and we set off on our Casino Crawl. We stopped in the Venetian, Casino Royale, Caesars, the Bellagio, Paris, and even had lunch at the Eiffel Tower. It was the perfect way to see the sights (the inside of casinos)!

Did umm... did Caesar live here?

Did umm… did Caesar live here?

Saturday evening (in my third sequined outfit) we went to see the Beatles LOVE show at the Mirage. It was amazing! I did get sweaty palms during some of the acrobatics, but it was an dazzling show!

Dad and me at the show

Dad and me at the show

Sunday morning we hit the pool at the Wynn. The sun was just hot enough to bake me up in an hour. Perfect.

Bake-athon

Bake-athon

Finally my gracious parents put me in an airport taxi and sent me back to the east coast.

Overall it was great weekend and a great trip. It definitely could have been wilder (I mean we didn’t even snap the glow sticks I brought), but I think it was the perfect first trip to Vegas!

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

A Passport and a Dip!

The end is near! I’m 9 weeks away from the big 3-0, and I still have a lot to accomplish. I’ve got a pretty crazy schedule lined-up over the next 2 months to tackle as many bucket list items as possible, so keep your fingers crossed…

Part of the gang at Fishheads

Part of the gang at Fishheads

Skinny dipping: My college buddies and I spent a week in the Outer Banks lounging on the beach, drinking beers, reading books, and jumping into the ocean nekkid.

That’s a partial lie.

Three of us did it, and only once. Under the cover of night, and with a courage fueled by margaritas and beers we snuck onto the beach, doffed our swim suits, and ran into the ocean. It was terrifying (super dark and in the shadow of Shark Week) and exhilarating (no clothes!), but being older means being wiser and we all agreed it would be horribly embarrassing to get stung by a jellyfish on the private bits.

Long walk to the beach!

Long walk to the beach!

Passport: I finally applied for a passport renewal. Now I just have to wait 6 weeks to receive it. Since my calendar is jam-packed with weekend trips and activities over the next 2 months, it looks like I’ll be making at last minute trip to the International House of Pancakes to cross this one off the list. Not complaining.

My new hat!

My new hat!

Also, my mom turned 60 this past weekend!  There was a lot of birthday discussion around the items on her bucket list and she assured me marathons and skydiving didn’t make the cut.

Greatest Mom in the World!

Greatest Mom in the World!