Tag Archives: North America

My Travel Plans for the Rest of 2017

My Travel Plans for the Rest of 2017 - The Atlas Heart

I don’t know where this year has gone already, but I am left gaping every time I look at a calendar and realize it’s already May. May, people! That’s the fifth month (my birthday month, woot woot!), as in, 2017 is already almost half over.

In other words, I need to get my bum into gear. I had so many plans for this blog in 2017 and I’ve only incorporated a few of them so far. I’m ready to throw myself completely into my passions and not look back.

As I mentioned recently on here, I want the rest of this year to be a year to myself. And no, I’m not meaning I want to go be an anti-social hermit and have no friends. I mean I want to focus more on what I want this year, and not make compromises in my life to make someone else happy.

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2016, A Year of Perseverance

The Atlas Heart in Taroko National Park, Taiwan - 2016

It’s that time of the year again. 2016 is already coming to a close, and I’m preparing for a new 12 months of goals, travel, and life. When I look back on 2016, I see a year that was difficult, challenging, and a whole lot of fun too. I based myself in North America this year and had many wonderful adventures starting from the Pacific Northwest.

This was an epic year of travel for me. I traveled to more US states than I thought possible in a year, and, to my glee, I finally added Canada to my destinations. In fact, I visited Canada four separate times throughout the year. I just couldn’t get enough of the Great White North.

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An Afternoon at Niagara Falls, Ontario

Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

An afternoon in Niagara Falls can throw you into the present as soon as you lock eyes on its magnificence.

I decided to make a last minute stop into Canada again, my second in a month. This time it would be to the other side of the country, however, to Ontario where one of my best friends was moving into her new place in Toronto.

One of my other blogger friends, Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, is also a Toronto resident and I wasted no time in asking if she was interested in a little reunion. She said she was and we settled on a day trip to the mighty Niagara Falls.

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Travel Misconceptions: Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico - Travel Misconceptions

One of my goals on The Atlas Heart is to break down travel misconceptions or judgments about places and ideas. Perhaps it could be that destination that everyone warns you not to visit because of how dangerous it is, or maybe you yourself had preconceived notions that were proven wrong once you arrived to where you were going.

My aim is to present a variety of different opinions and experiences through the eyes of other travelers. It’s important to hear travel stories from all different perspectives in life, I call it seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens.

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Thoughts on coming home

When I first left home, I wrote this post the day I left San Diego.


When I left San Diego on a train taking me to LA, which would be my departure city from the States, I remember watching the sun fade under the canopy of palm trees, and feeling like I knew, at least I was 95% sure, that I was doing what was right and leading myself to where I was meant to be.

The Cliffs

I feel that way again now, but in the opposite direction. I have an underlying notion, a hunch I can’t shake, that my life is meant to be at home right now.

In a month, I’ll be walking on a plane that will take me back to the US. I’ve never felt the ache of homesickness as much as I have since I’ve been in New Zealand.


There are little reminders, a quote, a picture, little things that come back to me and remind me of a specific memory of home, and I get an ache like I’ve never felt before.

An ache that something is truly missing.

I never thought I was someone who got homesick, but then again, I had never been abroad for (almost) two solid years before, with nothing so much as a visit.


I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my life has lead me to where I find myself today, and that I’ve had the tenacity to keep myself financially afloat while traveling the world.

But, without a doubt, it’s time for me to see home, at least for a little while.


It was not an easy feat to leave San Diego behind, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it again very soon.


The taquerias with the best Mexican food I’ve tried in my life, the sandy beaches that are perfect at anytime of the day, but especially at night when you can look up and see all of the constellations lit up in the sky.

The microbreweries, my college friends, sorority sisters, and Taco Tuesdays, even La Jolla, the slightly snobby suburb of San Diego where I went to school, I spent 5 years of my life there and it still holds a lot of fond memories.


North Park, with one of the best live music venues and hip bars filled with whiskey, mustaches, and black and white movies. A suburb brimming with art, or at the very least, a unique take on society.

Even with all this love for San Diego, I think it would be hard to move straight back to the last place I left, so I’ve decided to try out a new city. You can bet I’ll be spending my brief time in San Diego to the fullest, and seeing it in a new light I never appreciated when I actually lived there.


Instead, I’ll be going into unknown territory, probably Portland, Oregon, and bringing my Kiwi boyfriend with me who has never seen the West Coast before.

Portland sign at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at night, Oregon

I’ve never lived with a boyfriend before now, let alone moved across the world with one, so it’ll be an interesting next year, but one that is sure to be heaps of fun.

He has been planning on coming to North America to explore the craft beer in the US for over a year now, it was actually one of the first things we bonded over when we were still just friends, and now that we’re a couple we’ve decided to plan our trip together, it worked out quite serendipitously.


There’s also the case of visas and everything that comes with a multicultural relationship, but his dual Canadian citizenship should hopefully help a bit, we won’t know until we actually get to the States.

It may still be up in the air, but we’re just happy to be able to travel with each other, and hopefully he’ll find a sponsored job in a brewery once we arrive in Portland.

With that said, being able to show someone I love where I come from, where I grew up and went to school, my family and friends, it’s a profound feeling of joy, an experience that I’m greatly looking forward to.

Me and kendall

With the unknown bits and bobs that make life interesting, I sometimes feel that I’m more excited than I should be to be coming home. I have had a lot of time to build it up, after all.

Maybe after spending two years of life abroad, I’ve realized how much I appreciate and love where I’m from in sunny laid-back California, but perhaps I’ve been away long enough to sugarcoat it as well. I guess I won’t really know until I’m physically back home.


Most people dread the thought of having to go home after an extended time abroad, but I guess the difference is that I’m choosing to.

Just imagining seeing the look on my mom’s face when we see each other again, walking the dogs and playing guitar with my dad, going out for Thai food with my stepmom, drinking a beer with my brother, and laughing at another inside joke with my sister while devouring delicious Mexican food. I can’t help but get the feels.


I guess those thoughts make me think I’m not building it up in the least, that it’ll be just as good as I think it’ll be, as comforting as a steaming plate of mom’s homemade enchiladas.

The reason for this post is to emphasize how important home is to me, and how honored I feel to be able to write about it for you readers as it’s something clearly very dear to my heart.


Regardless if you’ve never wanted to visit the States, I hope my writings about Hawaii, California, Oregon, and American culture in general will touch you in some way that’ll make you keep coming back.

I’ll be back to the Northern Hemisphere in a month’s time, full of new adventures, plans, and experiences. You can bet I have a lot of further travels planned along the way to keep things interesting.

Near our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A look to resolutions in 2015

New Year’s resolutions are one of those things. Most years, as the end of December approaches, I start thinking more about a few goals I’d like to check off the list for the new year, but I don’t tend to sit down and really think about what I want to accomplish with a whole year.


I mean, it’s a bit inspiring and daunting at the same time, do you realize how much time a year entails? It’s 12 months, 365 days, 8,765 hours, 525,949 minutes, and about 7,363,289 breaths. Phew! That’s a lot of time, and a lot of ways you could spend it.

Some years I completely forget all together, and realize by February that I didn’t make any. More often than not, I make resolutions of sorts on my birthday in May rather than on December 31st.

san diego

I guess my birthday feels more like a milestone and marker of time to me.

This last December I decided I wanted to do the whole resolutions thing properly. New Year’s resolutions tend to get a bad name, they’re cheesy, don’t last, are painfully generic, you name it.

For my resolutions, instead of focusing on the micromanagement of my year, I’d much rather focus on the macro side of certain goals.


There are a lot of reasons why I chose to take on resolutions this year. On my mind the most is the fact that I’m heading home for the first time in 2 years since I moved abroad.

I’ve grown in ways I don’t even know yet from the past years, and I’m ready to keep that growth moving even when I get back to the States.


Also, I’m a huge “list person”, so really this is my forte, but that’s another topic altogether.

I was hoping to write this post at the start of January, but as I was constantly on the road for 3 weeks, I never had the chance. I already wrote a list of goals I’d like to accomplish back in December, but now is my chance to really expand on that list and share it with you here. Better late than never, right?


The following are the major aspects I’d like to see myself attempt this year, some specific, some broad, some that will be tough for me, but really, what is there to lose? Here’s to a great 2015, and another full year of breaking out of my comfort zone.

1. Actively seek out things that scare me

Although I try my best to face my fears, I’ve always had a lot of them. From a young age I dealt with a form of GAD, or general anxiety disorder, and it is something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past.

If you can believe it, I’m also happy to have had that level of anxiety in my life, because it has turned me into a more adventurous person in the long-run.

wall art

The intense anxieties I had as a teenager were a big reason why I decided to move across the world at 22, why I do things like jump out of planes in New Zealand, and complete my open water scuba certification in Cambodia when I’m terrified of certain aspects of the ocean.


This year I want to keep that mindset, and expand it even further. Keep doing things that are adventurous, I’m looking at you bungy and paraglide, but also have a more direct focus on the things I have tried my best to avoid in my life because they make me very, very uncomfortable.

Roller coasters (here we come, California amusement parks), the unpredictability of the ocean (learning how to surf and stand up paddle board), and social judgment (performing on the street and at open mics with my guitar). These 3 things especially, I have always avoided like the plague, and I think it’s about time I tackle them.

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This year I plan to find a comfort in all three.

2. Be genuinely social with strangers

Being more on the introverted side of the social scale, I’ve always enjoyed doing my own thing or keeping to myself, especially when I’m surrounded by strangers that I don’t have a reason to talk to. That probably comes off as a bit antisocial, but it’s why I love traveling solo so much.

I’m not saying I want to try and change my natural tendencies, I’m an introvert for a reason and I quite like being one to an extent, but I want to challenge myself more when it comes to strangers.


Whether that be hanging out in a hostel common room and being the one to talk to everyone, meeting friends of friends, or just having a conversation with a customer at work, I want to be proactive in getting to know people past the bare minimum.

I want to be the first to introduce myself in a group, I want to find that genuine interest in getting to know a stranger, and not just make small talk for the sake of avoiding an awkward silence, and then turn back to my book, or my iPod, or whatever form of introverted activity I prefer.

I think it has become more out of habit and comfort than anything, so it’s a goal I’ll have to stay conscious of and actively pursue.

3. Deepen my yoga practice to headstand status

I did well with keeping up my yoga practice in Australia, usually volunteering at studios or doing free weeks here or there, but since I’ve moved to Wellington, I’ve only been to a yoga studio twice.

Part of it is due to working full time and the other part is trying to save like a mad man for my upcoming travels, but I miss my practice and the balanced mindset that tends to come with it.


This year, not only do I want to practice yoga regularly, but I also want to take it further and actually become a champ at inverted poses which I have always struggled at.

4. Go to 3 music festivals

Festivals are another activity that have taken a back seat since I moved to Wellington, they’re expensive over here in New Zealand, and they’re not as common to find as they are back home. Well, I’m bringing the festival life back into focus, and I can’t wait to hit hopefully more than a few during the year.


I already have tickets for a music festival in Wellington called Homegrown before I take off for North America, and tickets for this upcoming Coachella when I get back to California.

Other festivals I’ve always wanted to go to are Sasquatch, Outside Lands, South By Southwest, and assuming we get tickets, my boyfriend and I are already planning on an epic Burning Man experience this year.


In general, I want this year to be full of concerts and live gigs as much a possible, simply for the sole reason that live music makes me a weird kind of happy.

5. Thoroughly explore my own country/state for the first time

This resolution was originally to see 3 new countries this year, but I thought about it a bit more, and I realized I don’t necessarily want to fill that resolution this year.

I’m reaching the halfway point in my 20s, and going home for the first time in a long time. I actually want to take the time to explore my own backyard finally.

Santa cruz

Although I have many spots I love up and down the California coastline, I’ve realized as I start to look at my road trip up the coast, there are many and more things I have never been to or seen, especially north of San Francisco.

san fran

I’ll be trying out living in a new state as well when I get home, and I want to spend a decent chunk of time exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

heart castle

I’m hoping this year will be the year for a cross-country road trip across the States, and a year where I’ll finally get to properly explore the deep South.

This year is a year to find my solid ground again, reassess where I’m headed, and appreciate the beauty of the US that I’ve forgotten since being abroad.

Santa cruz 1

6. Start paying off my student loans

Okay, maybe not the most exciting of resolutions, but a necessary and responsible one. I’ve been deferring my loans since I moved abroad, mainly because it costs a lot of money in international transfer fees to have any money left in my American bank account to pay them off.

I’ve been watching my interest steadily rise over the last 2 years, and I’m ready to tackle a chunk of those loans once I start working again, and possibly start thinking about the cost of grad school.

7. Take the time for the homemade aspects of life

Something I’ve always valued and that I’ve been getting better at off and on over the years. I’ve always been into making homemade things: cookies, crafty room decor, handwritten thank you notes, and such…but I go through phases of being into those individual things one at a time.


I want to focus on taking the time to write a letter to a friend abroad, to get back into baking, to make as many things in my life myself, that’s the goal. I also want to have the thought behind them to be for other people that I appreciate in my life.

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My boyfriend and I are already talking about starting our own vegetable garden when we get a place together in Portland. That’s a good start, right?

8. Read 30 books

Since I’ve left university and I actually have time for personal reading, I’ve devoured books with a passion, so this shouldn’t be too hard of a goal to complete. However, I’ve never kept track of how many books I’ve read in a year before, so I’m interested to see how many I get through, and to keep improving it every year.


9. Slowing down & quality over quantity

I’m one of those people that is alway go, go, go. I do a lot of things with my free time: guitar, ukulele, writing, reading, traveling, cooking, friends & relationships. I feel the need to fit all these things in every week, and to be honest, it’s exhausting.

I’ve always had a lot of passions and a lot of activities in my life, I played 3 sports in high school and was in every honors class I could get into, and I made sure to always have a wide variety of friends and groups. It’s just who I am, I like to be doing a lot of things, and accomplish a lot with my days.


Even when I’m on vacation, I find it hard to just do nothing for a day. I rarely feel bored with my free time. It’s good to an extent, but it tends to be a stressful way to live as well.

I need to focus on slowing down this year, and take my time on doing things the way I really want to do them, and not just to check it off the list.

The hardest for me will be to find a balance between everything, but at least I’m eager to try.

That’s the gist of it, my goals for 2015, let’s see how we go.

me and sis

Did you make any goals for yourself this year? What are your thoughts on resolutions?