What To Do In Abaco

When my parents announced they would be taking their sailboat to the Bahamas in early 2017, I thought it would be a pretty solid trip: I’d get to see my parents, explore some beautiful (and lesser-visited) parts of the Bahamas, and probably not have to pay for much because, well, parents. (And it would be extra good because I swore I wouldn’t stay on their sailboat but would book accommodation on land, instead – 3 adults and a cat on one 35-foot sailboat is just too much for me).

In the leadup to my trip, I got almost daily emails from my mom telling me about itineraries they were putting together, new places they had explored that we should go, and plans for my arrival. I was pretty pumped to have someone else do all the planning for me, since that’s normally a role I reluctantly/not so reluctantly take on as the most Type A person I know.

The weekend had its ups and downs, but throughout it all I couldn’t deny that visiting the Bahamas makes for a beautiful long weekend.

And now, a not-at-all comprehensive list of things to do there!

Learn Whether It’s “Abaco” or “The Abacos”

Because I have no idea and cavalierly use the two interchangeably.

Sailing

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The best way to travel between the different cays, in my opinion, must be sailboat. Taxis are expensive and things are far apart. If you have to take a while to get there, might as well do it from the water!

Now, I have absolutely no advice on how to rent a boat or what tour companies to use, since I was able to take advantage of the sailboat taxi from the airport to my hotel gratis. All I can tell you is prepare to get slightly quesy if you aren’t used to being on the water for long periods of time. Also prepare for the captain and first mate to continually stress out about tides and having to leave at precise times.

Explore Underwater

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Once you’ve gotten your fill of life above the water, time to jump down and see what’s below. Our original plan to snorkel at Great Guana (featuring apparently amazing sealife and a beautiful reef) was scuttled due to intense waves. So, we went to plan B and snorkeled Mermaid Reef close to Marsh Habour. Definitely a fun way to see some very colorful fish and a couple of rays!

And, I got to try a full-face snorkel mask, which is 10000% better than the snorkel in your mouth, once you remember to breath like normal and not like you are being chased into a dark basement.

Treasure Cay Beach

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My absolutely favorite part of the weekend – relaxing on Treasure Cay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. When I arrived to the Bahamas, my parents suggested we alter our original plans and cancel going to this beach and I threw a very big fit about it – and I’m so glad I did. Once we arrived (because I won the fight), I had first been planning to spend the morning on the beach, then the afternoon doing something active like going for a bike ride. Alas, the day was so beautiful that I spent the entire day down there. I cannot stress how blue the water is and how sugar-powdery the sand is. Just writing about it makes me want to go back. Truly, it made the other challenging aspects of the weekend all worth it.

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Things to know about the Bahamas: A bunch of U.S. airlines fly into the Bahamas and specifically to Marsh Harbour, but I flew JetBlue direct to Nassau and onwards on Bahamasair. I had read horror stories about Bahamasair, and did get delayed about 2 hours on one flight due to mechnical errors – but I concede mechanical errors happen, and they did a good job at keeping us informed. I would definitely recommend taking a morning flight since I could see later flights on that airline just get more and more delayed.

No need for a visa for a short-stay U.S. citizen, and USD is happily accepted (although you may receive Bahamian money as change). I went through U.S. customs in Nassau heading back to the U.S., which ruled since I didn’t have to do it after landing.

The Abacos are very sleepy and rural, so don’t expect a Sandals-type resort. But if you want the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen, head here.

And I still don’t know if it’s Abacos or Abaco.

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Not about books: my travel routine

I travel a lot for work (and a little for fun), and in the two years I’ve been a #businesslady I’ve developed a pretty solid routine:

  1. Post a killer photo of the city on Instagram and see what random likes I get from local users and people who follow business travelers
  2. Come prepared every time with my superawesome necessities

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While I’m certainly not the person to give hot tips on how to post on Instagram, I’m pretty proud of the “travel necessities” list I’ve cultivated.

All the yum yums: I get hungry a LOT. I’m a grazer and tend to eat a lot of small meals throughout the day, so needless to say I carry food with me at almost all times. I’ve started going to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods before I travel so I can stock up on healthy snacks pre-airport, instead of relying on plane snacks and Hudson News bags of chips. My favorite plane snack/meal on long flights consists of cheese, grapes, meat (usually beef jerky, or prosciutto if I’m feeling fancy) and dark chocolate covered almonds.

Most importantly, I need to eat really soon after I wake up. While I can usually splash out on a nice work-sponsored breakfast, one usually has to look generally presentable for that, and I’m not about to put in my contacts any sooner than 30 minutes after waking up. So, on my last trip I finally hacked the best Breakfast #1 plan. In a strategy so simple I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before, I brought bags of oatmeal with me! Every hotel has a coffeemaker that makes hot water, and I just make the oatmeal in a coffee cup or mug and bring a spoon with me from home. If I’m feeling  very  ambitious I whip up a pro greens powder drink, which mixes a veggie probiotic powder with water and basically tastes like drinking grass, but you get to be smug for the rest of the day about it so that’s nice.

If I’m very lucky, I’m in DC and can eat my favorite-in-the-world avocado toast with whipped goat cheese. *drools*

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Sleep Musts: One that is still evolving, but I’m slowly discovering how to sleep better in hotels. I tend to have some mild sleep anxiety, even at home, and do some failsafe tricks to sleep in strange beds:

  • Be a princess with the room request. It helps that I have status (#platinumlife baaaaby) but I’m VERY explicit when I check in and request a room as quiet as possible to hotel and street noise, throwing in I’m okay if the view is of a brick wall. My favorite is when I stay in a hotel enough times that I can say, “Give me any of the -14 rooms.” It makes me look super cool.
  • Noise machine! My boyfriend gifted me his noise machine and it’s been amazing. Yes, I know phones have the app, but I like that the noise machine can get really noisy. I use it at home, too, and it’s nice to have consistency. It’s also nice to be able to drown out rogue hallway noises. (My home is under a flight path to the airport, so I know that if this noise machine can cover the sound of a 747 directly overhead, it can handle hotel noises.)

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Waltzing my way through security with too many bags: My final crucial tip revolves around how to brazen your way through airport security when you have the personality that tends to crumble before authority. My dirty secret is that sometimes (most of the time) I sneak three pieces of luggage to carry on to the plane: my overhead carry-on bag, a snazzy professional backpack, and a very thin purse. Blasphemy! You’re only meant to have two!

In my defense, the purse is really no bigger than a wallet and I carry it separately simply so I can access my phone and money more quickly than ripping my backpack off. But, it does give me a little thrill whenever authority figures let my rule-breaking slide.

And yes, a few times it hasn’t worked, and I’ve either gotten a stink-eye from a flight attendant or been stopped by TSA to put the purse into the backpack (all the while internally rolling my eyes and externally apologizing profusely to them). You know what does work, though? Casually draping a coat over the rogue third personal item. Works like a charm, every time. And you’re talking to the gal who once snuck two large fountain drinks into a movie theater under a very large fleece. Pure pro over here. You’re welcome for this, world.

 

Join Me In My Depression

Last week, one of my eagerly anticipated 2017 reads came in to the library: The Year of Living Danishly (Helen Russell). Part travel memoir and part research non-fiction, Russell moved to Denmark from Britain for one year after her husband’s job transfer and decided to spend that year figuring out why Danes so consistently ranked at the top of the charts for being the happiest and the best educated.

This was perhaps not the best book for me to read as I cringe on a daily basis, fearful of what my president will do, and as my country becomes more divided than ever. More than anything, this book had me instantly Googling, “How do you get a visa to Denmark?” (Alas, my work in international education means I know way too much about the Schengen visa process and it’s not something I want to navigate quite yet!).

WHAT I READ:

The Year Of Living Danishly (Helen Russell)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 hygges, I give this 4 candles.

SYNOPSIS + WHAT I THOUGHT:

The quick-and-dirty on what I learned – these were my favorite bits:

  • Denmark has amazing work-life balance: the author’s husband (who worked in a traditional office environment) noted that people worked extremely short – read: actually do-able – hours like 8am to 4pm. Additionally, they were unlikely to feel impressed if you were the type to take work home or stay late. In fact, they would be more judgmental that you weren’t able to complete your work in the proper time allotted.
  • There is a huge emphasis on family (paternity and maternity leave being mandatory), community (volunteering and joining societies are hugely popular), and coziness (we all know about hygge)
  • It has an amazingly built out welfare state that, yes, taxes most citizens between 35-51%, but in return you get a strong healthcare system, free education (they pay you to go to university), and guaranteed unemployment/welfare benefits.

Admittedly, it’s not all sunshine and roses. One of the most interesting things the author discovered is that while the genders are equal in the workplace vis-a-vis pay and expectations on child-raising (with each taking an equal role), there is still a lot of casual sexism.

I tore through this book, excited to learn more about a country I know little about, even if it depressed me to read about this close-to-utopia. Absolutely recommended for travel lovers and people of the universe in general.

 

The Other Side of London

As I bragged about last week, I was offline for part of October on a fantastic vacation to London with my gentleman. I’ve spent a fair share of time in London, having studied abroad there during college, worked there for four months after grad school, and visited a few other times. So, needless to say, I feel quite comfortable there and love any excuse to visit one of my favorite places in the world.

What I discovered on the trip is a really dumb problem: what do you do when you’ve seen all of the things, and are traveling with someone whose preferred method of touristing is skipping most of the museums? London has SO MUCH to do that I feel like we barely did anything this trip – even though we were almost constantly out and about. So, what did we do outside of the guidebook suggestions?

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Stayed in an awesome hotel

Thanks to my work travel and my slavish dedication to one hotel brand, I scraped together enough hotel points to get three free nights in the Sheraton Grand Park Lane (technically, it was only two nights at first, but we loved it so much we bagged our shitty AirBNB and came back for the last night).

The hotel had just gone through a massive multi-year renovation and we were there literally for the grand re-opening (attended by press, C-level British celebrities, and people walking Dalmatians on leashes for a mysterious reason I still don’t understand).

The best part for us was my Platinum-member (YEAH) access to the Club Lounge, which was stocked with a delicious free breakfast, snacks, and alcohol basically every hour of the day. MUCH free food was eaten, and MANY of those baby jam jars shoved into my suitcase. We know how to party.

Ate ourselves silly in the East End

Probably the best thing in the entire trip happened within our first two days: The East End food tour with Eating London Tours. We tasted eight wildly different food and drink items across the East End, including a bacon sammie, bread pudding, curry, and – of course – a beer. We couldn’t stop raving about the food, the street art, and the amazing tour guide. It could only go downhill from there, folks!

Traveled afar for a brewery and ‘za

Something my gentleman in particular enjoys is a good craft brewery experience; we actually did a brewery trail in New Hampshire a few months ago (and learned four breweries is a lot to handle in one afternoon). So, when my friend who lives in London recommended we check out Crate Brewery in Hackney, famed for its brews and its pizza, we jumped at the chance. One long Underground and Overground ride later, we were tucking in to the best cider I’ve ever had, and a Middle Eastern flatbread pizza. Will travel for noms.

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Other fun things? A very long day trip to Paris (less “fun” than “full of wine”)… a pub quiz with a good friend of mine… many walks around London… exploring the exhibits at the Tate Modern… and, of course, all the cream teas.

 

Cheerio for a week!

All right, loyal readers (aka mom): I’m off for a week with ne’er a post in the meantime. My gentleman and I are headed to Europe!

To say am I excited would be an overstatement. (I mean that literally: the week before the flight, I came down with an ugly case of otitis externa – that’s an outer ear infection for non-nerds – in both ears. It’s been an extremely painful, and expensive week, as  I’ve seen numerous doctors to get this sorted. As I draft this, I have my follow-up with the ENT tomorrow, and I am crossing everything on my body that she will tell me I am good to fly. So, I’m not really that excited about the trip AT THIS MOMENT, lest my dreams get dashed by Ann Walters, ENT PA).

(Second update: Just saw Ann Walters, Angel, and even though she kept me waiting for an hour to see her, she gave me the all-clear! Plus I contributed to the long wait time for others by asking her to put in my eardrops for me and then chatting with her while we waited for the suckers to soak in. Now I’m just paranoid something in my body will break – like, is this how throats are supposed to feel? I CAN’T REMEMBER).

All my ear drama aside, we’ve been planning this trip for about six months and I can’t wait to see it finally happen. This is his first time in Europe, and I’m pumped he picked my favorite city in the world to visit: LONDON.

We’re cashing in hotel points to stay 2 nights in a fancy hotel, then finishing the week in an apartment rental in my favorite neighborhood. We’re planning on participating in an East End food tour, seeing a play, hitting up pub trivia, and taking a long day trip to Paris. Basically, we are doing many of the things.

So, I’m outta here. See you in a week!

 

A Look Back, and a New Start

So, it’s been a while, huh? I’m sure you’ve spent the last two months since I posted rending your garments and tearing out your hair, so I apologize for my absence. Call it a combination of life stuff, work stuff, and writer’s block – but now that we are entering into a new year (2014 already? Didn’t 2013 just happen?) I figured it was time to jump back in to narcissistically expressing my thoughts for the world to read.

I’ve had a weird last few months – nay, a weird last year. Was it really only a few months ago that I was living with my parents? That I was sunning myself on a beach in Thailand? Now I am piecing together a life in Boston, something that is more challenging than one would think.

As is my wont, as I sit on the edge of 2013 I can’t help but look back. And considering it is one of my most documented years, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Let’s jump in, gang.

JANUARY 

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Washington, DC; Virginia; Bangkok, Thailand

FEBRUARY

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Koh Lanta, Thailand; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Vientiane, Laos

MARCH

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Beijing, China; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Kep, Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Chau Doc, Vietnam; Saigon, Vietnam 

APRIL/MAY/JUNE

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Virginia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Emerald Isle, NC

  • I returned to my parents’ home and went quiet for a while as I started job-searching, questioning myself, wondering what I am doing with my life… you know, the usual. It was a pretty fun time for those around me. In reviewing my Facebook timeline it looks like the most exciting thing I did was find my diary from when I was 14. Talk about embarrassing! I also went to the Outer Banks for the bachelorette party of one of my favorite people – everyone loves a rainy beach weekend!
  • In actual exciting news: I traveled to NOLA for the law school graduation of one of my favorite people, with a bunch of my other favorite people coming in from around the country to celebrate! Let’s just say it was an appropriately New Orleans-y weekend.
  • By June, K10 Unemployed became K10 Employed, as I finally convinced someone to hire me, much to the relief of my parents and friends who were sick of my belly-aching.

JULY

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 Charlottesville, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts

  • After celebrating the wedding of one of my best friends in gorgeous Charlottesville, VA (where both she and the groom went to university), I headed directly off to Boston. Like, I literally said goodbye to my parents on Friday, hitched a ride with two big suitcases to the wedding, flew to Boston on Sunday, and started my new job on Monday.
  • I started my new job with a roar, as I jumped in to their busiest period of the year and worked the first seven straight days I was in Beantown.
  • It wasn’t all work: I was lucky enough to land in the wonderful apartment of two of my favorite people as I apartment-hunted.

AUGUST

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Los Angeles, CA; Boston, MA

  • I kicked off August with a quick trip to LA; while I was namely there to sit in LAX for twelve hours (the less glamorous side of working in international education – seeing off the group flights to faraway countries), I took some time with my coworker to hit up Santa Monica and indulge in some delicious Mexican food.
  • Once I was back, I spent most of August exploring my new home of Boston, from test-driving Italian restaurants all over the city to forming hasty opinions. Mostly, I spent the month in a sublet daydreaming how I would decorate my new apartment in September – the first (semi) permanent place I would live in in over a year.

SEPTEMBER

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Boston, MA; Virginia

  • More Boston explorations as I discovered my locations of choice
  • I capped it off with a trip back to my parents’ home to move more of my possessions and, most importantly, finally be reunited with my kitchen supplies. For those keeping track, I’m still not completely moved out of my parents’. I’ve elected to take the ‘suitcase’ approach which means that every time I go to visit, I come back with two suitcases bulging with my belongings. It’s strangely effective.

OCTOBER

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Boston, MA

NOVEMBER

Boston, MA; Athens, Greece; Thessaloniki, Greece; Virginia

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  • After six months in the same country, it was high time I broke out my passport again – and this time it was for baby’s first international business trip (unless you count the time I lived abroad for a job). While I spent most of my time in Greece in meetings, I managed to revisit the Acropolis after an absence of eight years, learn how to say ‘cheers’ in Greek, and eat more feta cheese than is advisable.
  • I ended the month with a good old fashioned American Thanksgiving back in Virginia – and yes, brought up more of my belongings.

DECEMBER

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Boston, MA; Virginia

  • By far, my favorite part of moving to Boston has been the fact that my dear friend Katie lived down just the street from me. So imagine my delight when Amanda, aka one of the greatest and most kick-ass friends you could ever meet, finally joined us in The Hub and landed an apartment right across the street! I spent most of December happily ensconced in their (metaphorical) bosoms as we helped Amanda move in, made the obligatory trips to Ikea, and drank a LOT of white wine. I mean, a lot.
  • I finished up 2013 with – you guess it – another trip to Virginia for Christmas! I’ve definitely spent more time in my home state this year than I have in the past seven years of my life. That’ll be it for a couple of months as I’m not slated to return until March – just in time to start enjoying the beautiful weather, with sailing trips and beach bumming in my future.

And so for 2014? I want to take the time for activity. Not just physical activity, but actively doing things instead of passively sitting by. Whether that is indulging in my hobbies (and I do want to keep writing this blog in my life), continuing to grow my friendships, or exploring my home instead of sitting around, this will not be a year for sitting and watching the world go by.

As you read this (if you finished it, that is!) I’m headed back to Boston to celebrate the start of another year with my dear friends. 2013 was the year of K10 Travels, but I do resolve that 2014 will continue to be the year of K10 Explores.

A Very Bostonian Weekend

All of a sudden, I got thrown head-first into Boston fun, y’all. I don’t even know what to do with my burgeoning social life! But never fear – I have been taking plenty of pictures and mental notes to share with you all. So RELAX already.

Most recently, I started to trade in my sweet tea for Dunkins with the celebration of the HEAD OF THE CHARLES. Besides having a dirty name, this is some annual event that brings a bunch of boats to Boston where they paddle around. See how athletic I am? You may go ahead and be impressed.

And so I celebrated in the best way I know how: artistically and fan-ically! Or whatever. What am I, a doctor?

First up: a trip to Paint Bar painting the Head of the Charles! If you’ve never been to one of these, please drop everything you are doing and go immediately. I’ll wait. They basically walk you through step-by-step how to paint a specific picture, and you drink. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

Painting, wine, and Katie: three of my favorite things.

We got there before our other friends and, in addition to prepping the stations and doing the paint-gathering thang, brought in a GIANT delicious pizza and Katie-made desserts for munching throughout our artistic process. We were the best darned prepared artists there.

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I had this not-so-secret-because-I-told-everyone belief that I was going to turn out to be really awesome at this. When I was seven, I was utterly convinced I would become an artist because I was really good at painting sunsets. I don’t know if that’s true, but I CAN say that my aunt still has a picture I drew of my dog in her house 15 years later, so you know.

Anyway, the end result was, shall we say, less than impressive, especially compared to some of the other ones. To be fair to me, Bob the Bartender was very generous with his pours because Katie and I got there early and got our harmless flirt on. Thanks, Bob!

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Also pictured: Bob in the background on the left. I shall write of you favorably in my memoirs.

Artistically talented or not, it was still a darn good time and I am ABSOLUTELY going back.

To pair with our painting of the Head of the Charles, on Sunday I headed over to the actual Charles for the actual Head (or something) to cheer on my alma mater with two of my favorite fellow Colonials: Katie and Josh! (Y’all, I swear I have more friends than them, I just REALLY like them so they are often blog-featured).

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Things I learned:

  • Once a GW student, always a GW student; as soon as I saw the free food, I was opening up my purse and sweeping in as much of it as possible. OMG THEY’RE FEEDING ME MUST TAKE IT ALLLLLL
  • You will never feel more Bostonian than walking across the Charles, cheering on the teams below you, sippin’ your Dunkins
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  • As a society, we may not know a lot about crew (or whatever sport was happening during this event) but we know enough to hate Canada. When I was hanging out on the sidelines it was a fairly tame crowd as the announcer said which teams were rowing by, but when he said, “And here’s our own Team USA coming up on Team Canada,” the entire crowd erupted in a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
  • There is no good way to take a picture with those weird megaphone things.

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Nailed it.

Nailed it.