Living it up as a #YelpElite

What can I say? Living in Hawaii and being a Yelp Elite has its perks!

I first became a Yelp Elite in 2015. I slowly began attending events, but not regularly. It was more of sporadic thing for me.

Now that I’m a gung-ho Yelp Elite, I’ve been getting more active and involved in the community – and I must say, it’s really paying off!

To answer the most common question I receive, “How did you become a Yelp Elite, and how do you get to go to all of these amazing events for free?”

Easy: I write Yelp reviews! Luckily for me, our awesome community manager Emi sought me out to be a Yelp Elite. All I had to to do was fill out a brief form, and my by the grace of the Yelp gods, I was accepted into the Elite crowd!

Through my tenure as a Yelp Elite, I’ve been able to attend the movies, the opera, free dinner parties, concerts, and more. Some Yelp Elite events are extra special, though.

Here’s three extra-awesome Yelp Elite events I’ve been able to attend:

1. Dinner and cocktails at Stripsteak Waikiki: This event did not allow for a plus one, and I was better off for it. I was able to throw myself right into the mingling and get to know my fellow Yelp Elites. I didn’t realize how many interesting, fun, and wonderful people Yelp Elites were! They are all walks of life – young teachers, retired state workers, and everyone in between!

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The swanky vibe at Stripsteak Waikiki

Stripsteak Waikiki is Chef Mina’s new restaurant at the International Marketplace, and this place certainly is swanky! We were able to try some of their gourmet bites like lobster pot pie, Wagyu steak, and foie gras. The venue didn’t disappoint – the ambiance was just right: outdoor, under the stars with the nice trade winds blowing.

2. Yelp Flight Club – Pacific Aviation Museum: Anytime you’re granted access to somewhere typically off-limits usually means a recipe for a great night. The Pacific Aviation Museum’s Flight Club Party was on Ford Island, a military base that requires special clearance for entrance.

Me and my other half were able to drive around the beautiful island taking pictures of the sunset before the event. The event itself? Simply marvelous! Imagine a swanky and upbeat party in a museum gallery full of 1940’s air crafts. It was the party of dreams!

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I want that leather flight jacket!

We had pupus like tacos, garlic chicken, ahi poke, and dessert like chocolate, ice cream, and Popsicles. The open bar wasn’t a bad addition either!

We had fun exploring the gift shop- especially lusting after the authentic aviation leather jackets.

3. Day at the Beach at the Shriner’s Club in Waimanalo: So many times driving up the highway we unknowingly passed by this incredible beachfront property. You are only able to access it as a guest of a Shriner’s Club member, and luckily, fellow Yelp Eliter Victoria’s husband was able to sponsor us as guests for the day.

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Check out this view! Waterfront beach bbq day!

This event was a fun, relaxing Sunday getting to know more about the community members which make Yelp Hawaii so special. We shared lunch pot-luck style next to the ocean, played a few games of volleyball, and had lots of laughs. Thank you Victoria and Aggie for putting this Sunday Funday together!

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New friends thanks to Yelp! 

Overall, I’m grateful to be a Yelp Elite. It’s helping expose me to the many wonderful places on Oahu, and more importantly, helping me to forge friendships with the beautiful people here.

Why Helpx Still Excites Me 4 Years Later

It’s been 4 years since I’ve traveled full-time using Helpx.net, but after curiously poking around on their site again, it looks like things have only grown and gotten better and better for them – and for the travelers who use their site.

You might remember this throwback post: Workaway vs. Helpx: Which do you use when planning a working holiday?  This post is actually my most popular to date, and it’s easy to imagine why: Who wouldn’t want to live in and work in paradise (From Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Austria, France, the U.S. and more) for a nice family/farm in exchange for somewhere to stay…all while having the time and money to explore?

 

 

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Check out all of these thousands of listings in Australia.

 

 

I’ve used Helpx twice and had the best experiences of my life.

In Australia, I stayed with a family in Ipswich, Queensland, not a far train ride from Brisbane. For two weeks, I had my own room, was fed gourmet meals (the dad was a chef!), was taken to locals-only swimming holes, parks, and beaches. I had the time of my life. All I did was work 4 hours a day/a few days a week, and I had the richest, most local experience ever. I remember one day, while relaxing on their outdoor porch, seeing a flock of wild cockatoos fly by. I’ll never forget it!

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This is one of my favorite shots taken near the Gold Coast in Australia. Who took me there? You guessed it: My host family!

Then there was Hawaii, a Helpx experience I loved so much, I still live in the state 4 years later! I lived and worked at a eco-hostel on the Big Island. I picked fruit, built trails, planted trees, but best of all, made amazing lifelong friendships and one-of-a-kind memories. I had free WiFi, and it was under the thatched roof my dwelling I published some of my first travel stories. My time at Hedonisia Hawaii will go down as some of my best memories to date.

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Wild tropical flowers foraged from around the property – perfect for Ikebana! Look at those rare orchids! (Left)

If anyone is on the fence about a Helpx experience, I highly recommend you go for it. Pay the membership fee: it’s totally worth it. Weigh the following options:

  • Proximity to a city
  • Transportation
  • Accommodations (Plenty of places offer private rooms and even private bathrooms!)
  • Are meals included? My stay in Australia had meals included, but I was on my own in Hawaii. There were always plenty of shared meals, though.
  • Responsiveness/helpfulness of host
  • Will there be other travelers there to meet?
  • Is there WiFi? Many places have it.
  • How long are they looking for you to stay? Many hosts actually prefer longer guests.

With all the talk nowadays of being a digital nomad, Helpx is certainly a viable way to achieve that. If my lifestyle hadn’t shifted and I was still on the road, I’d do Helpx again in a heartbeat. Please use it and travel deeply!

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This post was not sponsored, nor am I getting compensated for it. I really just love Helpx and the memories it helped me create.

 

Shine on you crazy diamond: Observations on life nearing 30

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I’ve often thought that in order to speak about anything from a place of authority, you had to be 30, or at least close to it.

Well here it is.

I’m coming up to my 30th year, and things that seemed so impossible to figure out are only now beginning to make sense. Life’s mysteries and lessons are beginning to reveal themselves to me.

The worst thing about your 20s is everything. The best thing about your 20s? Everything.

After I graduated college, I wanted to be “one of them.” I so badly wanted a job in public relations, so I could get someone else’s point across, be a sassy Chicago office girl. Or I would write nonsensical news bits on the Frisky, which now I see how pointless that would have been.

I thought I’d manicure my nails, marry my college sweetheart, rise to the top. In every version of my old self, I was some hard-nosed Chicago bitch that accepted the status quo, or a shitty job, shitty weather, or all three of those things.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Now I’m stretching my aching back on mornings before my bus commute to work in Honolulu. My neck has a permanent crick in it, and I’ve already had skin cancer removed. I lived hard and fast in my 20s, and I don’t regret a moment of it.

I got an internship at an advertising agency right out of college. I thought I’d become some savvy marketer, a slick bitch with a grin and gimmick. I’d write copy that’d make the masses swoon.

Okay, so I was more of a fresh-faced, slightly scared, but no-doubt talented writer. Nonetheless, undeserving of the scathing shit scorn I’d get from one of my “mentors.”

Back then, it being my first job and all, after a few months at it I figured everyone just fucked everything up all the time. It wasn’t until now, today, 6 years later, that I realize I wasn’t fucking shit up. I was seen, as most talented and driven people are: as a threat.

Every headline I wrote was bad. Everything I did was sent back. Every press release that looked perfect was met with a prompt email (which made me think she hadn’t even READ it yet) that coyly said “Nice try.”

I put up with it for six months. I wrote headlines and copy that eventually got picked up in print by big clients. But around the time my internship was going to end, and lead to what I thought would be a full-time job with a raise, my bitch mentor told me that they were extending my internship because I hadn’t done well enough, hadn’t performed to their expectations.

I quit the next day. And today, for the first time since I quit that job, I realize that there was never anything fundamentally wrong with me or my headlines. I interned at the Chicago Sun-Times before I got that job. I quickly went on, after quitting, to being published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I was good.

They were bad: bad leaders, bad examples. SHE was a bad mentor who made me believe bad things about myself as a person, and as a writer, for a very long time.

Around the same time I was tolling away at a place that fucked with my mind as a young writer and working professional, I was hopelessly dumped by my college sweetheart, whom I adored lovingly, out of the blue. I was utterly crushed for an entire year.

I spent so many nights crying in bed, wondering why he didn’t love me anymore. I envisioned a future with him. It wasn’t fair! Beyond fairness though: Again, someone made me believe that I was a bad woman. Undeserving of love.

I did what any self-loathing, but driven person would do – I got out of dodge.

I lived a whirlwind of adventures, was published in tons of magazines and websites, and lived the life of my dreams. I went to places people only dreamed about.

I questioned my sanity on the hard days. Was I really living in a camper, showering sometimes with cold water, getting drunk on PBR beers? Was I really living in a motel room for a winter before I permanently relocated back to Hawaii?

The answer was yes. I did do all of those crazy things, and much more, many things of which I might be too ashamed to ever even write about. But yet, as I’m coming up my thirtieth year, I can’t help but see so many doors from my past hurts and mistakes shutting with closure for good.

Fast-forward to today. I live and work in urban Honolulu, Hawaii. I live in my own apartment, pay my own rent. I have a job in marketing where my boss and the CEO are the most giving, amazing, non-judgmental people I ever met. Wherever there’s a chance to improve, I’m never met with a “Nice try,” but rather, “Let’s work on this together.” Everything I do is beyond appreciated. I’m good at it because I love it, and I love it because they love me and my contributions. I’m in a happy and positive work environment for the first time in my life.

In addition to that, I’m writing freelance travel articles. My clients are big nowadays: Expedia, Travelocity, Mapquest. I used to believe I wasn’t good enough to write for them. That same negative thought even crossed my mind the other day when I was commissioned to write a piece for Travelocity. My old editor said, “I’d love to work with you again. I love your writing, especially your narratives,” and I thought, “She’s just saying that…” No, she’s not just saying that. She believes it. And I finally do, too.

Recently, I had a coming full-circle moment. I casually checked my email on my phone. A typical “People you should connect with” LinkedIn email was in my inbox. Usually I delete these spammy messages, but this time I opened it.

The last person on the list, a LinkedIn 3rd connection (how do they even quantify that shit?), was my ex-boyfriend who crushed me so many years ago.

I felt like I was sucker-punched.

I immediately logged into LinkedIn to find out as many details as my brain could absorb.

I was unusually starved for information, you see. After he so cruelly dumped me out of the blue, we continued “trying to make it work” (admittedly, we just had sex) for a year after the breakup. One day, after having the same fight we always did, he stormed out my house and left me there, crying. I never saw or heard from him again.

Over the years, I tried looking him up a few times on Google and Facebook never to any avail. This was the first time I had confirmation that he was even living in 5 years.

And so, here I am, working my amazing job, living my amazing life (with my incredible new boyfriend, as it is) simultaneously rehashing the hurts of my past, again, via a LinkedIn 3rd connection. How could someone you once knew so intimately, someone into whose eyes you gazed when you professed your love to them, in the same lifetime become a mere third-tier connection on LinkedIn? Is life so bleak?

Turns out, he’s been living a rather boring existence. He transitioned into IT after majoring in English (where we met in college). He worked for a handful of companies in and around the Chicagoland area. He now works at some startup in Denver. He’s bald, unimpressive looking. His picture is devoid of any primary colors, and things are, for him anyway, much of the same.

This is all taken from a LinkedIn profile, mind you, so my assumptions about his life trajectory can only go as far as a 3rd tier connection will permit, but you get the picture.

I was slighted for a few days. I pondered the meaning of it all. I felt a bit sad, and hurt came and went, then came again.

But what I felt next was transcendental. When I really got to thinking about how far I’ve come since he dumped me, I felt assurance that the pain I experienced because of him started me on my journey to finding my life’s purpose. I felt closure.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Through the late nights, the cry sessions, the miles traveled, the people met, the jobs had, all of it conspired to bring me here, to this very point, to make these very real musings about the eventually and mysticism of life.

The moral of the story, from what I’ve pieced together through thinking about my early twenties until now, is this: Never let anyone, especially shit suckers and heart breakers, hold you back from the good things you are most certainly destined for in your life. People will be jealous of your successes. They will want to see you sit and listen to the same tape on repeat over and over again (like they do) for the rest of your life. People will dump you and not tell you why. You’ll have a mean boss, a boring job, or any other mess of circumstances in between.

The real work comes in when you decide to achieve anyway. You’ll emerge stronger, and you will reach further in the direction of your dreams. The power was in you all along. Don’t let some unhappy house mom or balding IT guy steal it from you. Bask in your sunshine, sweetie, and let the world see how fucking bright you can shine.

A day at the Waikiki Aquarium

When one comes to visit Hawai’i, the last thing on their mind is visiting an aquarium. “Why would I visit the aquarium when I could just jump in the ocean and see a living aquarium?” Great question, but let me answer you this way. The Waikiki Aquarium showcases dozens of coral species and fish, crustaceans, sea horses, sea dragons, pipefish, predators, and ocean life from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands you just can’t see on the main islands.

The most impressive spread were the variety of colorful living corals. All the corals are thriving under conditions simulated to be the ocean in its most pristine, healthy state. The key takeaway for me was that I have never seen such beautiful, developed, colorful and healthy coral in the wild. It was amazing to see what coral could look like in the more remote reefs and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It was equally amazing to imagine what our reefs on O’ahu can and will look like when we are ready to transplant species back to where they belong.

Here are some photos I took at the aquarium. I would highly recommend this visit for any visitor to Hawai’i, especially before jumping into the ocean. It’s great to learn about the underwater world and its fragile ecosystem before diving in.

The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country

The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country

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An angelfish indigenous only to the Hawaiian islands swims by a colorful reef

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Sea anemone attract clown fish and other species of fish to its predatory confines

Hawaiian island reef life

Hawaiian island reef life

South Pacific reef life

South Pacific reef life

Yellow striped pipefish

Yellow striped pipe fish

Jellyfish in the "drifters" exhibit

Jellyfish in the “drifters” exhibit

Beautiful coral exhibits

Beautiful coral exhibits

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A sampling of the vibrant underwater world you can experience through thriving coral reefs

This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!

This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!

Next time you have a rainy day in Hawaii, or are just looking for a getaway to see something beautiful, check out the Waikiki Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed! They also have a predator exhibit with sharks and a vast educational/conservation exhibit, as well.

Tips for Exercising with your Dog

Fido is man’s best friend for a reason. He is loyal, cute and a fur ball of energy. To keep your beloved four-legged friend his happiest and healthiest, exercising your dog must be in your daily routine. Dogs have special needs when it comes to staying active. Follow these steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time with your pup.

Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii

Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii

Check the weather: This sounds like a no-brainer, but often times dogs are left in hot cars for long periods of time unattended causing overheating and even death. Also, while on a run or a hike, a dog is exerting him/herself just like you. Cold winter months can be brutal on not only you, but on your pup. Visit your local pet store and buy a coat for you dog if necessary. In areas where it snows, salt might be dropped on the sidewalk or street to prevent people from slipping. Be mindful that winter salt is hurtful and harmful to your dog’s paws. Always think about how you like to dress and prepare for the day outside and make sure to follow suit with caring for your dog.

Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out

Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out

Mind your city’s off-leash rules: It might be tempting in some areas to let your dog off the leash for a full-blown run, but before you free Fido, learn the local leash laws of your area. Leash laws are not meant to limit the fun you and your furry friend can have together, but actually work to protect the two of you. Factors such as aggressive dogs, small children, wild animals and traffic can turn even the most innocent run or hike into a chaotic situation. In many areas if you’re caught by the authorities with your dog off the leash you’ll likely face a hefty fine. Do yourself a favor and follow the rules.

Offer plenty of water and food: Just like when you go for a jog or swim, you burn calories and work up to chugging about a gallon of water. Given that your dog is right by your side, make sure you bring water and a small bowl for them to drink out of. Water should be kept cool if possible and must absolutely be clean. Try to discourage your dog from drinking any stagnant or running water you don’t know to be bacteria-free. Also, when possible, bring snacks or food with so they can replenish their energy as they go.

An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog

An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog

Carry around plastic bags for clean up: Nothing’s worse than a steaming pile of dog doo-doo- especially if it doesn’t belong to your dog. One of the best signs of a great dog owner is one that diligently picks up after their dog. Carry some small plastic bags with you on your excursions so that when your pup relieves himself you can tidy up after him and move forward.

Let them rest: After a long hike or fetch session, your dog is zonked. Give them a space in your home that is their sanctuary: whether it’s a nook in the corner with a special pillow or a doghouse they can relax in and recharge, it’s important to give your dog time to rest their batteries in between excursions.

Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike

Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike

Offer rewards: Dogs are extremely loyal and respond well to rewards. Given your dog was well-behaved and focused during exercise, immediately rewarding them with a small treat or new bone is an excellent way to reinforce continued good behavior. It’s also a good way to see their tale wag and watch them trot off to their happy place.

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How to travel as a couple and not kill each other

If there’s one takeaway from the book and movie Into the Wild I will always carry with me, it’s this:

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

When I first starting traveling, I trekked solo for the better part of 2 years. It was great! I was able to come and go as I pleased, see anything I wanted to see at any time of day, eat whatever came to mind and experience total and complete freedom.

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Something that came with that freedom, though, was loneliness. One day as I swam alone at the Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon in Australia, I saw a couple playing in the water together and kissing. I tried to not let it affect me, but it shook me. I was completely lonesome. I wish I had someone by my side to experience all the amazing things I was doing: snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking in the rain forest, jungle expeditions and meeting new friends.

Later that year I met my current boyfriend Jonathan and we’ve been together ever since. We fell in love with each other and both loved traveling. The perfect storm brewed and we became a couple that traveled full-time together.

Jonathan and I at the Grand Canyon

Jonathan and I at the Grand Canyon

Traveling with your romantic partner is something every couple should do. Traveling tests your limits and expands your mind. Having new and exciting experiences with someone you love keeps things interesting, fresh and fun.

But, all the benefits of traveling with my boyfriend came at a cost. I could no longer saunter into parties and flirt with wild men. Gone were the days of perusing clothing markets (I couldn’t bare the site of Jonathan in the “husband chair” just waiting for me to be done). If I wanted to eat Mexican food, I didn’t stand a good chance as Jonathan prefers Asian cuisine. Times: they were a changin’.

Traveling together as a couple meant learning how to navigate through the ever-changing and exciting world as a team, not solo. I learned a lot about what it means to make a meaningful relationship work even in the thick of it.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Make sacrifices: You might not want to hear this, but I believe if you want to successfully travel the world as a couple, you have to sacrifice. You might not to be able to visit a certain site or eat the specific cuisine you had your heart set on. More than once you’ll have to put off getting your haircut or buying yourself a cute pair of shoes because your partner’s ATM card isn’t working abroad. You’ll probably resort to PB&Js for a night or two just to get a private hostel room, whereas before you didn’t mind cramming into an 12-bed room. When you travel as a couple, you have to think of yourself as a collective whole, not as two individual people.

Living in a camper wasn't always easy, but waking up to these views made it always worth it.

Living in a camper wasn’t always easy, but waking up to these views always made it worth it.

2. Practice patience: Whenever Jonathan and I road tripped across the U.S., I was like my dog- my head was out the window and I wanted to stop every hour or two to take pictures, go to the bathroom or stretch. Jonathan was the king of “keep driving,” even at the cost of me whining about “passing up all the sites.” I finally learned that Jonathan was simply waiting for the right moment to pull off so that we could have privacy, use the bathroom AND refuel or find the ultimate scenic spot for a photo opp. Biting my tongue and practicing patience when all I wanted was my way proved difficult, but the payoff always trumped my impatience.

3. Go with the flow: Shit happens on the road. You’ll get a flat tire. You’ll get robbed. You’ll run out of money. Someone in your group will get in a fight and you have to hitchhike home. When traveling, you have to be the master of expecting the unexpected. Letting a little adversity that isn’t anyone’s fault come between you as a couple is a sign of naivitee. To point fingers and blame your significant other during a tough time only widens your gap and decreases the effectivity of safely solving a problem. If you can remain calm and encourage your partner to follow suit, you can take on any challenge with a clear mind.

Sucking it up and finding a way to survive winter before moving to Hawaii

Sucking it up and finding a way to survive winter before moving to Hawaii

4. Respect each other’s alone time: I can’t stress this enough. Yes, you’re in love and you love to do every lovey dovey thing together. We get it. Now that you’re done suffocating, take some time for yourself. I used to get upset when I’d go swimming and Jonathan didn’t feel like getting in the water. It made me feel like he didn’t want to enjoy something with me that I enjoyed doing so much. I realize, now, that his version and my version of “enjoying” vary a great deal sometimes, and some experiences are saved just for me. Those special moments when I can get away and practice yoga, write, swim, go for a jog or do anything that brings me peace is a gift and vice versa.

5.  Make time for just the two of you: You might be thinking: “Make time for the two of you? You’re traveling the world together! What more time do you need?!” Travel is not glamorous. In fact, it’s a full-time job. Between balancing finances, dealing with interesting characters you meet on the road, calling home, arranging stays, dealing with unruly passengers or moody gas station attendants, sometimes you forget to look next to you, see your partner and fully comprehend that you’re in this together. Don’t let the world bog you down. Find alone time to reconnect. If that’s catching a movie together, preparing a meal with each other or simply taking a walk hand in hand, it’s important to find time to celebrate one-on-one the reason why you decided to travel the world together in the first place.

Together in love and travel

Together in love and travel

Are you a traveling couple? What tips do you have for staying sane on the road? I’d love to hear your feedback.