The Clumsy Traveler | Female Travel & Lifestyle Blog
The Clumsy Traveler Travel and Lifestyle Blog aims to provide readers with travel tips and guides, inspire a wanderlust, fashion, beauty and philanthropic lifestyle and above all else, entertain readers with funny, exciting and/or embarrassing travel stories.
The city of lights… the city of love… Paris is known for a lot of things. But one thing most people can agree on is that Paris is one of the most Instagrammable cities on the planet! And with Paris photography spots at every turn, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. That’s why I gotchu with the only Paris photography location guide you’ll ever need!
Photography is one of those “eye of the beholder” kinda things. So I can’t possibly list EVERY. SINGLE. SPOT. (And hey, isn’t that kind of the adventure for each photographer?) But here are some (if not most) of the most famous and impressive photography spots in the “City of Lights.”
In this guide are the best Paris photography spots, images of what to expect, map directions and places to reserve (should you want to get the hotel or restaurant spot). MAKE SURE you bookmark this on your phone so you can have it handy when wandering the streets of Paris.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
TIP 1: A lot of these spots are close together, so you can shoot multiple spots in a few days. Still, taking pics and wading through the crowds can be exhausting. Give yourself at least a week to get all of these spots on your itinerary.
TIP 2: One of the great things about Paris is that most of the locals sleep in. If you want to get most of these shots without people in them, try arriving between 6 and 8 am. Obviously shoulder/off season is best, but this rule can be applied year round.
TIP 3: There is no bad time to visit Paris. However if you’re looking for less crowds, cheaper prices and comfortable weather, shoulder season is best. Think late fall and early Spring (spring is also the time you can get those beautiful cherry blossom trees)!
Best Paris Photography Spots in Montmartre
Sacré-Cœur (35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre)
Up close or far away, there are many ways to capture Sacré-Cœur. Whether you’re inside this magnificent church or outside, it will be a beautiful photograph. You’ll have the steps all to yourself if you arrive before 8:30 am!
I stumbled upon here years ago as a happy accident. Now, it’s a Montmartre photography staple! While you can arrive here early to beat the crowds, I think some of its charm lies in those casually sipping espresso and having a cigarette outside, don’t you?
Famous in history and in cinema, you can’t not go to Moulin Rouge while you’re here. It’s a lot more photogenic than it is affordable at over $100 USD per ticket (and that’s on the weekdays)! If you’re looking for a better burlesque show (though the prices still remain high), take a picture in front of here but attend Crazy Horse instead.
Pink Mamma (20bis Rue de Douai)
If you’re gonna do Italian instead of French, this is the place to do it! It’s Instagrammy as hell and with four levels, there are plenty of places to snap. But if you want seats on the most photogenic floor (top floor), make reservations far in advance! (Please note, this is technically on the border of Montmartre and Saint-Georges.)
Best Paris Photography Spots in Les Marais
Place des Vosges
Le Marais is one of the coolest neighborhoods in France and this beautiful square is no exception. As the oldest square in the city, it doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves, so crowds are minimal.
Best Paris Photography Spots in Ile de La Cité
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II)
The Notre Dame is the second most iconic landmark in Paris and as such, there are crowds almost constantly. So how did I get this shot with very few people? Easy: I woke up before the sun rose and sat here until the lighting was better.
This is the oldest bridge and town and definitely one of the more beautiful ones. Whether crossing the bridge or dining under it, it deserves a bit of love from your camera.
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (24 Rue Chanoinesse)
Despite being so close to the Notre Dame, this place was very slow when we passed it a few times. This lunch/dinner spot is charming and rustic both inside and out. It’s food may be reviewed as just okay, but its exterior is worth a visit.
Best Paris Photography Spots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Jardin du Luxembourg
Quite possibly the most bourgeoisie (appropriate French adjective) garden in all of Paris. It’s not quite as sprawling as the Jardin des Tuileries, but I believe it’s far more popular. And picturesque.
Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain)
Whether you’re here for the gram or here for the history, Café de Flore is the place to be. With regulars like Georges Bataille, Robert Desnos, Léon-Paul Fargue, Raymond Queneau and Pablo Picasso, you’re in great company. Prices are expensive, but worth it to sit amongst some of the greats.
Maison Savauge (5 Rue de Buci)
This location was another happy accident that we stumbled upon in the wee morning before the crowds arrived. Maison Savauge looks a lot more beautiful on the outside than the inside according to Instagram, so it would be wise to come early before the diners.
The Louvre might be grand, but d’Orsay is a lot more approachable. The architecture is grandiose and this beautiful clock makes the place that much more interactive. Plus, tickets are less than $20 USD!
Best Paris Photography Spots in the Latin Quarter
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore (37 Rue de la Bûcherie)
Le sigh. This spot is one of my personal favorites. As a literary buff, many of my idols once roamed this shop. Sure the books may be a tad overpriced, but this exterior combined with those cherry blossoms are tres magnifique!
There are many spots to dine along the Seine river, but your best bet is to go a little further east from the Eiffel Tower. I adore the view near Notre Dame, but bring a baguette, cheese and wine and see where the mood strikes you!
Best Paris Photography Spots in Faubourg Saint-Germain
The Eiffel Tower or Champs de Mars
The Eiffel Tower, the crème de la crème of Paris. You can’t come here and NOT take a picture. Unfortunately due to recent terrorist attacks, there are now a ton of gates surrounding the landmark. Your best bet is to shoot city scenes with the tower in the background, looking upward, or taking the elevator to the top and shooting the view. There’s an overpriced restaurant at the top called Le Jules Verne that I wouldn’t recommend, but then again, when can you say you’ve eaten at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
City View of the Eiffel Tower (12 Avenue de la Bourdonnais)
This was my favorite place to grab a picture of the Eiffel Tower! It’s much more natural, there are significantly less tourists and the whole scene is picturesque. Definitely come early! You may not be able to avoid the parked cars but you can beat all of the tourists!
Another restaurant, another view of the Eiffel Tower. This place is INCREDIBLY overpriced, so either save money for this outing or just come for appetizers and cocktails (and the view, of course).
Cler Fleurs (46 Rue Cler)
What’s a trip to Paris without visiting a flower stand? Cler Fleurs is the more picturesque option (we couldn’t capture the whole thing because a loading truck was in the way), so you’ll have better luck than we did. Plus, purchasing the flowers makes for great props later along the river or walking around town.
While incredibly beautiful, BEWARE. This place is packed and there are scammers everywhere! Come as early as possible for this one for this shot. Or use a prime/zoom lens while on the ride to make it as if you’re the only one around
What if I could tell you there are natural remedies to help eliminate major ailments in your body ranging from depression to hormonal imbalance to cancer? Dude, seriously. While there’s no such thing as a magic pill or cure, there is something that’s pretty darn close: adaptogens. There are thousands of natural remedies out there, but if you’re new to the world of all-natural health, these are the best adaptogens you should start with.
I’d like to start by saying that I’m incredibly passionate about adaptogens. Since I’ve started taking them 3 years ago, I’ve noticed major improvements in my life. I’d also like to mention that I am not a doctor or healthcare professional of any kind. My knowledge of adaptogens comes from working in the health food industry and in no way substitutes for medical advice.
Most of these herbs are incredibly safe and can be found in many, FDA-approved foods and beverages. Still, do a bit of your own research and maybe consult a medically professional if you’re nervous about mixing these herbs with any medication you’re taking.
What Are Adaptogens?
If a Google Search didn’t lead you here and you’re a normal Clumsy Traveler follower, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell are adaptogens and why should I care?”
Adaptogens are herbs that support your hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis, which is where all of your stress comes from. When you put your body through stress (whether that be a fight-or-flight response from the amygdala or the types of unhealthy foods you put in your body), your body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol, in small doses, is good for your body and has helped our ancestors run from predators and survive up until now. In today’s world, it can wreak havoc on our bodies. Especially since our fight-or-flight response is triggered at the idea of a big work project or a break up instead of running away from a literal tiger.
These herbs help balance your hormones and respond to your body’s hormonal and chemical levels, which change not only day-to-day, but moment-to-moment. Adaptogens “adapt” to your body’s responses, which are always changing based on several factors like your diet, emotional state, and physical health. You may be taking the same dose as your friend, but your cortisol levels determine how effective each herb works in your body.
How Do Adaptogens Work?
There are a lot of moving parts that help make your body a function at an optimum level. Your brain-adrenal (HPA) axis, brain-thyroid (HPT) and brain-gonadal axis (HPG) are all required to work in harmony so that you can have a healthy body. This delicate balance controls your mood, metabolism, energy, immune system, and sex drive. And when this HP axis is out of balance, you can get all kinds of issues like adrenal fatigue, over or under-active thyroid, and low or high libido.
In fact, if your body is busy producing cortisol when any sign of stress is present, it halts all other hormone-production–which is when your body goes haywire! Adaptogens come in and balance those hormones substantially by producing the hormones you need and halting production once your body has received enough.
And the cool thing about adaptogens? They all play well together! For example, the energizing effects of cordyceps won’t cancel out the calming effects of ashwagandha. Each herb has its own strengths and work in sync with one another. So if you can afford it, go ahead and take as many as you want!
Why Take Adaptogens and Why Are They Important?
Unless you’re some kind of alien from another planet, you have experienced stress. Whether stress runs your life or it simply pops up every now and again, it really does impact your health. As I mentioned previously, high doses of cortisol wear and tear on your body. It also halts production of other hormones which means more fatigue, bad skin and hair, or frequent illness. Stress is not something to be taken lightly.
And because each adaptogen has their own super power, they’re great to take during your travels! I upped my dose of maca and cordyceps before my trip to Peru and it really helped eliminate altitude sickness. I took reishi to boost my immune system while traveling to China to eliminate the side effects of air pollution. I even take turmeric on my long haul flights to help with my back pain!
Whether you’re traveling the world or just want to increase your health for the better, adaptogens will drastically improve your life.
Which Adaptogens Should I Take?
There is an entire world of adaptogens that help with so many different things! I’ve included some of the best adaptogens to start with as a beginner as well as my personal favorites brands/types.
Keep in mind that when you’re purchasing adaptogens (whether they be liquid, capsules or powder), you make sure they’re almost always dual-extracted.
Ashwagandha, known as the herb of balance, is quite possibly one of the best adaptogens out there. Ashwagandha is a root with yellow flowers found primarily in India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.Honestly, what can’t this herb do? Let me count the ways: this herb has anti-cancer properties, lowers blood sugar, reduces that pesky cortisol I mentioned, reduces depression, boosts testosterone and increases muscle mass in men, helps lower inflammation, fights fatigue, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides and helps improve your memory. If you’re new here, this is one of the best adaptogens to start with and I highly recommend starting with this one.
Reishi might be one of my personal favorites for its calming and immune-boosting benefits. Reishi mushroom is a fungus that grows in hot and humid locations in Asia and is known as “the herb of immortality.” Like ashwagandha, it also helps fight cancer, depression, lowers cortisol levels and fights fatigue. What the super herb does that ashwagandha doesn’t is help boost your immune system, lower inflammation through fighting oxidative stress, combats aging, helps mood and neurological disorders, aids the liver and kidneys and even help flight fibromyalgia.
If you’re sticking to just a few adaptogens, this is another I highly recommend to start with. This strange and unique-looking plant only found in high altitudes in somewhat arctic regions like Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia and Iceland. This herb is incredibly potent, especially when combating stress, anxiety, adrenal fatigue and depression. Along with helping battle cancer and helping boost energy for aerobic activity, rhodiola is incredibly helpful when balancing estrogen in women.
I have a friend who’s OBSESSED with astragalus. Why? Because it’s a major immunity booster and is great at preventing disease. This root grows mostly in the north and eastern regions of China and contain saponins (which lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer), flavanoids (which control and scavenge of free radicals, help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses) and polysaccharides (known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities).
Not your average type of basil, holy basil was first found in the tropical parts of Asia. It’s primarily used to treat anxiety, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, unbalanced blood sugar and acne, but that’s not all! Holy basil is a great source of vitamin K and A, helps oral health, eliminates headaches and supports eye health.
Cordyceps is my personal favorite (and a super weird one, tbh). This adaptogen is a fungus that grows on ants and caterpillars and straight up consumes them! Because of cordyceps’ ability to increase oxygen absorption in your red blood cells, your body gets a significant dose of energy. In fact, athletes use cordyceps to improve their performance! Cordyceps also fight inflammation and is great for heart health. I used this to help fight altitude sickness in Peru and it was a game-changer!
If you’re feeling a little foggy or have some serious attention issues when it comes to work or studying, lion’s mane will me your new best friend. The name comes from its fuzzy appearance, like that of an actual lion’s mane. While lion’s main can help fight cancer and boost your immune system much like the other adaptogens listed, this one really targets brain function. Lion’s mane can improve memory, boost cognition and focus, and protects against concussions and brain damage. When I take lion’s mane, I can physically feel a difference in my concentration. It’s amazing for those of us who work from home and need motivation!
Chaga is a mushroom found on birch trees in colder climates across the Northern Hemisphere and are known as “the king of mushrooms.” Most take chaga to help boost their immune system, relieve stress, help fight inflammation, reduce bacteria through the body and protect the liver by cleansing toxins. But the major reason it’s known for fighting illnesses is the major diseases it helps to fight! Chaga lessens HIV symptoms, aids ulcers and gastritis, fights Chron’s disease, diabetes and even helps fight against cancer!
Maca root, a Peruvian root found in the Andes, is an amazing herb to help with a variety of hormonal issues. From low moods to fertility to libido, maca root is a lifesaver. But what it’s incredible for is its ability to increase oxygen and performance enhancement. As this root is grown at high altitudes, this root does wonders for those hiking high above sea level. Maca helps negate the side effects of high altitudes by helping your body adapt to the climate. Because of its ability to help boost fertility, memory and its ability to ease stress, this root has been nicknamed “the Peruvian ginseng.”
Schisandra looks like a small cherry, but tastes a lot like a bitter blueberry. Those trying to improve their skin love this berry for its beauty benefits. The berry has been known to help protect the skin from the elements and inflammation as well as fight free radicals. Women have also loved this herb for helping aid PMS ailments we well as fatigue, nervous exhaustion, depression and irritability.
This well-known spice, typically found in any curry dish, may be new to the adaptogen world, but has certainly been around for awhile in Ayruveda. Thanks to curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, you can eliminate inflammation of the muscles, joints, skin or organs. It is said that most major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, are first born out of inflammation and daily doses of turmeric help avoid said inflammation. This has helped immensely with my spinal stenosis back pain as well as my knee issues. (Make sure to take turmeric supplements with black pepper–like the product listed here–which works as a vasodilator and helps absorption of the curcumin. No black pepper means the turmeric doesn’t work to fight inflammation!)
What If I Don’t Feel Like Taking More Supplements?
Listen, I get it. Between your multivitamins, your prescribed medicines, your nutrients and more, you probably don’t want to worry about taking an extra pill. But that’s the beauty of adaptogens! Most of these items are roots, mushrooms, or fungi and can be added into your diet in a natural way.
One of the best ways to get all of these herbs in as few pills/supplements as possible is to make your own vitamins! This gives you control over how much you can take, the quality of herbs and will save you money in the long run.
Not many people in the Western World have heard of the city Chengdu, located in the legendary Sichuan province of China. But if you’re looking to get up-and-close with pandas, eat some of the best Chinese food in the world and dive head first into Chinese spirituality, then this city has got to be added to your bucket list. If you plan to visit Chengdu China, these are the best things you cannot miss!
1. Hike Up Mount Qingcheng
One of the biggest tourist attractions (and my personal favorite part of the trip) is Mount Qingcheng, the birthplace of Taoism and an UNESCO Heritage site. The Qingcheng Mountain Scenic Area is located about an hour and a half from Chengdu in the southwest of Dujiangyan. To see the legendary eleven, Taoist temples, you must first climb the first half of the 20,000 steps through the lush, evergreen forest. You will reach Yuecheng Lake and take a ferry across where cable cars will be waiting to hoist you high above the trees. You can skip the cable car for a 2 hour hike up the mountain to save money as well. From there, you will see one of the best and beautiful temples in all of Chengdu!
2. Visit the Dujiangyan Aqueduct
You can’t visit the beautiful Qingcheng without first stopping by Dujiangyan! Another World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO, this scenic spot has some of the most beautiful architecture, temples and bridge in the Sichuan Province. Not to mentions, it is the oldest and only remaining functional water conservancy project in the world featuring the dam-free water diversion. You might be overwhelmed with the vast views and sites at this place, so make sure to cross these spots off your list: the Fulong Temple, Two King Temple, the Jade Barrier, Lidui Park, Yuleishan Park, Yunv Peak, Lingyan Temple, Puzhao Temple, Jade Moon Lake, and the Dujiangyan Water Conservancy Project.
3. Try Traditional “Hot Pot” at Shu Daxia Hot Pot
If you’re coming to the Sichuan province to try its legendary food, this must be your first stop! Somewhat similar to fonduing meat in a pot of broth, hot pot is prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table. The inner pot was a soup-like dish (perfect for those against spicy dishes) and surrounded by a traditional hot pot broth that is the spiciest thing I’ve ever consumed. Raw meats, innards and even pig’s brain is places around the table for you to cook in the simmering broth. But the best way to cool your hot tongue? Dunk the now-cooked meat in sesame oil or take a big gulp of peanut milk.
4. Wander Around Kuanzhai Alley
This was one of our first stops in Chengdu and felt, while touristy, intrinsically Chinese. Kuanzhai Alley, located close to Changshun Street of the Qingyang District, has three famous alleys: Kuan Alley (wide alley), Zhai Alley (narrow alley), and Jing Alley (well alley). The dark charcoal bricks house touristy shops, restaurants and open markets for you to wander for hours! Try to come here early in the morning as it is quite packed. There are a lot of Asian tourists here, so if you’re a Westerner be prepared for some stares and pictures. We had over 45 people take pictures of us as we took a group photo here and we felt like celebrities!
5. Enjoy a Traditional Chinese Opera at Shu Feng Ya Yun Sichuan Opera
Quite possibly one of the most culturally enriching experiences in Chengdu is the famous Chinese Opera. I unfortunately missed this awesome attraction due to my sesame allergy. However my fellow-travelers told me it was QUITE the site to see. You’re immediately entranced by the historical and distinctive makeup worn by both men and women. The show includes many different acts including hand puppetry, folk songs, dances, talking, antimasque and dialectical music. It’s one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world and an absolute must when you visit Chengdu China.
6. Marvel at the Leshan Giant Buddha (The Biggest Buddha in the World)
So just how big is the biggest Buddha in the world? The Leshan Giant Buddha is 233 ft. tall stone statue built during the Tang Dynasty between 713-803 and is the tallest, pre-modern statue in the world. It’s a bit of a drive (almost 2 hours from Chengdu City), but is worth it to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sitting on the Min and Dadu River, the statue is carved out of Cretaceous red blood sandstones. This stone is said to be incredibly cleansing for all of the chakras, instilling good nature, heightening intuition and allowing the real self to shine through happily. Sounds pretty accurate for Buddha, does it not?
7. Tour the Wenshu Monastery
Another beautiful (and best-preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu) can be found at the Wenshu Monastery. Get lost in the history of this beautiful spot initially built during the Tang Dynasty from 618-907. It’s home to some amazingly precious relics, such as paintings, calligraphy and statues as well as a piece of the broken skull of Xuan Zang, a renowned monk of the Tang Dynasty. But tourists love to enjoy the garden and tea house while listening to music by local folk artists.
8. Explore the Jinsha Site Museum
Have you ever planned to create a huge building only to discover 3000 year-old ancient artifacts beneath your feet? Ya, me neither. But you can see this for yourself at the Jinsha Site in the heart of Chengdu. Your first stop is an archalogical digging site filled with antlers, elephant tusks and an old Banyon tree trunk. Wind your way throughout the exhibit and you’ll discover several jade pieces, burial grounds, and the famous Golden Sun Bird disk that is the very symbol of Jinsha itself.
9. Marvel at the Wuhou Site
Another personal favorite of mine (and one of the most photogenic spots in Chengdu) is the Wuhou Shrine. As the dedicated memorial to Zhuge Liang, the Prime Minister of Shu Kingdom, it is quite grand! Enter the main building and find yourself surrounded by statues of generals, politicians and other notable relics of the Museum of the Three Kingdoms. This one area is tricky to take pictures in for some locals believe that you are stealing the souls from the bellies of the statues with every photo you take. But make your way down to the insta-famous red wall between the Hui Mausoleum and Wuhou Shrine. The high bamboo and bright colors perfectly encapsulates the very essence of China.
10. Hang with Pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
This just might be the biggest tourist spot in all of Chengdu. I mean, who wouldn’t want to chill with baby pandas for an afternoon? Founded in 1987, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and red pandas with the goals researching and educating the world about pandas. While I was originally skeptical that this place would be zoo-like and harmful to the animals, the initiatives here are actually quite astounding! For example, the survival rate of baby pandas in the wild is only 30%. This number has increased to 79% of panda survival thanks to the research center. The research base has even made partnerships with zoos around the world to help breed this endangered animal, including Adventure World in Japan, the San Diego Zoo in California and the University of Liverpool in England!
11. Take a Stroll Through People’s Park
Where can you find matchmaking parents, fortune tellers and dancing and karaoke-ing locals all in one place? All can be found at People’s Park in the heart of Chengdu. The beautiful park covers 1,212,440 square feet and has everything here from tall bamboo pathways, a large lake with boats to cruise on, a tea house, coy ponds and flowers on flowers. But the most interesting part of this park are the several “ads” parents post of their children trying to set them up with Mr. or Ms. Right! (Dunno how I feel about that one, but hey, we’re traveling here.)
12. Culinary Institute
I was a tad hesitant to put this one up, mostly because I couldn’t enjoy most of the food on this trip due to my sesame allergy. But if you’re coming to visit Chengdu China for the Sichuan foodie scene, this has to be on your list. Not for the tour and not to pray to the culinary gods (yes, that’s a real thing), but it’s a must-see to stir your own doubanjiang, also known as “the soul of Sichuan” and buy some of the best pixian doubanjiang in all of China.
Where to Stay in Chengdu?
Lucky for you, Chengdu lodging is incredibly affordable. You can stay at a well-known hotel brand for $150 USD or even get away with spending $2 in a trendy hostel. Here are some of my favorite places to stay if you plan to visit Chengdu China:
*Thank you to the Chengdu Tourism Board for hosting me during this trip to Chengdu. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
**Some of the links listed above are affiliate links. These help support this blog so that I can keep writing for you wonderful people. Clicking them helps me with no additional cost to you! As always, ideas and opinions expressed are entirely my own.
It was 9:30 pm on a Friday when I arrived at LAX–a seemingly busy time for most travelers as hundreds of cars sat bumper-to-bumper along Sepulveda.I was embarking on a work trip to Chengdu, China, the capital city of the Sichuan province. And it was at that moment, when I pulled up to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, that I realized I was hitting my 31st country; and I hadn’t even talked about the profound moment I hit 30 countries before 30 years old! So let’s turn back the clock for a quick sec.
Is the subject of this post braggy? Privileged? Snooty? Maybe. But is it momentous? Something to be proud of? Very much so.
Because if you had asked me at 19–still a young, fresh-faced, not-so-innocent college student–I would have told you that hitting 30 countries before turning 30 wasn’t impossible per sé…
I just never believed I could ever do something like that. This dream was someone else’s dream and so far out of my reach.
You see, at the time, I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem.
A shocking assumption, I’m sure. My college friends might disagree that I, the drunk and outgoing social butterfly at the party, had low self-esteem. But it seems like my self-esteem quota would max out at parties on the weekends and flirting with boys. When it came to self-love or believing in myself, I was tapped outta that good ol’ self esteem and self-confidence mojo.
But two years later, everything changed. I accepted my basic, college-girl rite of passage and studied abroad in Europe. Hell no it wasn’t in Barcelona or Munich. Instead, I bundled up in multiple layers and headed north to Uppsala, Sweden to live amongst the gorgeous, statuesque Swedish people.
Friends of the family and classmates would say, “You’re going there all by yourself?” I guess I should have realized then that this was kind of a big deal. I simply shrugged my shoulders and said, “Yeah, doesn’t everybody who studies abroad?” The naiveté was cute. I guess it’s not that “normal” to travel around the world by yourself.
So, in August of 2010, I hopped on a one-way flight to Stockholm, Sweden and holy forking shirt balls, did my life change.
Sure, I had done what many 20-somethings had embarked on before me, all of whom also felt their lives had changed forever. But something clicked in me that year. Learning a foreign bus route in Swedish takes time and patience, man. Learning how to pay rent, find the doctor’s office, and manage your healthcare in a quasi-socialist setting is challenging. And I can’t tell you how many times I had to fend for myself while traveling to different countries with friends. Like the time my wallet was stolen in London or the time I went to the murder capital of the world in Honduras or when two French boys followed and harassed me in Paris.
But in the end, I was always okay. I always found a way to take care of myself. I was strong and independent.
That year, I knew travel was going to be my life, someway, somehow. Hobby or job, my world would revolve around, well, the world. Travel gave me a sense of independence and self-reliance I had never known at home. Whatever life threw at me, I knew I was smart and capable enough to take care of it. Without travel, I don’t know that I’d have that confidence today.
Fast forward 8 years and I’m currently typing away at the Shanghai Pudong Airport. About to embark on my 31st country around the world for “work”.
The country that allowed me to ‘hit 30’ was Cuba and boy, was I obsessed with that country! Still, I didn’t make a big deal about this awesome achievement.
Perhaps I ignored this milestone because of the game of comparison on Instagram. I’ve talked about this bullshit phenomenon before. Comparing yourself to another’s journey will crush your spirit and eat your soul alive if you let it. And I guess I kinda did. (DAMN INSTAGRAM, WHY YOU SO INSIDIOUS?!) Because the 30 mark came and went and all I could think was, “well, it’s not 50.”
But I love retelling this story. It forces me to sit down and remind myself just how far I’ve come (literally). From the girl who had barely left her own suburb in Southern California to a travel blogger with a passport full of stamps in less than 10 years! From the girl who couldn’t believe she could do anything on her own–without the help of her parents, a boss, a boyfriend, a teacher, whatever–to wandering around the streets of Budapest or Chengdu, by herself.
Forgive me, won’t you, for giving myself the biggest fuckin’ pat on the back.
So yeah, I suppose I’m doing a not-so-humble brag atm. But it’s been so easy for me to not feel accomplished. To forget how amazing this journey really is. I’ve forgotten how to be proud of myself.
But for now, I’m saying it loud and saying it proud because what I’ve accomplished is amazing. If not to the world, it certainly is to lil’ ol’ me.
Happy holidays, clumsy travelers! It seems like there are more and more products filling up our homes and ad space these days. Some awesome, some totally garbage. So how do you know what to gift the special traveler in your life? Let me help you wade through all of the sales and holiday nonsense and present you with the most epic holiday gift guide for every type of traveler!
SIDE NOTE: If you’d like to WIN some of these items, I’m hosting a giveaway this month!
Every day during the 1st and 3rd week of December, I’ll be randomly drawing winners to win one of these prizes and I’ll be giving a total of $700 in prizes! Some of these items include Sunday Riley, Honeyfeet Yoga, Hollis & Raye, Instax, billie, Dr. Jart+, Passion Planner and more!
You’ve heard of the Korean skin care rage, haven’t you? Dr. Jart+ has some powerful products that tout the amazing benefits straight from Korea. And guess what? Most of their products are vegan as well! Their rubber masks are absolutely legendary and perfect for those long flights. But their 6-pack of sheet masks help everything from wrinkles to brightening to hydration.
This God-sent of a product is one of the best treatments out there for dull, dry and sagging skin (basically all of the things that happen due to constant traveling). And while the lactic acid does wonders to remove dead skin cells, it’s also cruelty-free, paraben-free and vegan. Sure it’s a tad pricey, but it’s the perfect gift to get an all-in-one treatment with a single product–no lugging around 2 cosmetic bags full of product for Janet!
Naturopathica is one of the leaders in all-natural health and skin care routines. Ranging from herbal remedies to holistic skin care, there’s nothing that Naturopathica can’t do. So why limit yourself to a single item? Gift your beauty-lover a variety of holistic gift sets, whether you provide them a tranquil bubble bath or some much-needed moisturizing nutrients. Prices range from $49-132, there’s a gift set for almost every budget!
Quite possibly one of the most powerful serums I’ve ever used! Whether I was using the hyperpigmentation serum or the deep wrinkles serum, I noticed results literally within 20 minutes of putting it on. If you want to gift your friend a powerful facial booster to help feed their skin the nutrients it desperately needs, give them this and they will love you forever! Although it’s a tad expensive for $39 for only 5 ml, it’s well worth the investment, seriously I’m obsessed.
Most will agree that you ain’t a real traveler if you haven’t traveled with unwashed, 5-day old hair. But spray a little dry shampoo in those roots and no one is any the wiser! My go-to dry shampoo is the drybar detox brand, simply for its amazing quality and it’s perfect 1.4 oz. travel size. (I’ve also seen it for $10 at the checkout area at Sephora, keep an eye out!)
Sleep? What is sleep when you’re traveling? From flying, to differing time zones, to partying all night, travel and sleep don’t really mix. That’s why FARMACY’s Sleep Tight balm is the best overnight serum! The balm melts into a dreamy oil-gel, absorbing into the skin while you sleep to lift, firm and combat signs of aging. The ingredients are also paraben-free, all-natural and cruelty free!
Who says we can’t still buy BFF necklaces? Especially if they look as good as Hollis & Raye! Founder and jewelry-maker, Kristina Catanese, brings luxury jewelry at incredibly affordable prices. Made of gold filled or sterling silver pieces, her necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings are not only high-quality, but provide a dainty chicness to any ensemble!
Are you friends with an over packer? Gift them a piece from A Day! These sustainably sourced and handmade clothes are not only good for the environment, but work as wonderful staple pieces in a limited wardrobe. The Shore Thing Turtleneck is comfortably cozy this time of year and is easy to pair with just about everything!
Have you met a woman yet who isn’t in love with Reformation? It’s beautiful designs alone are worth swooning. But the fact that these are sustainably sourced textiles and completely green practices make this a dream fashion line. Now all you need are these jammies to dream in!
This wouldn’t be a proper guide without an Instax Camera, would it? These high-quality cameras pack well, provide a few flash options and offer a type of nostalgia that those fancy DSLRs just don’t have. Plus, they’re actually affordable.
As much as I wanted to add a DSLR to this list, I knew a GoPro was better suited. Why? Because it’s more affordable, it’s easier to pack and it’s perfect for every traveler. From action-packed water sports to casually capturing city scenes, literally everyone should have a Go Pro.
Got a YouTuber friend on the rise? Maybe you know just an average joe is attached to their phone. Either way, help them capture perfectly stabilized video for their next viral video. DJI is the premier photography and video brand with the highest quality gimbal on the market!
So nice, they named it twice! If you want to give your friend the gift of a healthy smile AND help individuals around the world, this is the perfect gift! Twice includes two toothpastes, one in the morning to wake you up and one at night to calm you before bed. They’re made of all-natural ingredients and donate 10% of each sale to the Glo Good Foundation, helping provide dental health to impoverish places around the world!
Gift your giftee the power of health AND magic with the crystal soap bar! Made of vegan and cruelty-free ingredients, this soap is not only perfect to take along your travels, but you get a magical keepsake at the end! Add a lil extra something by purchasing their zodiac crystal to show you really care.
What happens when you combine an aesthetically-pleasing, Scandinavian design with a quality hand sanitizer? You get the cute, mini bird sanitizer pump by OLIKA! Combining both hand wipes in the bottom compartment and a liquid sanitizer, you’ll never feel gross after using the airplane bathroom ever again! OLIKA’s ingredients are also all-natural and moisturizing, surprise, surprise.
This sustainable yoga mat is the perfect gift for that yogi that escapes to those luxury yoga retreats in Costa Rica or Bali. Honeyfeet founder, Greer Von Muellner, decided to create eco-friendly mats made of biodegradable cork! The cork is antimicrobial so you don’t have to worry about bacteria sticking to your mat, unlike traditional yoga mats. Honeyfeet Yoga mats come in two sizes, so make sure to get the smaller one for your travel-lover.
The ‘When in Rome’ TravelerPassion Planner(use code ‘CLUMSY10’ for 10% off) $30
Travel bloggers and digital nomads alike will appreciate this one! Working on the road can be disorienting. But when we have a place to organize our thoughts and plan our days/lives, we make leaps and bounds in our careers. The Passion Planner not only organizes your day into hourly increments, but helps you plan your longterm goals so you can actually turn them into a reality!
Is your giftee a phone addict? Can’t travel anywhere without constantly taking pics or tweeting? Get them out of their head with this experiential travel game! These easy-to-pack cards have fun and thoughtful prompts that get you to really enjoy traveling in a whole new way. It’s actually pretty addicting!
Traveling to Cuba was a dream come true for a lot of reasons. Partially because it has always been exempt for us American travelers. But mostly because I can finally live my “Havana Oh Na Na” life I’ve been daydreaming about via Instagram. If you’re here, I’m sure you feel the same. Here are the best Havana Cuba photography spots that you absolutely have to capture for yourself!
But let me just make one thing clear: Havana can be a little hard to navigate.
Luckily, I was touring the city with Endless Havana, a female-operated tour company that not only took us to all of the locations below, but also gave us a taste of real, Cuban culture.
I’m not talking about the tours that just give you a little bit of history. Or the tours that take you to a “real shop” and get a kick back when you spend wayyy too much money on a Cuban cigar. No; Endless Havana took us beyond the touristy spots, beyond the Instagram destinations and into the lives of locals. And because of this tour, Cuba has become my favorite travel destination!
You can’t possibly miss (and probably can’t avoid) this giant beauty in Havana! El Capitolio is the nation’s capital where the organization of government was held until the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Now it’s home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences, but it still looks incredibly regal. Unfortunately, this spot was under construction while we were visiting, but the locals are very excited about refurbishing this historical building.
Opposite of Capitolio
Across the street from El Capitolio is one of Havana’s greatest sights, at least according to Instagram anyway. Colorful, dilapidated buildings line the busy street, making the perfect backdrop for a quintessential Cuban scene. Take your time here to make sure you get an old car in the shot (this may take 20 minutes, but who’s counting anyway).
Floridita Restaurante & Bar
Any literary buffs out there? If so, you have to stop by Floridita Restaurante & Bar. Not only was this one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite spots to grab a mojito, but it’s the perfect place to grab a photo encapsulating Cuban life. But let’s be real, you’re just here to get a cocktail.
Plaza de la Catedral
Are you looking for something with more history? Maybe you prefer more landscape photography? Then wind your way through the Cuban streets and stumble upon Plaza de la Catedral, the Cathedral of Havana. Good luck getting a solo shot here, but its exterior and interior are absolutely stunning.
In the heart of Old Havana, or “Habana,” is the Old Square, or “Plaza Vieja.” Its border is surrounded by seven consejos populares with a fountain in its center, though not as bright and colorful as some of the other buildings you might have seen thus far. This place isn’t bustling with tourists so getting a solo shot wouldn’t be impossible.
Fusterlandia, located in the Jaimanitas neighborhood, is basically one giant, interactive art exhibit created by José Fuster. This artist wanted to bring a touch of Gaudi and Brâncuși to his hometown in Cuba and covered an entire home/neighborhood in mosaic tiles! It took just about over a decade to make, but so worth it for your ‘gram grid.
While most are capturing photos of Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro, we just couldn’t get enough of the street scenes and old cars. Take a trip along El Malecón (the walk way between the seawall and mainland) and catch a glimpse of the castle along the sea. Or do as we did and keep taking pictures among the decrepit yet beautiful buildings.
Not far from El Capitolio lies Parque Central, the tourist hub of Havana. You’ll see everyone here using their phones (to use the free WiFi), all of the old cars to rent for a day, and lots of small businesses. Make sure you rent an old car here if you’re looking for some authentic, Havana Cuba photography scenes! We paid $35 USD to rent a car for one hour (specifically for photo taking) and it was definitely worth it!
Want to Take Your Own, Awesome Instagram Photos?
As you probably know by now, most of the big time bloggers and influencers don’t use their cell phones to take a proper Instagram picture. Sure, the iPhone X has come out with some awesome features, especially the portrait mode! But it just doesn’t hold a candle to a professional, DSLR camera (especially if you want to get noticed on Instagram).
Most of these were taken with a Nikon D750 (by my dear friend Angie) or my Sony A6300. Try purchasing one of these refurbished, on Amazon, or rent them! Practice makes perfect and eventually, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without one.
*Thank you to Endless Havana for hosting me on this tour. As always, ideas and opinions expressed are entirely my own.
***Some of the links listed above are affiliate links. These help support this blog so that I can keep writing for you wonderful people. Clicking them helps me with no additional cost to you!
Do you find your skin looking dry, lackluster and looking older than it should? There’s a chance that the summer sun is dehydrating your skin (even if you are drinking plenty of water)! Fear not, there are a few well-kept secret, hydration tips for summer that will make your insides and outsides very happy!
Living in Los Angeles has a lot of perks throughout the year, but there are some challenges around the summertime. Rising temperatures over the years have caused record-breaking heatwaves throughout Southern California. In fact, it’s so dangerous that there are usually multiple heat warnings within the city!
But no matter where you live, the summer sun really takes its toll on our health and bodies. Now is the time to amp up your beauty routine so that you can not only have beautiful skin, but have a well-functioning body too!
What Happens When You’re Dehydrated?
As a building block for your body, water can do some pretty amazing things for your health. Naturally, that means there are some intense, adverse reactions if you don’t drink enough water. If you don’t get enough hydration, your body can experience the following:
Dropped blood pressure
And if your body is working hard to keep your body functioning without enough water, your skin can show early signs of aging! So let’s notput our body through so much trauma and drink 8 glasses of water, shall we?
Still, with the summer heat, it’s easy to lose fluids through extreme sweating (even if you’re unaware of it)! Keep reading to learn how you can combat hydration tips for summer.
What to do When You’re Dehydrated
If you need a serious boost in hydration this summer, here’s what you can do:
1. Try Some Hydrating Masks
There are plenty of masks out there to try and buy, but it’s important to look for the ones that will nourish your skin and keep it hydrated throughout the day. And while I can list out certain products here, I’m a natural, DIY kind of girl. Certain items in your kitchen or garden will work much more effectively than any expensive, store-bought mask!
Try using the gel from a single aloe vera plant leaf or 1 tbsp of honey mixed with 2 tbs of oatmeal to hydrate your skin.
Aloe vera is packed with minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E, which all help to reinforce the skin’s barrier. Meanwhile, honey is a natural humectant, allowing it to draw moisture out from the air and into the skin, ensuring it’s retained it in the layers where it’s needed most.
2. Use Adaptogens to Boost Hydration
If you don’t know by now, I’m a sucker for adaptogens. They help strengthen your immune system, lower stress, help with fertility and so much more. So I guess it’s no surprise that there’s even an adaptogen that aids in hydration.
Two amazing adaptogenic herbs include moringa and marshmallow root. Moringa is a super skin nutrient, containing protein and vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, and phenolics. Marshmallow root also contains mucilaginous which helps your skin hydrate as well.
You can look for powders or extracts at your local health foods store and mix them in your daily coffee, smoothie or tea drink for incredible results!
3. Eat Hydrating Fruits and Vegetables
It’s cliché for a reason, but you know what they say, “you are what you eat.” Since diet controls so much of our appearance (both healthy and unhealthy diets), it’s important to nourish yourself from the inside out.
Not only are veggies and fruits full of vitamins and nutrients, but some of them are 90% water! These foods will keep you hydrated and satiate your hunger all at the same time. These include:
4. Drink Water, But Also Drink Electrolytes
This wouldn’t be a proper hydration post without me telling you to amp up your water intake. But if you find yourself dehydrated a little quicker than normal, you might be losing a lot of water through sweat or urination.
Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water and are necessary for every human to function. They keep you hydrated much longer than water and can be found in all types of food and beverages.
Sure, you can find electrolytes in your Gatorade, but that’s also filled with lots of sugar. Coconut water is a natural drink–found from young coconuts–full of electrolytes and also helps with heart health and blood pressure. I highly recommend having 6-8 ounces of coconut water in addition to 8 glasses of water, daily.
5. When You Do Drink Water, Chug It In the Morning
So you’ve read that you’re supposed to drink eight, 8 ounce glasses of water during the day. Most of us have learned to drink a glass every hour or so, but life comes up. We forget or we don’t have water on hand, leaving us dehydrated for the day.
According to Dr. Shilpa Sayana, a medical director in Studio City, California and expert in integrative holistic medicine, she recommends drinking about half of your daily intake within the first 20 minutes of the day.
She believes that not only do we miss out on hydration due to our busy schedules throughout the day, but that drinking this much water in the morning really kickstarts our metabolism. She recommends starting your day with a morning ritual and literally chugging 32 ounces of water within 20 minutes (preferably after brushing your teeth and before eating breakfast).
This will allow you to start the day hydrated and not overeat to compensate your thirst often mistaken for hunger.
6. Keep Your Lips Protected
When it comes to SPF and moisturizing treatments, your lips are oftentimes ignored. Yet this is the area where your skin is the most thin and needs extreme protection!
Carmex is one of my favorite brands of lip balm and has come a long way in hydration and protection. Their new Carmex Comfort Care contains oatmeal colloidal which is essential in hydration and nourishing. As mentioned previously in step one, oats are known for aiding skin in cleansing, moisturizing, soothing and protecting. I also LOVE the watermelon blast flavor (very summer-y).
While this one is my personal favorite for hydrating your skin, I often go back and forth between this and their cherry flavored Carmex Daily Care with SPF 15. That way, I’m not only protected from harsh UV rays, but continue to nourish my lips with vitamins and moisturizing agents.
7. Make Sure Your Beauty Products Are Clean
And no, I don’t just mean that they’re not covered in the foundation that accidentally exploded in your makeup bag. It turns out, your beauty products can be filled with gnarly ingredients that make your skin super dehydrated.
Parabens, synthetic colors, fragrance and phthalates are just a few items that might be listed on the ingredients of your favorite makeup or beauty product that are actually doing more harm than good. You might be surprised to learn that a lot of your favorite beauty products have most if not all of these ingredients and are stripping your skin of essential oils and nutrients.
When in doubt, look for products that say “paraben-free” or “organic.” If it says “all-natural,” that is a vague term open to interpretation that could mean there are still dehydrating ingredients within.
What Are Your Hydration Tips for Summer? Let Us Know in the Comments!
*This is a sponsored post by Carmex. All thoughts and opinions are my own
If you ain’t here for the pools or the midcentury modern architecture, you’re most certainly here for the ‘gram. Going to Palm Springs is like traveling back in time to a more swinging and fashionable time. And if you’re gonna go, you’re going to want to know the most photogenic spots for the best photos in Palm Springs.
One of Palms Springs Legendary Doors
You’ve seen the door pictures everywhere. You say basic, but really, well secretly want one ourselves. These architectural beauties not only encompass the beauty of Palm Springs, but transport us to the Mad Men era in the best way.
“That Pink” Door Address: 1100 Sierra Way
Orange Door Address: 2295 Alhambra Dr.
Parker Palm Springs
If Palm Springs is the mecca for prime photography than the Parker is like hitting the jackpot. From the legendary midcentury modern entrance to the Lemonade Stand to the lovable “DRUGS” sign in the lobby ,there are more than enough places to fill your feed here.
Palms Springs Aerial Tramway
The desert landscape can be challenging to photograph with its flat lands, but nothing captures its beauty like the birds eye view from the San Jacinto Mountains.
Moorten Botanical Garden
Cacti that this area is known for fill this botanical garden, making it one of the best places to get those nature-inspired shots. The heat here is palpable so make sure you wear something cool so you don’t melt inbetween frames.
This hotel is slowly becoming more popular, but is still somewhat of a secret in this small town. The half Moroccan half Mediterranean property has some of the most beautiful nooks and crannies to photograph, and it’s quite the romantic spot for couples to stay!
While I don’t find the Arrive hotel itself to be the most photogenic, it doest have some interesting spots. The best being the Ice Cream and Shoppe located in the front of the building and the art around the area.
Downtown Palm Springs
Downtown Palm Springs itself isn’t exactly the prime spot for photos, but rather the plethora of shops located in Downtown! My favorite is the SHAG Store but there are plenty of thrift shops, restaurants and bars that make the perfect backdrop.
Quite possibly one of the most iconic spots in Palm Springs, this rainbow hotel is a host to several parties, events and festivals. But mostly, people come to take pictures by the pool (which is open to the public in addition to guests Monday – Friday).
I’ve been driving past these windmills since I was a little girl and never thought anything of it. But they are super unique to the area and most out-of-towners love to stop and take a photo with these giants!
Have You Been to Palm Springs? Where was Your Favorite Spot?