Monday, March 28, 2016

A Last-Minute Trip to Thailand!

Another day, another gorgeous destination! 
First off, Wow! Talk about a whirlwind last four weeks. Four weeks and three days ago, I officially moved back up to Minneapolis. Then, exactly four weeks ago, I woke up sick as a dog, and spent the next two weeks in and out of the doctors office and hospital. In the midst of that, I found out some very exciting news...

Nick and I!
My amazing husband received and accepted a new job offer! Starting today, he is the new Regional Vice President for New York Life / Mainstay Funds. The best part about this? He will be based right here in Minneapolis, covering Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin (with the exception of a few cities)!

Once we received this news, things began moving even more quickly. I planned a last-minute trip to Thailand, and things worked out where Nick was able to accompany me! So, off to Thailand we went! I only have time for a quick post today (time to get caught up on homework, unpacking from the move, and cleaning house!), but here is a wrap up of our trip to Thailand!

tailored suits in Bangkok
Making sure every detail is perfect!
We departed on a Monday around noon local time, and did not arrive in Thailand until almost midnight on Tuesday - so yet again, it was almost 36 straight hours of travel to arrive in Thailand! Once arriving, as soon as we settled down for the evening we caught a few hours of shut eye. After all, one of the primary reasons for this trip was to get Nick outfitted with several new custom suits and shirts. So the first full day of our trip was spent visiting Tailor on Ten!

best tailor in Bangkok
On the left, you can see several of the colors of suit jackets we selected. Right hand shows the inner details we were able to customize!
Tailor on Ten Review
Nick all decked out in one of his stunning new suits!
While at Tailor on Ten, we spent almost 5 hours selecting every single detail of 6 suits, 1 sport coat, and 13 shirts. Trust me when I say that despite this being a long time, it was worth every minute of it!  I'll be posting more about how to find the best custom tailor in Thailand (look no further- this is it) - at a later date, so please stay tuned!

private river cruise in bangkok
This was definitely the best way to see ALL of Bangkok!
Besides spending time getting Nick outfitted, we had several other things we wanted to do on this trip. I had loved our previous river cruise on the Chao Phraya, so we elected to do a day cruise instead of a night cruise. I'm not going to lie - 20 minutes into the cruise, I thought we had gotten ripped off - but not long after, I realized that this was a great way to see Bangkok that many people may not. We were able to see many of the beautiful sights, as well as some of the not-so-beautiful back alleyways and canals that are not typically seen. A full recap of this experience will be coming later!

Amari Watergate review
Rooftop Garden at Amari Watergate - beautiful, and so secluded!
Previously in Bangkok, Nick and I have stayed at two different hotels. On this trip, we decided to hop around a little bit and explore some new locations, so we stayed at our third, fourth, and fifth Bangkok hotel. Two of these hotels were in a familiar area of town for us off Sukhumvit near Nana Plaza, one of the popular areas of town. Then, we decided to venture out a bit and experience amazing service from Amari Watergate! While in Thailand, I've never stayed at a traditional 5-star hotel - rather, I have opted to try and save a bit of money to indulge in more street food and massages.  Staying at Amari really gave Bangkok a different feel, and made both Nick and I feel much more ready to embark on a 36 hour travel journey home at the end of our trip!

best place to see sunset in Bangkok
This view of Bangkok just can't be beat!
Overall, the biggest activities we took part in were hopping between rooftop bars and both day and night markets. I discovered that Chatuchak Market is definitely my favorite market in town. The sunset (if you can call it a sunset in Bangkok!) really can't be beat from Above Eleven. Above Eleven is a rooftop restaurant that may take you a moment to find, as the entrance is a speak-easy type entrance with a private elevator at the back of a hotel. Definitely an awesome place!

In addition to all of this, Nick and I had our first REAL experience at Bangkok's Red Light districts. There are three main red light districts, and we had (somewhat) unknowingly visited two of them on our previous trip to Bangkok. This time around, we purposefully visited, spent a few minutes, and then pretty much ran away from them. Lets jus say I will never look at ping pong balls or darts the same way... No worries, I'll be giving you a full detail on what you need to know about Bangkok's red light districts in the future!

Had to get a shot of our new tickets, passport cover, and Delta flight credit!
Finally, our trip concluded on a VERY high note. We woke up at 3 AM to get to the airport in time for our 7 AM flight. Upon arrival, we were informed that our flight was overbooked, and if we were willing to give up our seats in exchange for a $1000 flight voucher per person ($2000 total!) we would be rebooked onto a flight departing two hours later. With zero hesitation, we said yes, hoping that everything would fall in place - and it did!

After several long flights home, we made it back safe and sound. Since then, I've been busy catching up on MBA homework, and Nick has been prepping for his first few weeks on the job. It will definitely be a busy few weeks around here, as I still have posts to catch up on from our time in Mexico, and now a whole slew of Thailand posts to write! What do you most want to hear about from our time in Thailand? I'm so looking forward to catching up with all of you!

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Local Experience in Playa Del Carmen: Local Quickies Review

snorkeling with the Local Quickies in Playa Del Carmen!
Have you ever gone on a trip and taken a tour, only to think "wow, this is exactly what every other person visiting this area has ever done". Isn't that a let down? Whenever I am traveling, I always like to find something a little unique, a little local, and overall - just a little bit different from the same thing that every single other tourist in the area is doing. Which is exactly why a few weeks ago, I was so excited to take a trip with Local Quickies in Playa Del Carmen!

best tour in playa del carmen
beautiful beaches in Tulum with Local Quickies!
Yes, Local Quickies is a tour group - but it is so much more than that! Rather than herding groups of tourists in the same direction every day, Local Quickies is meant to be all about hanging out with friends! Bonus points that your tour guides on the trip are going to be locals to the area, and have some of the best knowledge of the area and are more than happy to spread it. In any case, let's take a quick look at our day!

The day started bright and early with an 8 AM pick up right outside of our condo in Playa Del Carmen. We hopped in the van and headed to Akumal, a gorgeous beach located just south of Playa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Akumal, Akumal directly translates to "Place of the Turtle" in Mayan language, and boy is it obvious!

Just one of the many, many wild sea turtles we saw!

Once we arrived in Akumal, our group donned snorkeling gear and headed out into the ocean hoping to catch a glimpse of wild sea turtles. Not more than five minutes into the ocean and we had spotted our first turtle grazing on sea grass! One of the best parts about snorkeling with the Local Quickies is that all of the snorkeling is done completely in the wild, with no cages or pens. We were able to see so many sea turtles, and learn about them as we went! It was very interesting to learn that the sea turtles in the Akumal area tend to stay there feeding until they are about 9 or 10 years old, at which time they naturally know to migrate to better feeding grounds that will meet their needs.

Wouldn't you love to kayak or zipline this cenote?
After a morning swimming with the sea turtles and tons of other wildlife, we were off to explore the swiss cheese of the Mayan Riviera! Never heard of it? I'll be honest- I had not either! As we hopped into the van, Mariano, our local guide, took the time to educate us on the local ecosystem. Essentially, the Yucatan Peninsula is somewhat like swiss cheese made of limestone: throughout the entire peninsula, there is an underground network of cenotes, natural sinkholes, that are connected.

Check out how beautiful and clear that water is!
The entire network of cenotes in the Yucatan is comprised of fresh water pools and rivers that are all interconnected, and ultimately empty out into the ocean. Cenotes were very important to the Mayan culture, as the name cenote translates to "sacred well", and many Mayan villages were built on the edges of these cenotes.

Just another day in paradise with Local Quickies
We visited the a private cenote and had plenty of time between our group to relax, swim in the crystal clear blue water, sunbathe, and take a jump off the cliffs! After we had relaxed and dried off, we went for a walk through the stunning, authentic Mayan village before heading off the lunch for the day.

beautiful Mayan place of worship
one of the houses in the Mayan village
a well located within the Mayan village
One of the best parts about taking a tour with the Local Quickies was the great exposure we had to authentic aspects of life. Rather than partaking in another touristy activity, we were able to see how some of the Mayan people actually lived by walking through their village. After our tour through the village, we hit the road again for a quick lunch stop.

our amazing lunch spot!
Again, Local Quickies exceeded our expectations and provided us with an authentic, roadside Mayan meal featuring cochinita pibil, a slow roasted pork dish that has been marinated with oranges and cooked underground in banana leaves. Trust me when I say words don't do it justice! The cochinita pibil is served with all of the fixings, including handmade tortillas made fresh on the spot.

Really, Tulum, could you be any more picture-perfect? 
Once we had all eaten our fill, it was back to the shuttle to spend some time on the beach in Tulum! We were instructed that if we liked, we would walk to see the Mayan ruins on the beach of Tulum. However, it was not highly recommended, as we were told instead to wait until we boarded our catamaran home and could see the Mayan ruins as they were viewed from the ocean hundreds of years ago!

You can see the ruins from the beach in Tulum
from several kilometers away the ruins were VERY impressive!
Of course, I'm not going to lie - I walked over towards the ruins, and I was not that impressed from the beach. The Tulum ruins are built on the cliffs of Tulum, and are believed to have been constructed prior to 564 A.D. Eventually, the city of Tulum was abandoned and not discovered until the Spaniards sailed to Mexico and saw the ruins peeping over the cliff hills. In any case, after time on the beach, we loaded up the catamaran and began our departure back to Playa Del Carmen.

Sailing with the Local Quickies!
Let's take a moment to talk about this catamaran ride. With Local Quickies, you will get to set sail on the largest catamaran in the Caribbean, and my gosh is it impressive! The catamaran raced around the world twice prior to being converted to commercial use. As we loaded the catamaran, we were each greeted with complimentary cocktails and refreshments until departure.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games! The guys were enlisted to help with the sails, and impressively enough were able to get the sails fully open! After the sails were opened, we set sail for several hours back towards Playa Del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras.

The entire ride was met with complimentary cocktails, refreshments, fresh guacamole, music, dancing, and an overall relaxing yet festive mood. The entire trip followed the scenic coast, and for quite some time as we left Tulum we were able to view the impressive ruins. The ruins only got more impressive the further away we got! Eventually, they slipped out of view and it was the perfect opportunity to relax and take in the beautiful ocean views.

Dance parties on the catamaran are a must!
As always, all good things eventually came to an end and we made it back to Puerto Aventuras. We departed the catamaran and reluctantly said good bye to the rest of the crew and an amazing day. For most of the day, it had been our group of just six people joined by our local guide. Parts of the day we were joined by others, but each individual on the tour was warm, welcoming, and ready for a great time!

Overall, the best part about the day was how generally relaxing it was. Yes, we were off on what could have been a traditionally touristy tour, having irrelevant information tossed at us. Rather, each individual we encountered genuinely loved their job and wanted to spread knowledge of the Mayan cultures and traditions, education about the sea turtles and sea life, and ensure that each passenger had an amazing time. If you are looking for the best tour in Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, Puerto Aventuras, or Cancun - look no further! Local Quickies will make sure to exceed your expectations in every way, shape, and form!

Wouldn't you like to join a tour with the Local Quickies?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Currently // Springtime!

March is here, and with the beginning of this month have come a ton of changes around here! With that, it is time for a bit of a catch up post with what I am currently up to! Of course, I had this post all typed up and ready to publish yesterday morning - but a quick trip to the ER changed that plan! Without further ado, here is more information on that trip - and the rest of life lately!

Feeling grateful for our healthcare system and the amazing ER docs from yesterday. For the last week, I've felt the most sick I have in a LONG time. Given the timing of when I came home from Mexico, I was convinced I had Zika virus- but a trip to urgent care on Friday confirmed it wasn't Zika. After a weekend of not getting better, I went back to urgent care Monday afternoon and they promptly sent me to the ER for further examination. While my afternoon consisted of an IV with fluids, steroids, antibiotics, and pain meds, I was released in the evening to go home and (hopefully!) fight it off at home. All of the doctors, PAs, and nurses in the ER were amazing and did a terrific job. Personally, I absolutely hate going to the doctor and have a HUGE fear of needles, so if I ever say that I need to go to the doctor, my hubby knows I'm really hurting. I had the best care today and am so grateful for the professionals that helped me out!

Studying like a crazy person! My last semester of grad school starts today (woohoo!) and I am taking three courses to finish it up. I thought I was busy when I was taking two, so we will see how this goes! Luckily each of the courses seem to be interesting (so far at least!) so hopefully this semester won't be as bad as it could be.

Playing lots of hockey! It's almost playoff time for the team I play on with my Dad, and they have had a few guys out lately so I've been able to sub in for several games. I've always said that playing hockey is the highlight of my week, and it is definitely still true!

Minneapolis is such a beautiful city!
Thrilled that we are back in Minneapolis! Nick and I officially made the move back a little over a week ago, but since then I've been essentially laid up in bed sick or just trying to get caught up with the move. I'm so excited to be back in Minneapolis and close to family and friends! It (rightfully so) feels like it has been years since I've lived in the city, so I am so excited to be back!

Enjoying wedding season! I've got several friends getting married this fall, and I am so excited for them! I am the Matron of Honor (gosh I'm old!) in my best friend's wedding, a bridesmaid in another wedding, and have several others to attend. Last weekend when we arrived in Minneapolis we hosted an engagement party for my best friend, and it was such a smashing success! It's always so nice to see people happy, in love, and to celebrate that!

Worrying about if I'll be able to keep up my grades. Thus far in my MBA I have received straight A's. Between taking three courses this semester, and having them be probably the three hardest courses in my program, I am a little nervous as of to whether I will be able to maintain straight A's or not! No matter what happens though, I am just excited for 10 weeks from now when I will be able to say I officially have my Masters Degree!

Appreciating my terrific husband. While I was dying sick with a 102 temp, he was really there for anything I needed- from running out to purchase a thermometer (can't believe we didn't own one!) to getting me specific flavors of Gatorade/Powerade, Popsicles, cleaning the condo, and not minding me sleeping for about 48 hours straight he was amazing. Then after that debacle it was urgent care Friday and Monday followed by the trip to the ER. He was right by my side, doing his best to make me feel better - or at least smile (laughing was painful!) - through it all. Thanks hun!

Wishing that being late for things didn't exist. People being late has always been one of my biggest pet peeves, and it still holds true today! Fortunately, I've learned to be prepared, and typically anywhere I go now I am armed with my iPhone, a notebook, and a pen. This way, even if people are late I am still able to get some work done and be productive.

Looking forward to planning our next vacation! I truthfully have no idea where Nick and I are off to next- and likely won't be able to plan anything until after I graduate- but I know the trip will be well deserved!

just over a year ago, we were living in Sweden!
In disbelief that it has been almost a full year since we left Sweden. When we left, we didn't know that we wouldn't be returning, so it was a big change when we ultimately decided not to head back over. Now, I can't believe how quickly the last year has gone!

Loving having some spring weather! Today has been a beautiful, sunny, 60° day here in Minneapolis. When I haven't been sleeping, I have thrown open the patio door and windows to get some fresh air in throughout the apartment. A big spring cleaning has been taking effect for the last week since arriving home, and I'm looking forward to eventually being done with cleaning and having everything be nice and organized!

And truthfully, that's a great summary of what I've been up to (and will be up to!) over the last/next few weeks. It has been a blur of moving, hosting the engagement party, being sick, and prepping for my last semester of grad school. Busy but amazing! What have you been up to lately? And fun plans coming up or exciting things going on in your life?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What I Learned at 25

life lessons at 25
Looking back on 25 and what I learned at age 25!
25, you were a good, albeit challenging, year. I learned a lot from you. Each year that we live we learn more and more things. For example, I've always known that you should save money, that things don't go as planned, that you have the key to your own happiness, that you should stay close with your friends and family, etc. However, despite knowing these lessons, the meaning doesn't always hit home immediately. I learned a lot of things when I was 25. So, on the morning of 26, I want to talk about what exactly 25 taught me!

Now, I'd like to think I knew this before 25. Heck, I'd experienced this several times between switching jobs last minute, moving from one country to another unexpectedly, meeting my husband right when I had thought I wouldn't date for awhile - the list goes on. I certainly had enough moments when life didn't go as I planned. And then 25 hit, and it seemed to be the year that every 'plan' I had jumped right out the window. As a type A personality and a planner in general, this was - and still is - difficult for me. But hey, 25 definitely taught me that just because life doesn't go as planned, does not mean it is a bad thing!

Dancing with the random man twice your age while sailing the Caribbean is always a great idea!
When life doesn't go as you planned, it is all the more important to embrace the small moments. Maybe your weekend plans got cancelled, but that just means a few extra minutes to lounge in bed and snuggle with your significant other. Perhaps you made a mistake when booking a hotel and end up paying twice what you thought it would be. I bet you'll never make that mistake again! Rather than focusing on the negative, choose to look on the bright side and find the good in every situation.

I have a lot going on in my life, and very rarely do I ever give myself a day off. Between work, my MBA courses, this blog, and obligations to my family and friends, I've got a lot going on. Which is why it is ever-so-important to schedule time off and shut down for awhile to just relax and live in the moment. Being busy is not always a good thing. Our bodies, minds, and souls need to have some time to recharge every once in awhile. 

Choosing to be the pilot of my life!
This relates to every aspect of life, whether it is in your personal, professional, or academic life. I've learned when I feel myself getting upset over something to ask "Will this matter in one year? In five years? In ten years?" These simple questions help me to take a step back and focus on what is really important. 

None of us are superheroes all the time, and life can be difficult. The loved ones around you will be there to listen to you when you need a helping hand. If others can't help, it is 100% OK to take a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and have a good cry. Sometimes we just need to let it all out!

And if you can't change it, change your attitude. You have the power to make yourself happy, you just have to choose to be happy. If you don't like something, and you can't change it, find a way to change how you think about it so that you are more happy with it - or, at least, less unhappy about it. Happiness is a choice, and it is important to choose happiness EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

So there we have it with what I truly learned at 25! Of course, many of these things I knew before turning 25. However, I didn't start embracing them, and believing them, until this point in my life. Life is a learning process, and it is important to always be learning in order to continue growing. As it is (likely) clear to see, 25 was a challenging year for me. A lot of things didn't go as I had wanted them to, some were in my control and others weren't. However, despite 25 being a challenging year, there were also a TON of great things! I started out my 25th year living in Sweden with my amazing husband. We moved back to Minneapolis, to Des Moines, and back to Minneapolis again. I traveled to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and had several great trips right here in the good ol' USA. I learned a lot about my relationships with my family and friends. All in all, 25 was a great year and I learned a lot. However, I am beyond looking forward to this new year. Cheers to 26!
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