“I would never let my daughter do that!”

Fatherhood is an interesting concept for me to think about because although I have a father, I can never become one. In the wake of Father’s day weekend, I’ve been thinking about why I appreciate my own father so much. While he’s done so many things for me that I can never be grateful enough, one trait, in particular, stands out.

My dad always made my sister and me feel capable. He always encouraged us to get out of our comfort zone, learn new things, and have new experiences. He rarely made us back off on a new opportunity because he was scared for us. This was prevalent when we were kids when he would push us to be better at our respective sports, or when he would try and get us to read books outside of class that pertained to classroom topics to increase our knowledge so we could get ahead. Even as adults he never tries to pull us back for safety’s sake. A chief example is the nearly two-month long trip I went on by myself last summer. No family, no friends, just me! Most people, especially men who are

Even as adults he never tries to pull us back for safety’s sake. A chief example is the nearly two-month long trip I went on by myself last summer. No family, no friends, just me! Most people, especially men who are my dad’s age, balk at this and say something along the lines of “Oh I could never let my daughter do that!” When I ask these people why, they always say something like “oh she’d get lost”, or “What if she’s attacked or taken”, or sometimes they don’t even have a reason! And I think to myself ‘Do you not think of your daughter as a capable person? Do you not think you’ve raised her to be smart and competent enough to be ok on her own?’ I don’t get it at all. When I said I was going alone, my dad barely batted an eye because he knew I was totally capable of handling any chaos a trip like that could throw at me. He has always thought very highly of my and my sister’s abilities and I’m only just now realizing how much it meant that he never underestimated us.

Nowadays, I work with a lot of men that are my dad’s age, and they sometimes develop this strange protective affliction. I say ‘affliction’ because they’re NOT my parents and shouldn’t be concerned with protecting from work and should respect my ability to get the work done. But they sometimes end up treating me like their own daughters, but unlike my dad, they treat me as though I’m naive and fragile, and unable to do certain things on my own.

My dad NEVER does this. He would, of course, teach us new things or skills, but he never just assumed we needed protecting and for things to be done for us because we were incompetent. He EXPECTED us to know how to do everything for ourselves.

Surprisingly, and unfortunately, I’ve found that my dad’s behavior is a huge departure from how many fathers treat their daughters. Most tend to protect and worry about them more so than their sons and think them more at risk in the world, and less capable of handling that risk. Even if they don’t mean to do it, they feel their daughters are more fragile, and thus need more protection – from boys, knowledge, the world, EVERYTHING – but not my dad.

I could go on and on about everything else that makes my dad special, but he already knows he’s the best so I’ll leave you all with the thought that daughters should be expected to be capable, confident, and competent and any father who stands in the way of those traits, stands in the way of his daughter’s success.

 

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Me, My dad, and My sister all having a grand ol’ time in Mykonos last year.

 

Getting Started on Getting Fit

I’m not talking about that one time you decided to start your new workouts on a Monday and then by Wednesday you had given up and the whole cycle starts over next month. I’m talking about actually getting started on a new lifestyle so that you stick with it.

I feel like the hardest part of developing a new workout or diet routine is getting started. And not enough people talk about this part! Because once you’ve developed a lifestyle and have stuck to it for awhile, it becomes addictive, habit forming, and arguably easier to stick to.

For example, if you haven’t worked out in awhile and then decide to run five miles, you’re going to HATE it. You’re going to feel like passing out, and you’ll hate the process every step of the way. BUT if you’ve been running every day for the past three months, not only will you replace that feeling of nausea with endorphins, your day will also feel like something is missing without it. In the same vein, if you decide to cut out all junk food suddenly, you’ll feel horrible because that is the fuel your body is used to and you’ll crave it SO BAD. But if you phase out that food over time and find yourself eating salad every week, you’ll start to crave those (sounds fake, I know, but it IS possible to develop the longing for leafy greens).

In any case, because it takes a few weeks to break a habit and develop a new one, it is hard for people to get started on a new lifestyle. IT’S NO JOKE. And when you first start, your body will completely reject the idea because it’s not what it”s used to.

Something I feel like fitness personalities don’t address enough (not that I am one, I just follow a lot of them), is the mental game. Oh sure, they’ll spout all sorts of stuff about discipline, and wanting it bad enough, but they don’t focus on the fact that some people have to work at developing those mental skills just like you’d work on your biceps. Furthermore, while discipline is important, when it comes to getting started I think mental stamina needs to be addressed even more.

Here’s the thing, when you first start out, not only are you flexing your mental and PHYSICAL muscles in a new way, you’re also going to have to go through a brutal process of trial and error if you want to see success.

I imagine everyone has a goal in mind when they embark on some sort of lifestyle change. You want to lose weight, gain muscle, just feel better, whatever! BUT, in order to reach that goal, you must be able to stay consistent with something other than what your body currently does. To truly change your lifestyle you have to go through an arduous process of finding out what works FOR YOU. There are thousands of fitness programs, classes, and sites that are loaded with ideas about workouts and nutrition, but the key is that YOU have to do the ground work on this, and the only way to do it is by research and trial and error on your own body.

Additionally, you have to recognize that some of these things you’ll experiment with won’t work out. Everyone is different, which means not everything will work for everyone, and definitely not in the same ways. A lot of people hate running, hell, it’s taken me 20 years to tolerate it. So if you hate it but you start running thinking it’s going to achieve your goals, you’re going to end up miserable WHILE you’re doing it, thus more inclined to NOT do it, and then you’ll inevitably be disappointed when results don’t appear. If something doesn’t work for you, you have to have the mental resilience to bounce back and keep trying new things.

Keep a list. Let’s say running is the first thing you try. You try it for two weeks and you’re just miserable. Move to the next activity. There’s boxing, swimming, weights, HIIT, fitness guides, cycling, CROSSFIT!! The possibilities are endless, but it’s important that you don’t give up until you find something that you enjoy and that makes you FEEL GOOD. The same goes for food. Maybe salads make you gag, but you find that you like roasted sweet potato with chicken! Just keep trying recipes and dishes until you find some that FEEL GOOD.

And when I say FEEL GOOD. I mean literally — happier, more energy, no guilt, and excitement about working towards your goals and meeting them. Keep in mind, as I’ve said, this part of the process is NOT easy and the key here really is PERSEVERANCE and being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way immediately. Ultimately, it is easier to revert to old ways, but if you really want to change your lifestyle, you need to be prepared for the physical AND mental obstacles. If you can recognize these ahead of time, you can develop a plan to overcome them and press on!

Eat Your Heart Out

My last post was all about my current workout routine. But anybody who has spent even five seconds looking up fitness tips knows that workouts are barely half the battle. The even harder part (at least for me), is diet.

I have been seeing tons of stuff in recent years about paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, high carb vegan, Atkins, and literally every strict combination of food you can think of. And you know what? I say nay to all of those.

Some of you may think I can afford to say nay because I’m thin and am not trying to lose weight, or you might not believe me and think I must adhere to some kind of stringent body builder diet, but neither are true. The reason being, I have gone through a long food journey of my own and have been able to figure out what works best for my body (and for my sanity).

Back in the day, I was a competitive swimmer for almost a decade. During that time, I trained for almost five hours a day and honestly ate whatever I wanted. A whole pizza? Gimme twenty minutes. A whole bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups? One episode of Gossip Girl. I was going through a ridiculous amount of food to replenish all the calories I burned, but the majority of the food was shit. I ate my fruits and veggies, but looking back, most of my calories came from carbs like pasta and straight up sugar.

My senior year of high school, I really wanted to do the best I could for my last year of swimming so I cut out a previously elemental part of my diet: Coca Cola. Up until that point I had about roughly one Coke per day. I know some people drink far more than I do, but I was determined to focus on my hydration levels and cut out soda and fruit juices completely. It took a few days to get past the caffeine withdrawal but then I felt SO GOOD. My skin improved and I honestly did not feel as tired during a normal day and spurred my interest in looking at food as fuel, not just as tasty morsels.

I’ll spare you the details of the years in between then and now, but that occurence spurred me on to develop my nutritional knowledge and my eating habits. I strongly believe knowledge is power when it comes to what you eat, and the more you know about what you’re ingesting, the better off you’ll be.

Nowadays, I pretty much follow the 80/20 rule. I will eat well 80% of the time and about 20% of the time is a free for all. Because I typically follow a schedule, it is not difficult to follow this rule. Here is what some typical meals look like for me:

Breakfast: Two pieces avocado toast (w/ Ezekiel bread) OR a veggie omelet with fruit

Snack: Protein Bar OR a banana/apple with almond butter

Lunch: Shrimp Salad (Garlic Basil Shrimp, Romaine/Spinach, Tomato, Peppers), or leftovers from dinner the night before.

Dinner: Lean Turkey Breast with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus OR chicken stirfry with rice OR another combo of solid protein, greens, and carbs.

Desert: Three squares of Dark Chocolate and Strawberries OR Cookies!

For beverages, I only drink water and tea, and sometimes coffee (usually in the form of a cappuccino). I don’t add any cream or sugar to my tea or coffee. I stopped drinking soda in high school, and then after I spent a year in Shanghai drinking a lot of tea and hot water, I stopped drinking milk and juice as well. This is just personal preference, I don’t have anything against milk or certain juices for nutrition’s sake.

Usually, my 20% free for all eating occurs on weekends or when I’m out with friends. Weekends are typically when I eat out and try new places, which means I don’t want to limit myself to the ‘healthy’ options on the menu. I honestly eat whatever I want during these times. I will order the full french toast breakfast, or I’ll get a burger and fries, or a pizza and ice cream! The key for me is eating well during my main work week and allowing myself to feel free to eat however I want on weekends and with friends.

You can also see that I don’t necessarily cut out carbs or sugar during the week either. I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth and there would be no way I could cut out desserts completely so I still make sure I incorporate them. The trick for me is paying attention to how certain foods make me feel. Salads make me feel full but not tired. A McDonalds Quarter Pounder makes me feel sick. And so on and so forth. By ACTIVELY paying attention to what you’re eating and what it consists of and how it affects you, you gain a lot of knowledge about what meals make you FEEL good and that is what is important for me.

This post got a little long, but I have even more tips on how I eat right for my body so let me know if you’re interested in hearing more on this topic!

 

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Acai Bowls and Cappuccinos are some of my favorite weekend breakfast elements

 

Current Fitness Routine

Lately, a lot of my friends have been asking for my fitness routine. I don’t know what spurred it but it did make me realize I’ve never shared a detailed fitness regimen on any iteration of my blog.

Before I explain how I workout, I would like to preface this with the fact that my body is a result of many years of competitive swimming with training layered on top after I stopped swimming. Additionally, I change my routine every few months, this just happens to be what I currently do. Furthermore, I am not a professional trainer or nutritionist and don’t necessarily recommend my routine for anything other than general fitness maintenance.

Also, something you will note below, is that I rarely warm up. I don’t recommend this, especially if you’re starting out. For some reason, it has worked for me so far to go into these particular workouts without a warm up, but in most cases I would recommend a quick jog or some jumping jacks/jump rope, to get the body warm.

I also only stretch after my workouts because my muscles are warmer and more forgiving to stretching. Stretching cold muscles always hurts and seems pointless to me so I never stretch before a workout either.

Alright, everyone! Here is what I do to stay in shape!

Monday: Pyramid Interval Sprints, Ab Circuit, Stretch

The first day of the week deserves some sprints. The Pyramid Sprints consist of 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds walking, then 1-minute sprint, then a minute walk, then 1.5 minutes, and so on until 2.5 minutes. Then you come back down the pyramid.

The Ab Circuit consists of eight ab exercises (12x Burpees, 12x Exercise ball extensions, 25x full leg raises, 25x flat crunch, 25x oblique crunch right, 25x oblique crunch left, 24x full bicycle, 1 minute plank). I will repeat this circuit three times.

Especially on days when I run, I try and make sure I stretch really well afterwards, so I usually have about 10-15 minutes of basic stretching after the workout.

Tuesday: Upper body Day

Currently, I only devote one day to upper body. I know some people might scoff at this, but it’s all I need to maintain my muscle there. I make sure I cover all the major muscle areas in five supersets. However, you will notice that there is not one exercise below that specifically targets biceps and this is because biceps are worked indirectly in so many of these exercises that I don’t feel the need to isolate them. In each super set, I use weights that are moderately heavy (for me) and do every single exercise for 15 reps and 4 sets (This workout is a total of 20 sets, and takes about an hour)

Super set 1: Dumbell Shoulder Press & Lat Pull Down

Super set 2: Dumbell Chest Press & Seated Rows

Super set 3: Weighted Tricep Dips & One armed Row

Super set 4: Chest Flies & Tricep Extensions

Super set 5: Shoulder Flies & Standard Push- Ups

 

Wednesday: Long Run, Ab Circuit, Stretch

This day is pretty straightforward. If I’m able, I will take this day to have a long run outside, but usually, I will have to do it on a treadmill since I live in the city. I will run 4 or 5 miles depending on the day and I am currently holding a 9-minute mile, but always trying to improve that pace.

Afterward, I do the same ab circuit from Monday and make sure I stretch really well.

 

Thursday: Leg Day

Ah, everyone’s favorite day. I know I run a lot, but it’s not enough to build the muscle I’m looking for without some lifting. The exercises below are especially geared towards hamstring and glute building since that is what I’m after right now. Any place where Right & Left is listed in parentheses means that the exercise only uses one leg at a time and I do 15 reps for each leg for each exercise. Once again, I use weights that are moderately difficult for me. This workout consists of two circuits, with five exercises a piece. I one circuit four times, then the other circuit four times, then stretch.

Circuit 1: 30x X-Jumps, 15x Weighted Side Leg Raise (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Donkey Kicks (Right & Left), 15x Weighted One-Legged Hip Thrust (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Single Leg Deadlift (Right & Left)

Circuit 2: 15x Split Squat Jumps, 15x Single Leg Leg Press (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Hip Thrust with both legs, 15x Weighted Lunges (Right & Left), Weighted 15x Calf Raises (Right & Left)
Friday: Full Body Workout

Friday’s are different because I like to do a full body workout that doesn’t have a consistency to it. I especially like to try out new workouts on Friday’s. If I can, I’ll find a class to go to, or find a routine online that I haven’t tried and see if I like it. Two staples I use if I want to a great workout but haven’t planned for anything new: Britney Spears’ Drenched Workout (Link Here), Or Kayla Itsines’ BBG1 Week 6 or 7 full body workouts. I won’t post it because it won’t be fair to her product, but it basically consists of some burpees, some ab work, and some pushups. It’s not hard to create a circuit out of that.

Saturday: REST DAY!

Rest is super important to a fitness regimen because your body needs time to recover. Now, I’m not working hard enough where these are absolutely crucial, BUT, rest is still important. Saturdays, I usually try and spend outdoors, whether I’m at the beach, or seeing a friend, or even hiking. I will try and make sure I still get some walking in so I’m not just a loaf all day, but I don’t focus on it for exercises’ sake.

Sunday: Foam Roll/Stretch Day.

Whereas Saturday is a complete rest day if I want, I try and take a little bit of time on Sundays to have a full body stretch and workout any kinks in my body. I honestly should be foam rolling and stretching every single day, but I haven’t gotten there yet, so I use Sunday as a catch-all day. Sometimes I will do a quick yoga circuit and then spend time rolling or I will just do my normal stretches, but deeper and for longer.

And there you have it! This is what I currently do to stay in shape. I hardly every spend more than an hour in the gym on any one of these workouts which is the perfect amount of time for me to spend in the gym. Once again, I’m not a professional, but I have been focused on my own fitness for quite some time, so if you have any questions I’d love to answer them!

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Peru Travel Guide: Lima & TIPS

If you haven’t read the first two parts of my Peruvian adventure (INCLUDING MACCHU PICCHU!!), then click here or here!

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At last, we have reached the conclusion of the reminiscence of my Peru trip. Because we bought round trip tickets from LAX to Lima, we obviously had to conclude our trip in the Peruvian capital city. Although there are many museums and churches to see, we decided to keep our last two relaxed and stayed in the surprisingly beautiful, beachside area called Miraflores.

We were told that parts of Lima can be a bit unsavory but that Miraflores tends to be where all the expatriates live and is the safest area. We stayed in a private room in a cute little hostel minutes from the main square and spent much of the day just walking around. The first day we went to the LARCOMAR mall which looks out over the ocean and consists of beautiful restaurants and high-end shops.

The second day, we walked all the way along the coastline to the next neighborhood called Barranco, to stroll through the colorful houses and visit the Bridge of Sighs. Unfortunately, my travel partner had some food poisoning so we couldn’t push too hard during our stay, but honestly, a couple relaxing days were the perfect way to end an incredible vacation.

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Now for some TIPS on traveling in Peru!

  1. In Cusco, most places speak English. In Lima, it is much less common, even in the touristy areas, so brush up on the basics if you plan on spending a lot of time there. (If nothing else, learn how to ask for the bathroom!)
  2. Peruvian currency is the Sol. One Sol equals about 30 cents in the US.
  3. For food, make sure to try the ceviche, the Lomo Saltado, the cuy, and alpaca meat.

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4. You can negotiate for EVERYTHING. My boyfriend even got five soles off a cappuccino at a restaurant. Just go for it.

5. The water is not potable in Peru so make sure you buy bottled water from the small shops.

6. If you want traditional Peruvian chocolate or Coffee, buy it from the supermarket, not the tourist market, it will be WAY cheaper.

7. To get actual alpaca material, go to either a textile store OR a real alpaca shop. The street vendors will tell you their material is alpaca but it is not! REAL alpaca has a lot of weight to it and feels cool to the touch.

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8. The weather can be super volatile in Peru since the geography changes so drastically between places. Make sure you have a warm jacket, and a rain jacket just in case.

9. Some longer trips can be amazing, like the Salkantay Trek or Rainbow mountain, but they take a whole day or multiple days and require some advance planning. So do some research beforehand to make sure you get to do the excursions you want!

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10. When doing an excursion (like Macchu Picchu) where you have to leave early in the morning, discuss breakfast arrangements with your hostel. Many hostels realize that tourists must get up super early for these events and are willing to pack you a breakfast! Don’t miss out!

Overall, our time in Peru was amazing! All the different places we visited had their own attributes and the sites we visited had unparalleled energy — you just can’t beat Macchu Picchu! This was our first time in South America and of course, we were nervous, but Peru truly exceeded our expectations and now we can’t wait to go back!

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Peru Travel Guide: Macchu Picchu

Alright! Now for the good stuff. Peru is best known for the sacred Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu, and I, like everyone else was drawn to Peru for this bucket list location.

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Ollantaytambo Fortress Ruins

There are a couple ways to do Macchu Picchu, including the famed four-day hike, but we did NOT have time for that. If you don’t hike, you have to somehow make your way to the town of Aguas Calientes which is the jumping off point to get to the ruins. From Cusco, you can take a train or cab all the way to Aguas Calientes OR you can get a cab/bus to the town of Ollantaytambo first and take the train from there. We opted for the latter since Ollantaytambo had some ruins to explore as well. Definitely grateful for that decision because some of our best days were in this little town. There are amazing terraced ruins built into surrounding mountains and we had one of our favorite meals at Apu Veronica, just outside the main ruins.

 

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Ollantaytambo Ruins

From Ollantaytambo, we took the VistaDome train to Aguas Calientes. There are a couple train options between the two locations, and we opted for the VistaDome since it has huge windows all along the sides and the roof of the train for viewing the insane jungle and mountain scenery as you approach Aguas Calientes.

 

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Scenery from the Hot Springs site

 

Once in Aguas Calientes, don’t expect too much. It is a total tourist trap and everyone knows it. Every restaurant serves the same food and every shop is selling the same trinkets. However, the scenery is INCREDIBLE so if you have some extra time, I recommend hitting up the hot springs that the town is named for (Aguas Calentes=Hot Waters) or getting a cafe con leche and people watching against the gorgeous backdrop.

When the day of reckoning is upon you, you’ll need to get up at about 4 am to get in line for the buses up to Macchu Picchu. The first bus leaves the station at 6 am, but since everyone wants to get up there for the sunrise, the line is outrageously long! We arrived at 5 am, and there were already hundreds of people in front of us. Luckily the tourism industry in Peru is prepared for this, and they run the buses pretty much one right after the other to accommodate the crowds. Getting up for the sunrise is WORTH IT. We got super lucky with the weather and the mist was clearing up as soon as we got to the top, the sun came out and we had the most AMAZING view of the ruins! There are honestly no words to describe how spectacular it is to be up there before the crowds with the ruins almost to yourself to admire in the morning light.

 

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Macchu FREAKING Picchu!

 

It is easy and relatively cheap to book a tour guide to accompany you at the ruins, but we chose not to get one since we are stingy as fuck, and also so we could move at our own pace. Make sure you do the entire site — walk down below where the remains of buildings were and go all the way behind to where the Sungate view is (There are arrows and guides to help you out). You can also pay for an additional hike when you book your Macchu Picchu ticket for either Macchu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. If you want to do Huayna Picchu (the mountain present in all the typical photos of the site), you’ll need to book it far in advance. Macchu Picchu Mountain, however, is less popular but offers a higher vantage point. We ended up purchasing that one and it was a brutal hike, so be warned! And bring TONS of water!

 

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Macchu Picchu Lower Ruins

 

We spent a full seven hours up at the site exploring and we covered every inch of the ruins. Macchu Picchu is a Wonder of the World and we wanted to make sure we took full advantage! The pictures speak for themselves, and I honestly cannot recommend making this trip enough. We should’ve saved this site for last, but alas, our pocketbooks and logistics dictated that we return to Lima for a short stop before returning home. Stay tuned for the next post where I review Lima and offer tips for traveling in Peru! If you missed my review on Cusco, click here!

 

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Macchu Picchu Lower Ruins

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The dawn breaking over Macchu Picchu

 

 

Peru Travel Guide: DRINK THE TEA

Even though Peru falls within the time zones of the U.S. the trip down there is still enormously tiring. We booked a nine-hour nonstop flight from LAX to Lima and then had booked a flight a few hours after landing to go straight to Cusco.

Cusco is HIGH. Literally. Cusco proper sits at some 11,100 feet of elevation, and let me tell you, coming from the ocean village of Los Angeles, it can be a shock to your system. It is definitely harder to breathe and you will be able to feel your heart beating harder in order to pump blood to your oxygen deprived extremities.

The easiest way to get from the Cusco airport to wherever you need to go is by taxi. Of course, be wary of the taxi drivers in case of scams or safety concerns, but feel free to negotiate with them. A taxi from the airport to the main square should cost you between 20 and 30 soles (Between $6-10 USD). Agree upon the fare BEFORE getting in the taxi as the fares are not metered and you don’t want to arrive at your destination to find out that you’re being charged double.

In Cusco, I recommend staying at the Wild Rover Backpacker’s hostel, it has amazing views of the whole city, free breakfast, great wifi, and the best common areas (ping pong tables!). Furthermore, there is a bar on the property for any late night shenanigans, but it also keeps the party out of the room for anyone [ME] who prefers to sleep. They also have free Coca tea which helps a ton with adjusting to the altitude. I had at least two cups a day (along with liters of water) and the altitude never bothered me again after that first day.

 

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The view from the hostel…

 

Cusco is the ultimate jumping off point for most of the tourist sites Peru has to offer. It was the epicenter of the Incan empire and has the history to prove it. There are tons of travel agencies all over the city offering day trips and tours to all the different sites. Michael and I ended up doing two relatively low-key ones.

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Sacsayhuaman – This huge stone behind me weighs over 128 tons!

The first was the Cusco City tour (you can find this one anywhere so I’m not even going to bother recommending a travel agency). It costs thirty soles per person (a little less than $10 USD), and contrary to the name, this tour actually takes you around the archaeological sites closest to Cusco, not around the city itself (there are other tours for that). We covered the ancient fortress site of Sacsayhuaman (sounds like “sexy woman” if you say it too fast) which is a prime example of Incan building strategies. The site consists of huge stones, we’re talking over 100 tons, cut to fit perfectly together; the site took over 77 years to build with over 30,000 laborers! The tour includes Quenqo which is the site of the ancient Incan calendar and a ritual site for actual animal and human sacrifice. We also covered Puku Pukara, a small ancient rest stop, and Tambomochay or the “Incan Baths” a picturesque waterfall site.

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Tambomochay

The second tour was covered a little bit more area. We wanted to do the Maras — Moray tour. Although this tour also was a half day, it took us much farther outside the city limits of Cusco. Moray is an ancient agricultural testing site made up of terraced concentric circles. The Incans used it to try out different crops and created over 3000 different strains of potato! (Why anyone needs that many different potatoes is beyond me…). Maras, on the other hand, is a small town that leads into the Salineras salt flats which have been producing salt since before the Incan empire. The water that feeds the flats is 70% salt and 30% water, and the flats produce black, pink, and white salt. We didn’t get to spend much time here but it was honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip.

 

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The salt flats at Salineras

 

Within Cusco itself, there are also plenty of sites to see. The main square alone has two cathedrals that are worth a peek inside, one is actually a museum, and through ambling along the tourist districts, you should be able to find many other little churches and squares. The San Pedro market should also be at the top of any Cusco visitor’s list as one can do literally all of their shopping at this market. Not only do they sell blankets, socks, jewelry and the like, they also sell coffee, chocolate, and have an indoor eating area with many different vendors selling their specialty at an incredibly cheap price (between $2-6 USD).

 

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The cathedral in the Plaza de Mayor

 

As far as food is concerned though, I only recommend eating at the market once because there are some far better options outside the market. First off, get your hands on some street meat. There will be ladies on the street selling enormous skewers of all different kinds of meat. We preferred the alpaca and because each skewer has a whole potato on the end of it, you can eat an entire meal for five soles! ($1.50 USD). If you’re looking for something more formal, our favorite breakfast spot was Jack’s Cafe. They have great Western and Peruvian breakfast options for a very good price and they give you tons of food! For dinner, we cannot recommend Pacha Papa highly enough. I had the roasted trout, Michael had the lamb shoulder, and we shared the whole roasted Guinea Pig and a traditional Peruvian Quinoa dessert. Everything here was AMAZING! It is so good, in fact, that you actually might want to make a reservation to make sure you get a table! On the other hand, there is a ton of Italian food in Peru, especially in Cusco, and I cannot stress enough that you SHOULD NOT try any of it. We tried to get Italian (pasta, pizza) a few times and each time it was awful. I’m a terrible cook and I could’ve made better pasta than these places, so beware. On the whole, the Peruvian dish ‘Lomo Saltado’ was my favorite. I got this a few times in Cusco and elsewhere in Peru and it is solid. It consists of marinated beef with red onions and tomatoes served with french fries and rice. Delicious every single time.

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The Roasted Guinea Pig!

Michael and I spent the bulk of our trip in Cusco and it was definitely worth the extra time. The people here are helpful and kind, and for the most part, speak English! You’re able to negotiate for everything you buy and there is so much history to experience within the city and beyond. If you are interested in ancient empires or ancient architecture, Cusco is a MUST. However, everyone knows the real reason tourists flock to Peru each year. The best parts of the trip are yet to come, so stay tuned for Part 2!

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How to Travel as a Couple without Killing Eachother

I recently went to Peru with my amazing boyfriend (travel guides coming soon!) and I have to confess, I was a little nervous to travel with him. We had met while traveling separately but we had never really done a trip together as a couple and this was an important step for me. Traveling to new places is a passion of mine and I knew I couldn’t be with somebody who was a terrible travel partner (not that I’m a saint but you know what I mean). However, after doing this trip I realized that there are some lessons we BOTH learned about traveling together that make things a lot easier.

If you’re bringing drugs, bring lots: It is not unlikely to feel under the weather or even get sick while traveling. If you know you always get indigestion, for example, and bring medication for it, bring twice as much because you never know if you’re significant other will need some. This came in handy multiple times throughout our Peru trip. I knew I would need Alka-Seltzer for my stomach but I brought a lot and lo and behold, my boyfriend ended up getting food poisoning towards the end of the trip and needed something to calm his stomach. Likewise, my boyfriend gets headaches so he brought a lot of Advil, and I ended up needing a few for an untimely sprained ankle.

Recognize each other’s limits: Each of you will have different capabilities and limits when it comes to traveling and it is important to not push your partner too hard, and also to be vocal if something is too much for you. My boyfriend and I were pretty good at this but only because we were both outspoken about when we were struggling. For example, I cannot sleep on airplanes or in airports and my boyfriend can sleep anywhere. So after traveling for over twenty-four hours, my boyfriend knew I was zonked and we took it easy that day. On the flip side, while we were hiking Macchu Picchu Mountain we ran out of the water and it hit my boyfriend way harder than it hit me so I knew to be quick about pictures and get him water as soon as possible. It is extremely important to be aware of what your partner is feeling so you can make sure you both can enjoy yourselves.

 

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Macchu Picchu of course – this day took a lot of prep and compromise

 

Be Decisive: There will be endless decisions to make on a trip, even once you’ve already planned it. Where should we eat? Should we go to those ruins today or tomorrow? How should we get there? Is this too expensive? And on and on and on. Nothing wastes precious travel time like being indecisive. We ran into this issue a couple times, especially where food was concerned. Tourist towns often have a million different restaurants that all serve the same thing. This should make it easier to choose, right? WRONG. My boyfriend and I would go back and forth with the whole ‘I don’t care where we eat…actually no not this place…’ type dialogue until one of us [ME] snapped because they were so hungry they couldn’t take it anymore. We had to actively have a conversation about when we actually mean we’re indifferent to certain decisions as opposed to speaking out immediately if we have a preference. This smoothed things out considerably for the rest of the trip.

Be open-minded: This one should go without saying, and most people who are love traveling in the first place possess this quality, but every so often you end up traveling with someone who sticks their nose up at everything and would rather order room service than go exploring a new place. This person SUCKS to travel with. Don’t be that person, don’t date that person, and don’t go on a trip with them if you can help it. If you’re enamored with traveling and experiencing new things, this person will kill your vibe SO FAST. Neither my boyfriend nor I are like this, so it wasn’t a problem for us, but we witnessed other couples with this dynamic. The worst kind of travel partner is the one that says ‘no’ too often. When you travel you should open yourself up to what that place can teach you, and those with a bad attitude have no interest in learning and you should not let them ruin your fun!

 

Ultimately, traveling with another person, especially a romantic partner, should be tons of fun. However, in order to make it an amazing trip all around, you both have to go into it with open eyes and a willingness to compromise. Sure you can plan down to every last detail if you want, but I can assure you that attitude will EITHER kill the energy of the whole trip, OR something will go wrong and your plans will have been for naught and you’ll have to work together anyways. And to be really frank, if your trip sucks, maybe you just aren’t right for each other. Awk. (Luckily my boyfriend and I rocked it and realized we are more perfect for each other than ever! Sickening, I know.)

 

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Exploring Sacsayhuaman

 

 

Ladies, buy a vibrator. Just do it.

I am honestly embarrassed by how long it took me to buy a vibrator. I started speaking out about female sexual empowerment years ago and yet I’ve only had a vibrator for a few months.

This topic can be a bit, ahem, personal for some. Vibrators are usually purchased for masturbation which is a topic some young women are still uncomfortable talking about. Buying and using a vibrator can be intimidating for a couple reasons, but I’m going to share how to get over those and why it is ultimately SO worth it to purchase one and to learn to use it.

Ok so first things first, the most intimidating factors that prevented me from getting a vibrator for so long are: an overwhelming amount of choices, cost, and fear of not being able to use it.

There are a million different vibrators out there and the best way to narrow that down is to get a recommendation. I put off getting one for years until I had a great discussion with a close friend about which ones she had found and liked. So, if you feel comfortable talking to your mom or your friends, ask them what they use! If not, go straight to the biggest sex store you can find and the sales people are usually amazingly kind and helpful. It is their job to make sure you find what you need. And as far as cost goes, you really don’t have to spend much to get a high-quality product. Check out this one from Amazon to see what I mean. Lastly, if you’re afraid you won’t know how to use it, I promise you will be fine. This is a personal purchase which means you have tons of freedom to figure it out on your own without any pressure. You never have to feel insecure or weird because you’re the only one in the room!

The reason I think these are so vital is because the return on an investment in a vibrator is twofold. And we are talking twofold in a big way.

First off, purchasing a vibrator allows you much more freedom to explore your sexuality in a solo environment. Although this could take a sec to get used to, adding an extra element to your personal sex life could give you a much wider range of sensations to experience and can help you figure out what kinds of things you especially like. Factors such as pressure and frequency are easily regulated in this situation and can help you pinpoint what it is that your body responds to the most. This knowledge is vastly helpful when you add in a human partner to the mix because then you know EXACTLY what you want and feel way more comfortable being able to ask for what you want instead of being unsure or confused.

The second major benefit to owning a vibrator is that it can help put you in control of your own pleasure. For example, I have a long-distance boyfriend, but I should not be limited to only having an orgasm when he’s around. The vibrator allows me to have one whenever the fuck I want, just as guys can come whenever they want. Furthermore, some sex positions aren’t really conducive to an orgasm for me, but if I add a vibrator it makes things WAY more interesting.

Female anatomy can be confusing to figure out in the pleasure sector and some ladies might not even need a vibrator to achieve those elusive O’s. But I for sure did. In just a few months of owning one, I have discovered so much more about what I like and about my body and I consider that kind of knowledge ABSOLUTELY INVALUABLE. So if you’re unsure about what you like or are having trouble reaching that next level of satisfaction, maybe look into getting one. There’s no harm in at least checking them out 😉

 

CANADA – Banff Travel Guide

Unless you’re Canadian, or a ski bum, you might not have heard of Banff. Banff is a small mountain town in Western Canada, about a 3-hour flight from LA, and an hour and a half from the fifth largest city in Canada, Calgary. While Calgary has its own set of attributes, we’ll cover those later. This travel guide only focuses on Banff and the surrounding area because it’s a place I had never even heard of and subsequently love.

 

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Lake Louise

 

Let’s get one thing straight here: I am not a cold weather friend. I hate being cold, would rather BURN to death than freeze, and do not participate in winter/snow based sports. However, Banff made me reconsider my views.

Banff is actually a resort town within Banff National Park. Banff National Park and the surrounding area is nestled within the Rocky Mountains and offers stunning mountain views along with a seemingly endless opportunity for snow sport, hiking, and camping. The resort town itself is home to shops, restaurants, cafes, and the ever beautiful Banff Springs Hotel. Banff is also nearby the Lake Louise Village and national Park. Lake Louise is a stunning lake snuggled into the mountains with opportunity for ice skating in the winter and canoeing in the summer.

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Johnston Canyon Icicles

 

 

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Johnston Canyon

 

I have been out to Banff twice now. The first time was just to see the town and the mountains because it was absurdly cold. But this second time, I managed to fit in Lake Louise, skiing, hot springs, and some hiking. And despite my abhorrence for the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time spent in it.

Now for the nitty gritty, if you’re a snow-sport lover, then Banff is not a place to be missed. Easiest ways to get there are to fly into Calgary airport (YYC) and then rent a car to make the drive or book a tour. Luckily my boyfriend drove us, but it is not difficult to get there, with a major highway leading straight from Calgary into the mountains.

As far as accommodation goes, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful (albeit pricey) hotel with all the amenities one could need and stunning mountain vistas. However, in the event that it is too expensive (like for me), there are numerous lodges, inns, and hotels in the town, although the Fairmont is still worth a visit for its gorgeous interior and/or spa if you feel so inclined.

 

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Fairmont at Banff Springs

 

Alright, once you’ve got transport and lodging squared away, it’s time for the fun stuff! If you’ve got a weekend and some ambition, you can explore almost all of what Banff has to offer. Firstly, I recommend going skiing at Sunshine hill. This was my first time, so I might not be the best person to taking skiing advice from, but I CAN tell you that this ski resort was positively BRIMMING with tourists from all over the world who had come for the skiing. There is a wide variety of hills for all skill levels and the view is just insane. Skiing will probably take the better part of the day, so after that, I recommend going to the Hot Springs in Banff. The springs are naturally heated and even in negative temps, you’ll be comfortable in the outdoor hot pool under the stars.

 

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Ski induced suffering sucks a little less with a view like this…

 

For the following day, I recommend getting up early and heading a few more kilometers up to Lake Louise. When you get there, you can go ice skating, or you can simply walk around the lake and admire the ice sculptures. Overseeing the lake is the Fairmont Chateau, another gorgeous hotel that deserves a walk through, at least while you’re warming up from all the ice. The park surrounding Lake Louise is also prime for more downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and even dog sledding to my SUPREME DELIGHT! But once you’ve had your fill of the cold for the day, heading back into Banff town to have dinner and explore the shops is a wonderful way to end your stay. Especially since the town is all lit up at night.

 

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Lake Louise, Mountains, and Ice sculptures

 

I would have never thought to go to Banff on my own, but now that I’ve made it out there, I know I’ll be spending a lot more time in the mountains.