The rain splattered against the train window as I traveled the short distance from Brussels to Bruges, only an hour away.
I’d dreamed of going to Bruges since I was around 13 and found a random penpal online who lived there. We wrote back and forth for months, talking about the differences in our cultures and how it was growing up as a teenager in Europe vs. America.
Kelsey and I quickly made our way to the Saigon Opera House, a short walk from where we were staying, and where we would be meeting our tour group for the day. We had signed up for a Mekong Discovery tour with Intrepid Urban Adventures, and we had a full day ahead of us of agricultural wonders and good food.
This was my first tour with Intrepid, but I had heard great things about them from other travelers and bloggers alike, which made me seek them out. They have tours all over the world, and their Urban Adventure tours specifically are meant to be more focused on the local side of a destination.
From the moment my friend Kelsey and I stepped into the Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint Hotel, we were welcomed as valued guests. After check-in, we grabbed fresh guava juice from the downstairs bar and sighed into our cushy chairs, taking in the expansive and open lobby with neutral tones and a clean design.
Yes, we could definitely stay here for awhile.
You can feel the vibrancy as soon as you touch down in Saigon – the motorbikes whizzing by, the smells, the sizzling heat.
Last time I was in the city, I was overwhelmed. It was one of the first cities I visited in Asia and my senses were doing overtime. I didn’t know how to cross the street without having a heart-racing adrenaline kick each time, and I soon found out that the motorbike thieves are a real thing when one tried to grab my friend’s bag from behind.
It was too much and I wrote off Saigon as a big city that I would never enjoy visiting. But as I sometimes find when I travel more, I couldn’t have been more wrong with my initial prejudice against the city.
2016 was a lot of things. I became serious about my business and brand partnerships, and it was the year that I got back into reading.
Okay, to be fair, I’ve never not been into reading since I first learned how to read. As you may have noticed by the amount of 2000+ word posts on this blog (this one included, eek!), I love words.
English was always my favorite class growing up, because you got to read books for homework and you were able to discuss it with the class, even by the chapter sometimes.
This last year I had the chance to do a lot of day hikes around the Pacific Northwest. I found myself chasing waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, exploring mountainous landscapes at Mt. Rainier National Park, and even adventuring around the epic scenery to be found on Vancouver Island. Although a lot of these hikes were during spring and summer, the great majority of the hikes I did in Oregon were in the midst of winter.
I used the beautiful nature that was anywhere from 1-3 hours outside of Portland to get rid of any lingering winter blues. The Pacific Northwest is notorious for gloomy, rainy, and wet weather. It does snow occasionally too. Basically, if you’re hiking during the winter, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. The weather can also change multiple times throughout the course of a day.
There has been only one other time in my life that I’ve been on a jet boat, and that was on the famous Shotover Jet Boat Ride in Queenstown. Now it’s hard to beat that one. It’s a raucous 20 minute ride that is reminiscent of an amusement park ride where there are death-defying spins and close calls with cliff sides. In other words, it was an adrenaline rush in the best ways.
The recent jet boat ride I did with Jerry’s Rogue Jets in Gold Beach, Oregon was very different in a lot of ways. There were still spins here and there, but the main purpose of the tour wasn’t for the giddy-inducing stomach flips. It was for the scenery, and let me tell you, the Rogue River knows how to set a beautiful scene.
I’ve had a habit of facing my fears and getting (mostly) over them in the past decade. I’ve had a habit of getting out of my comfort zone and not allowing myself to think the worst until after I do something. The one fear that I can’t seem to kick, however, is the sheer terror I have of drowning.
For some reason, activities like scuba diving don’t faze me too much, perhaps because it’s so calm underneath the sea. But, if I’m doing something that’s more aggressive, such as surfing or being in the midst of waves I don’t know how to read, I have major panic attacks. I’ve dealt with intense anxiety my whole life and this fear of water has to be one of the strongest ways of spiking my anxious mind.
If you told me a few months ago that I would soon ride a gondola in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, I would’ve thought you were crazy. A gondola in the Pacific Northwest? It seems like such an absurd notion, but it’s an experience that was all kinds of awesome once I experienced it for myself.
The only other time I stepped onto a gondola was in Venice, Italy back in 2011 when I was on a TopDeck tour around Europe. None of the 20-something year olds I was traveling with could afford a gondola ride by themselves, so 5 of us split the cost and piled into one together.
I’m a beer girl. I’ve loved craft beer since my college days and my first bartending gig at my on-campus pub in San Diego. With that said, I do enjoy changing it up sometimes and introducing new flavors to my palate. That chance came during my InstaFAM trip last month that led me to Gig Harbor, Washington and the renowned distillery that resides there, Heritage Distilling Co.
Conveniently located right next to our accommodation for the night, as soon as I walked into Heritage I could tell these guys knew exactly what they were doing. I also realized it was the first time I’d ever been on a distillery tour. New experience for the win!