ONE. Surround yourself with people who are not only there for the good times, but those who push you towards greater things. Those who recognise opportunity and love you enough not to let opportunities slide. Those who share the same drive and passion to achieve goals and aspirations. Those who don’t accept your shitty excuses even if all you want to do is take the easy way out. Those are the kind of people you want in your life.
TWO. Don’t ask if you’re not prepared to hear the answer.
THREE. Being a good friend means never expecting something in return for all you’ve done for them.
FOUR. We get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of our daily lives - studying, earning money, travelling, kicking goals; that we tend to forget to look out for the actual humans that make up our lives. If you are like me who is guilty of this but have also been on the shorter end of the stick, let today be a trigger to check in on those around you. A simple ‘are you ok?’ May be enough to kickstart a meaningful conversation - you just have to listen. (R U OK Day)
FIVE. Solitude comes with finding comfort in your own presence. It comes with knowing how to find love and happiness within yourself and knowing that you don’t have to depend on others for it. You find strength when you find solitude.
SIX. We’re all fortunate enough to have something we do or somewhere we go to when we need to escape. An escape from our hectic lives, our work, the people around us, an escape from anything that clogs up our minds. Now, I know it’s called an ‘escape’ but I think it’s imperative that we don’t mistake it for running away. Maybe it’s more appropriate to call it a ‘time out’ from the real world? Point is, whatever it is we do or where it is we go to clear our heads or take a breather - may it be a hobby or heading to our own secret location; don’t ever forget it or let it go. Your ‘go-to’ escape has gotten you out of your darkest moments before, why would you give it up now? If it keeps you sane and your wellbeing healthy, keep it going.
SEVEN. It’s not a case of how many chances you’re willing to give. It’s how much more of yourself are you willing to sacrifice in order to give them the benefit of the doubt? Do they really deserve it and is it really worth the pain?
EIGHT. Don’t let your fear of falling stop you from soaring.
NINE. Every day, we are blessed with a beautiful sunrise. We may not always see it, may not be able to appreciate its beauty because we’re still in deep slumber; but we do have the ability to appreciate its significance. We can appreciate the fact that it marks a new day, a clean slate, a new beginning. If we were unable to achieve what we hoped to yesterday, that’s okay, because we get another chance to achieve it today. If things didn’t go well for us yesterday, let’s not dwell on it and bring it into our day today. If people wronged us yesterday, let’s give them a chance to make it up to us today. Why do we keep holding not things that make us anxious, unhappy or angry, when we are given a whole new 24 hours to enrich our lives with?
TEN. We owe it ourselves to live our lives to the fullest while we have time on this beautiful earth of ours.
ELEVEN. The great thing about fear is it highlights what we really want and what’s ‘stopping us’ from achieving or obtaining it. We can either use fear to hinder us from taking risks, from pushing ourselves, and ultimately leave us stuck in a life of mediocrity and complacency… or we can use that same fear to fuel our desire to get what we want, reach our goals and at the end of the day, better ourselves.
TWELVE. You deserve more than you think you do. Have enough respect and love for yourself not to compromise on your values, goals and happiness.
THIRTEEN. Everyone dwells on the uphill battle but nobody takes the time to enjoy the ride downhill.
FOURTEEN. Always pick happiness. That should be non-negotiable.
FIFTEEN. At what point and in what scenario is it okay to put yourself first, to be selfish?
SIXTEEN. Don’t stop until you’ve reached your goals. And you know what, even then, keep setting new goals. The more we push ourselves, the greater opportunity and growth we give ourselves.
SEVENTEEN. Surround yourself with people who will constantly push you out of the world of complacency. People who will keep you accountable when you have the potential to runaway from a difficult situation. People who are willing to chase their dreams at all costs, and without letting others’ opinion of them get in the way. People who make their own paths and not merely follow someone else’s. Surround yourself with people who will be there for you even if things don’t go according to plan. I am certainly glad and grateful to be fortunate enough to have a handful of these people in my life - y’all know who you are.
This was the shortest leg of my trip but was by no means any less memorable (or less tiring!). With only 2 full days (excluding the day I fly out) in Vegas and the priority to see the Grand Canyon, I had to sacrifice some of my sleep; but let me tell you now, it was all worth it.
Disclaimer: this is a bit of a longer post than the last two, so hopefully it doesn’t put you to sleep!
00:00 - 07:30 @ 21/4
Flying from NYC + layover at SFO, I didn’t get to check-in to my Vegas hotel until 1AM… this meant that I didn’t get settled in for bed until around 2AM. On any other day, this would’ve been fine, but due to availability constraints, I could only book my Grand Canyon day trip on the same day - meaning I had to be ready to be picked up by 7AM (I was so anxious that I’d sleep through my alarms and miss the tour). (Un)Fortunately I got a solid 4 hours of sleep that morning and managed to not miss my tour!
~07:30 - 8:30 @ 21/4
Got picked up by our tour guide/driver for the day, Alfonso. He was extremely friendly from the minute he got out of the van and introduced himself. I was expecting a bus, like we had for the Yosemite tour, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a van instead - one with only 10 of us (including Alfonso). Once everyone was picked up from their hotels, we headed for our first stop - McDonald’s @ Henderson, Nevada. Side note, this was my first and probably the only Maccas visit I’ll be doing on this trip!
Breakfast (included in the tour) was a great way to get to know the lovely group of people we were about to spend 15+ hours with. On the tour: we had an American family (Albany, NY), a couple of lovely British ladies (London), as well as a couple from back home - Sydney.
I wanted to say that breakfast was a great icebreaker, but to be honest, I don’t think there was ice to break to begin with. I know for at least myself, that I felt at ease with the group from the minute we all met each other.
~ 10:00 @ 21/4
From Henderson to this next stop, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the history behind Las Vegas - I don’t know much about American history so this was a great addition to my limited knowledge!
Next stop: Hoover Dam (Black Canyon, Colorado River) - crossing over between Nevada and Arizona.
What a wonderful spectacle! I have to say, seeing the pictures of the Dam before this trip, sure I wanted to visit… but as soon as we had clear view of the site, I was impressed. The engineering behind it is truly extraordinary. The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge also adds to the overall view - who knew that so much concrete could look so good?!
Worth calling out that Alfonso took a fantastic photo of the entire group (photo’s on my fb) - from a photographer such as myself, I highly appreciated the creativity of the shot! (More on photos from the day later)
~ 13:30 @ 21/4
Cars land! I mean, the town of Seligaman, Arizona - home of the historical Route 66!
This place was like a time capsule! It was a quiet little town filled with vintage cars, petrol pump stations (sorry, gas pump as they call it over here), memorabilia, etc. Walking around was like as if I was taken back to the old days!
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I could see how John Lasseter (Cars writer and director) drew inspiration from Seligman! It was very cool to see some of the ‘real-life’ versions of the characters from the animated film!
Moving slightly further away from the town centre, we stopped on the quiet Route 66 road, where we had a bit of a photoshoot by the Route 66 sign on the road. Absolutely loved the fact that Alfonso took a lot of time and effort to get all of us not only good pictures, but creative and memorable ones! Again, you guys all know my appreciation for photography so this was a big plus for me! Of course, being a real road that’s still in use, we took turns being on the lookout for cars that were coming our way during the shoot! :)
~16:00 @ 21/4
By around 4PM, we were settled into the Grand Canyon National park.
Lunch was also included in the tour so Alfonso took care of preparing for our little picnic. We walked over to the amphitheatre which had a wonderful view of the Grand Canyon (from South Rim), which is where we sat down to have our picnic.
I don’t know how much more I can convey this - it was absolutely breathtaking! I mean picture this, sandwiches at hand, cheese/crackers and grapes within reach, the Grand Canyon in front of me, and I was surrounded by kindhearted humans. I don’t know a lot of people who can say that they’ve had the pleasure of having a picnic in front of the canyon - and for that I am truly blessed!
~16:30 - 18:45 @ 21/4
After lunch, we walked alongside the Grand Canyon, stopping at various viewpoints for photos and different perspectives of the Grand Canyon.
I loved every minute of this part of the tour. The Grand Canyon looked spectacular no matter which way I looked at it, no matter which angle I was viewing it from, and no matter where the sun was positioned at. The sun was making its way down so it was changing the colour of the canyon too!
~18:45 - 19:15 @ 21/4
I don’t want to play favourites, but this one was the most beautiful part of the day (who would’ve thought that the views of the Grand Canyon could look more beautiful?!).
With the sun still slightly above the top of the ridges, we took another awesome group photo - one with our silhouettes doing random poses, with the sun setting in the background.
From this point onwards, it only got more beautiful (& colder!). The sun continued to make its way down, but also started to paint the sky beautiful hues of pink and purple - absolutely amazing!
After being left breathless by all the beauty we saw today, we left the Grand Canyon National Park and headed back for Las Vegas.
~00:40AM - 02:00 @ 22/4
Started to settle back into the hotel from a long, but wonderful day. By the time I showered and downloaded my footage and photos from my cameras onto my hard drive, it was coming up to 2AM.
Absolutely knackered, but I couldn’t have gone to bed any happier.
~08:00 - 11:30AM @ 22/4
So apparently I’m incapable of sleeping-in until midday (unlike I hoped to be). So I woke up just before 8 and stayed in bed (attempted to go back to sleep) and didn’t leave my room until 11AM for breakfast.
I was actually craving some pasta, so I figured I’d drop down to the Italian restaurant in the resort to satisfy my cravings (because I actually already looked at the menu when I checked in the previous day!).
Got to the restaurant, keen for the pasta… but to my disappointment, I was handed the breakfast menu! *cue major ‘lol’ing and face palm emojis* No luck on the pasta but all good, I had a Broccoli, Asparagus and Italian sausage omelette instead - it at least didn’t disappoint!
~ 12:00 - 13:30 @22/4
Took an Uber to Fremont Street Experience and did some exploring. Walked in and out of casinos, watched some street performances and watched several people go down the zip line as they screamed their heads off.
Bought some souvenirs and decided that was all there was for me in downtown Vegas, so I decided to take another Uber back towards The Strip.
I guess Fremont is prettier at night but personally I didn’t think this was my scene at all, considering I’m not a casino fan at all, knowing nothing about gambling!
Both my Uber drivers were amazing. The one going to Fremont offered me some bottled water, mints, etc. and gave me some recommendations on what to see in Fremont (of course due to paranoia and anxiety, I didn’t trust the water and food he offered so I politely declined! But hey, the intention was there!). The second driver from Fremont to The Strip was my first lady driver - she was goofy, bubbly and extremely friendly. I highly enjoyed my conversation with her, we had a fair few laughs about all sorts of things!
~14:00 @ 22/4
I got dropped off at The Venetian - I strategically picked that resort because it was the furthest one from my resort that I wanted to go see. The plan was to start from The Venetian and make my way down The Strip, resort hopping on the way.
On my little Strip adventure, I visited (& of course photographed) the main resorts on my side of Las Vegas Blvd: The Venetian, The Mirage, Caesar’s Palace, Ballagio, The Cosmopolitan, Aria and of course, where I was staying - New York New York.
I enjoyed this part of my day a lot more than Fremont. I was impressed with all the different attractions at each resort! They were all just picture-perfect!
I ended the day-time visit to The Strip at around 4PM, after I took part in my first casino gambling experience. I spent $4 at a slot machine and actually won myself $67.50! I was pretty pleased with my random button-pressing skills!
Interestingly enough, every Vegas local has told me not to walk from each resort because they are a lot farther apart than they seem… honestly, it’s not bad at all! I don’t know if it’s my habit of taking ridiculously long walks that makes me think this, but I was fine walking up and down The Strip! My only complain would be the amount of sketchy/drunk/rowdy people on the street during the day.
~16:00 - 18:00 @ 22/4
I spent a couple of hours back in my room to chill for a bit, it was a warm day after all. I took the liberty of FaceTime-ing with my sister back in Sydney, while she hung her laundry up on a Sunday morning. Time flew by, I think I spoke to her almost 1.5hrs, I guess it must be because I had so many stories on my experiences so far so I kinda just kept talking! It was so good to verbally speak to someone about my trip though!
After I talked her ear off and hung up, I freshened up a bit and changed into my evening attire (nothing special but I figured it was more appropriate to stroll at night in a simple dress as opposed to my jeans and t-shirt outfit during my daytime adventures).
~20:00 - 21:00 @ 22/4
To satisfy my pasta craving, I trekked it back up towards Caesar’s Palace/The Mirage to go to The Cheesecake Factory. They have amazing pastas and I really enjoyed the last one I had in San Francisco but I had to rush when I was eating that one, so I figured that warranted another crack at TCF.
I pretty much ordered the same thing as that night in SF, but with a different cheesecake; that is, OJ, Bistro Shrimp Pasta and Banana Cream Cheesecake. It’s safe to say that my pasta craving was satisfied and more! I found that the dish itself was cooked better than the one in SF. The cheesecake was amazing - I don’t usually try the fruit-based desserts but man, this one was a great choice! It was so light and had the right balance of cheesecake and banana flavours! I’m glad it wasn’t rich because I was actually semi-full when I started dessert… how could I refuse to try another one of TCF cheesecakes?
~21:45 - 23:59 @ 22/4
After a massively great meal, I was ready to conquer The Strip on a Saturday night. I made my way back down towards NYNY, stopping at all the night shows along The Strip.
My key highlight would be the Fountains of Bellagio. I managed to catch a few of the shows (they ran every 15mins on Saturdays from 20:00-00:00), and I really enjoyed it! My favourite would be the 22:00 show, which was the one with the Michael Jackson soundtrack. I managed to do some long exposure shots during this show, even if I left my tripod back at the hotel (silly me). I was able to create a make-shift tripod using my phone and lens cap though, and the results aren’t too bad I reckon!
The Nevada/Arizona leg of my trip ends early Sunday morning @ 23/4, where I fly to LAX for the last part of my journey.
What can I say, the journey to the Grand Canyon is definitely the highlight - I mean how can it not be with the Hoover Dam, Route 66, picnic and sunset at the Grand Canyon, and of course, the lovely group of people I got to experience all of it with! Major shoutout to Grand Adventures, and of course Alfonso, the company & tour guide I took the Grand Canyon sunset tour with. It was an extremely long day but the experience itself make you forget how tired you are and it is definitely an experience/memory I’ll be keeping close to my heart for the rest of my life.
It’s worth calling out that as an individual who loves to explore cities, the outdoors and scenic adventures, I can confidently say say that Las Vegas is not my scene. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it - it’s just that I was out of my comfort zone. I’m not at all a party/get drunk kind of girl, nor am I the gambling type. I did really love the themed resorts, the pretty lights, and the night atmosphere though!
Not sure if I’ll be back to Vegas any time soon, but I can promise I’ll definitely be back for The Grand Canyon!
p.s. Don’t you love the irony in the fact that my longest post to-date is related to the shortest part of my trip?!
It’s that time again - the time where I say goodbye to another lovely city
Unlike my previous destination (SF), I didn’t go on any big tours or long drives in NYC, but boy have I been more tired than ever before! I found myself averaging 15km and 30k steps each day, with my days starting and ending at ~6.30AM and 2AM respectively. This is by no means a complaint but it goes to show how much I loved the hustle and the bustle of the city (obviously, as a city girl!) - there was always another attraction to see, another train to catch, another street to photograph, another part of Central Park that I was yet to explore.
I’m not going to recount everything from this trip (I mean I covered a lot of ground in NYC) so here are some key things I wanted to share. There are plenty more to say about this city outside of these, but I’ll mention those once I put a post up with photos. :)
Top of the Rock VS Empire State Building
I had the pleasure of going to both observatory decks in the last couple of days, and I must say - the feeling I got from the minute I set foot at the Top of the Rock made so much more impact than the feeling I got at the Empire State Building. If I was to compare this feeling with one of my San Francisco moments, it’d be the same feeling I got at the bottom of Bridalveil Fall at Yosemite National Park - it was absolutely breath taking (even if it was absolutely freezing at the Top of the Rock). Again, I can’t exactly pinpoint one thing that made me feel this way, but personally felt more emotional at the Top of the Rock.
I’d love to hear what you guys think of the two, which one you guys prefer? And for those of you travelling there in the next few months - if you have to make a choice between the two, I’d highly recommend Top of the Rock!
So on my first day in NYC, I was on foot the entire day - making my way from the Upper East Side, down towards Midtown, and back to the hotel. I did this mostly to explore, to get my bearings around the city before hopping on public transportation. That night, I was chatting to mum’s old friend who’s a NYC local, and was giving me tips on using the Subway - she reassured me that it wasn’t as complicated as it looked, but I was still very anxious about doing it. (To you Sydney folks, have a look at the Subway network and let me know if at a glance, you are not overwhelmed at all!)
The following morning, I anxiously left the hotel for Grand Central Terminal where I met my first hurdle for the day - buying a weekly unlimited Metrocard from the vending machine. I must have tried 4 different machines but all of them refused to let me buy one, so I figured that settling for a $25 Metrocard would suffice for the next 4 days (which was actually perfect).
Once I swiped my Metrocard through the gates for the first time, my anxiety slowly diminished. Having downloaded the NYC Subway app, I was able to follow which line to jump on for each destination. I must say - the research I did the night before really helped, like ensuring I knew how to distinguish between Uptown and Downtown trains and which ones I needed to catch; or even what the letters and the numbers meant (really just the name of the line, instead of our words back in Syd).
By the end of that day, I felt like a bit of a local using the subway. I can confidently say I didn’t get on the wrong train, didn’t miss any stops or ended up in the completely wrong destination. I’m definitely proud of myself for this achievement!
Old Friends, different cities
As I mentioned in the previous section, I was fortunate enough to meet with one of mum’s old good friends from back in the Philippines. (Tita J) She’s been living in NYC for numerous years and was not only a great resource for me for tips and insights, but it was good to be around someone close to family while being on the other side of the world from mine.
My mum and Tita J haven’t seen each other for years, but I absolutely love the fact that I can feel the love and care between them, from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve actually never met Tita J before (I think she knew me as a baby, but I definitely don’t recall meeting her), but I was overwhelmed by the kindness she showed me regardless. This just reiterated how strong the bond between her and Tita J must’ve been/must be!
I wish that one day, years from now, I will also encounter and keep the same kind of friendships that mum and her friends had. Talk about friendship goals, right?
Of course, this one deserves a special call out. Not much to say here, but I’ve had Shake Shack 3 times in the last 5 days and you know why - because it’s so good! I definitely prefer it over In N Out back in California. I didn’t get to try the hotdogs, but I did try the Single & Double Shack Burger and Cheesy Fries - definitely loved all of the above! I’m slightly lactose intolerant so I wasn’t daring enough to try their shakes since I was always on-the-go!
TV Show/movie references
I must say that I absolutely loved the fact that I could relate so many different TV shows to what I was seeing! I wonder if the locals feel all giddy whenever they see NYC in movies and TV shows? I definitely felt a certain amount of excitement when I walked through Central Park (yup, endless amount of movies and TV show references there), sat on the MET steps, Grand Central Terminal and so much more attractions in NYC. Being a huge TV show geek (yup, I buy all the DVD’s of the shows I love!), making the connections between what I watched and what I was seeing in person, meant a lot to me.
I learned so much on this leg of my trip, considering it’s a much faster pace here than back in California. I think that being a solo traveller in a fast paced environment such as NYC really pushes you to your limits. It doesn’t really give you much time to second guess yourself. You’ve just got to learn to trust your gut, make your own judgement, take a leap and be prepared to make mistakes along the way.
Once again waiting to board a flight out of JFK at the moment… where am I off to next?