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You’ve seen the glaciers on Instagram, you’ve seen the epic waterfalls on Pinterest, and you’ve seen the infamous “love cave” on Game of Thrones. Now you want to plan your own trip to Iceland! But before you travel the Ring Road in Iceland, here are some things you need to know.

Iceland's Best Sites Seen Through the Ring Road - YouTube
How Long is the Ring Road in Iceland?

The Ring Road route in Iceland is iconic. Sure, you’ve taken plenty of awesome road trips in the past. But nothing beats a road trip through active volcanos, black sand beaches, ice blue glaciers and ginormous fjords.

This route is the general circumference around the island totaling 828 miles (or 1,332 kilometers). The time and length it takes to accomplish this route varies greatly on weather, road conditions, time of year and how many stops you decide to take.

We traveled the circumference of Iceland in 7 days in March and visited most of the places below. (If you’re short on time, make sure to visit the items with * and feel free to skip the rest until next time!)

Day 1: Golden Circle

Quite possibly the most famous road trip route in Iceland, the Golden Circle starts in Iceland and is about 190 miles in length. From natural wonders to friendly Icelandic horses, there are plenty of reasons to stop along this route so take your time!

Major Stops: Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geysir, Gullfoss Falls*, and Kerið Crater* Lake

Where to Stay:

Tips: This will be the most crowded part of your journey. Try to start your day early to beat some of those tour buses. If you’re driving your own car, make sure to bring some money for parking for each of these locations (about $5-7 USD per spot). With the geyser, take your time! The best spouts don’t come quite as often and you’ll have to be patient.

Day 2: Reykjavík to Hvosvollur

If you were doubting Iceland’s amazingness as you meandered around the city, this is when it all starts to change. Nature is ever-present and you’ll start to see what all the hype was about. This day is full of amazing waterfalls and views! The crowds might still be present, but they will slowly start to taper off the further east you go.

Major Stops: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall*, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall*, Holtsós Lagoon, Skógafoss Waterfall*, Dyrhólaey

 Where to Stay:

Tips: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss might just be two of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, therefore it would be wise to start your day early again. Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is still a bit of a secret so you might have a little trouble finding it. And Holtsós Lagoon might be skippable in the summer; we went during the winter time and were able to walk across it which was pretty awesome.

Day 3: Hvosvollur to Höfn

Some of Iceland’s most beautiful, unique and photo-worthy sites are found on day 3. So wake up early, charge your camera battery and make sure you get ready for the best day of the trip.

Major Stops: Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach*, Vík, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Svinafellsjokulsvegur Glacier*, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon*, Diamond Beach*

Where to Stay:

Tips: Svinafellsjokulsvegur Glacier is easy to spot, but the road is a little harder to come by. The minute you see the bright blue glacier up a head, keep an eye on an unmarked dirt road on your left-hand side. We also found that it was really easy to pull off every 5 minutes here. Troll houses, random waterfalls and horses were just about everywhere! Just remember to keep an eye on the time so you can be sure to see everything on your agenda.

Day 4: Höfn to Mývatn: Exploring the East

Do you want to explore more unchartered territory in Iceland? Than Eastern Iceland is where it’s at! The road from Höfn to Mývatn is long, but it’s a must to get to some of Iceland’s greatest spots in the North.

Major Stops: Höfn, Stokknes*, Seyðisfjörður Village*

Where to Stay:

Tips: This might be the hardest and longest drive of your entire trip, especially in the winter. I would skip Seyðisfjörður Village altogether if there’s any snow at all (we easily could have died as we drove in an all white-out storm). Make sure you have a lot of caffeine, food and patience for this drive.

Day 5: Mývatn to Hvammstangi

Northern Iceland might be one of the most underrated parts of the entire Iceland. It’s a little hard to get to, but very worth it! From the Grjótagjá Cave (from episode of Game of Thrones) to little port towns to Northern Light sitings, there are some major gems to be seen here.

Major Stops: Mývatn*, Goðafoss Waterfall*, Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall, Hvammstangi 

Where to Stay:

Tips: This area has the potential for some of the best Northern Lights sightings on the entire island. If you ask your hotel, they might be able to wake you up in the middle of the night so you don’t miss them. We didn’t have as much time to explore Mývatn since we spent so much time at Godafoss and driving, but there are a lot of Game of Thrones filming locations here!

Day 6: Hvammstangi to Reykjavík

Another day of long drives and beautiful views from your car, this route is best left explored during the summer and fall seasons. Much of the western peninsula is covered in snow otherwise (so Kirkufellsfoss might not be great), but you can still see beautiful sites like the sea arch and coastline.

Major Stops: Kirkufellsfoss Waterfall*, Arnarstapi Sea Arch*, Reykjavík*

Where to Stay:

Tips: We found more speeding cameras here than any other part of our journey, so be careful! (I wish I had heard about this earlier along with a few other important Iceland tips.) We didn’t get to explore this area as much as we would have liked, but there are so many beautiful stops throughout this part of the island!

 Day 7: Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport

After 6 days of traveling around an entire island, now’s the time to relax. Take a leisurely stroll around Reykjavík or enjoy the tranquil Blue Lagoon.

Major Stops: Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon

Tips: If you’re headed to the Blue Lagoon, buy your tickets in advance! This is the most popular tourist attraction for visitors and it fills up fast! Also, consider some budget tricks and tips for wandering around Reykjavík! This city is incredibly expensive with even the cheapest beers starting at $8 USD.

I’ve collected over 150 ways you can save and earn money while traveling, all of which can be applied in the expensive city Reykjavík. Click here to access all of these tips for free!

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Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, FACT. So it’s no surprise that the Icelandic tourism industry is picking up like wildfire. But since the tourism boom to Iceland is fairly new, there’s plenty of information that is lacking when it comes to traveling throughout the island. If you’re planning a trip soon, here are 13 Iceland travel tips that you might not have known about, but should definitely be aware of!

Accommodation Try a Homestay for a Real Experience

Icelandic accommodation can be really pricey, especially since there aren’t a plethora of options. But Airbnb is a great option. Not only do you save money, but you can actually see what a day in the life of an Icelander is like.

Consider a Camper Van

If you really want to save money, consider a camper van that allows you to sleep in your car. Just make sure you know where to park your camper van in Iceland. Make sure to park in designated campsite areas or get the landowner’s permission before parking and sleeping.

Check Your Accommodation for Northern Light Wake Up Calls

Seeing the Northern Lights is on just about everyone’s bucket list. But if you don’t want to stay up all night, every night just to catch a faint glimpse, check to see if your hotel will for you! Some hotels (like Hotel Laxá) will call you in your room to make sure you wake up for the show.

Transportation Watch Your Speed!

This is the most important! It’s easy to start speeding on those long open roads when no one’s around. However there are cameras and if you are untrained to see them, you will get caught. If you speed even 7 miles over, that is considered a penalty. It’s unclear whether you get a ticket for every camera that catches you or one lump sum. However, cops WILL see your license plate from the cameras and find you.

They will ask you to pay on the spot for 10% less so that they guarantee you pay the fine. There’s always the chance that you may not pay since they may not have your correct address, but you will not be allowed back into Iceland until your debt is paid. Short answer: take your time, drive the speed limit.

Plan Your Gas Stops Accordingly

Most gas stations in Iceland open late and close early. Because of that, there are self-serving options but this requires you to buy an N-1 gas card at the beginning of your trip and you might end up with an nonrefundable balance at the end of your trip. Plus, certain gas stations only take those N-1 cards. Make sure you find out which gas stations don’t require those cards (a gas station map at the rental car place should help) and where they are so you can plan to stop by when they’re open.

Get the Gravel Auto Insurance

There are quite a few different Auto Insurance bundles when renting a car. And they definitely add up. If you’re trying to decide which to get, get the basic car insurance as well as gravel protection. It’s the most common damage done to the car (almost EVERYONE has something happen because of it–including us) and it’s not nearly as expensive.

Rent a 4×4

Speaking of gravel, there is rough terrain out there. And considering all of the natural beauty, you’re going to want to do some off-roading. Make sure you get a 4×4 to handle all of the roads, paths and unmarked areas so you don’t get stuck (like we did in the snow).

Check the Weather Conditions

Most of our trip we were greeted to sunny skies, but it was driving on the Eastside that we ran into a problem. A big, blizzard-y problem. We had a complete white out that was so intense and scary, we couldn’t see 6 feet in front of us. The sky, the ground, our surroundings… all were the same shade of white! Do yourself a favor: before you drive, make sure to look out for the weather conditions first.

Food Get the Gas Station Hot Dogs

If you’re on a budget, the most affordable food you can probably get are the hot dogs. At 540 Icelandic Króna apiece, they’re a lot less than Icelandic fast food. They’re also not as gross as American hot dogs, so they’re quite tasty!

Don’t Buy Water, Ever!

Icelandic water is some of the most clean and amazing drinking water in the world! So long as you’re not getting it from a dirty pond or sea water. Not only is the tap water perfectly safe, but so is water from a stream or a glacier! Just be sure to bring a water bottle with you and just keep refilling

Go Grocery Shopping

Yes those weird rye bagels are $7 and yes, that’s the cheapest it’s gonna get. But buying in bulk is gonna help you save lots of money. We bought bagels, cereal and milk to have enough breakfast for more than half of our trip. And it saved us a bunch!

Pack Plenty of Snacks

Maybe you’re on a budget or maybe you don’t have time to stop on your road trip around the Ring Road. Either way, bring some snacks. I managed to bring about 20 protein bars with me from Los Angeles and it definitely did the trick for those long drives (it also saved me a ton of money)!

Travel Protection Travel Insurance

WOW Airline’s reputation isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to baggage. Weather can not only ruin your car, but your ability to get to your hotel in time. Basically, Iceland is unpredictable.

Which is why getting travel insurance is the most important thing you can buy. And considering I’ve used my travel insurance almost every time I have traveled, then you know it’s probably very important to get! Allianz is one of the best companies that cover all of your needs from illness to accidents to travel mishaps.

Do you have any Iceland travel tips? Share with us below! Thank you Allianz for providing us with a safe and fun trip to Iceland. As always, thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own. All photos above were taken by Angie of The Lovely Escapist

The post 13 Important Iceland Travel Tips That No One Tells You appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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New York has always been synonymous for cosmopolitan. The skyscrapers, the penthouses, the concrete… they makes you think twice about running off to the peaceful countryside for solitude. But if you’re sick of the monotonous high rises and the hotels that all look the same, escape to the hip and trendy streets of Brooklyn where you’ll find the unconventional, yet hip homestay known at The Funky Loft.

(Click here for $40 off The Funky Loft)

The Property

Established in 2013, The Funky Loft is a quirky homestay known for its whimsical design and vintage decor. Think of the experience like a homestay at your best friend’s house. That is, if your best friend provided hospitality like you were at a 4-star hotel.

Owner and treasure-collector Marcella originally founded The Funky Loft in Los Angeles and moved to the up-and-coming neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn in 2017. Its home was originally an empty and spacious loft that Marcella redesigned and constructed into a 4-bedroom loft with a common space, kitchen and bathroom. It even has a swing in the middle of the room!

Her creativity flourished by filling the entire space with thrifted and collected treasures. From the old, used coloring books to the bright red, 1950’s vintage refrigerator, every detail holds a story. 

But The Funky Loft is unlike any other homestay you’ve experienced. Marcella and her partner, António, live in the loft right above the 3 bedrooms that are available for guests. 2 of those bedrooms are for couples, 1 is a single.

Staying at The Funky Loft is a one-of-a-kind experience, perfect for those looking for authenticity in a city known for its embellishments and fantastic opulence.

Amenities

Keep in mind that because this is a homestay, the items included are slightly different than that of a hotel. For example toiletries (like shampoo and conditioner) are shared amongst guests and not takeaway bottles.

I was lucky enough to share a room with Angie in the Tropical Room. Our room included:

  • Complimentary wifi
  • A memory foam mattress*
  • A bohemian bookshelf
  • An extra world power adaptor*
  • A space heater (perfect for the winter cold)*
  • Sliding barn door
  • Exposed brick walls*
  • Built in shelf
  • Window with a view of the snowfall
  • Shared bathroom with other guests*
  • Rain Shower*
  • Complimentary towel and toiletries
  • 1950’s Coca Cola Refrigerator to use*
  • Indoor Swing for all to use*
  • Entire wall of beautiful windows
  • Full Kitchen and light breakfast (cereal, toast & jam, oatmeal, tea and coffee)*
  • Speaker system*
  • Heat and AC*

*=Available in all room styles

As a guest of The Funky Loft, you are not only living amongst these hand-picked treasures, but you can take advantage of its space as a creator! This homestay loft is not only a destination for travelers to rest their weary heads but is also a major photoshoot destination.

Models, instagrammers and content creators visit this location regularly to capture the bohemian, vintage setting. As a guest, you get this scenery for your entire stay (just make sure the photoshoot schedule is clear so you can take photos at your leisure).

Things to Do

Contrary to the hotel scene, this homestay doesn’t necessarily offer any activities like yoga classes or sightseeing tours. To be fair, why would you want to stick around a hotel when there’s so much to explore throughout the most famous city in the world?

New York-lovers know Brooklyn is where it’s at these days and staying at The Funky Loft means you’re at the epicenter of style and diversity.

If you’re looking for things to do in a short amount of time, check out my 48-hour itinerary!
Staff and Hospitality

I might have been drawn to the old movie posters and the nostalgic wall art found throughout the loft. But it was the warm and inviting hospitality that made me fall in love with The Funky Loft.

What it may lack in formality, The Funky Loft makes up for in charm and comfort. Sure, you may be in someone else’s home, but Marcella’s intimate conversation and warm vibes make it feel like an extension of your own home. It felt as though I just happened to have a second place in New York!

As someone who likes the privacy of her own room, I have to admit I was hesitant about a homestay/shared situation. The only other time I had a shared common space was during my hostel-hopping years and I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back.

Yet The Funky Loft was so much more grand than a trip to a strange and crowded hostel. It truly felt as though you were visiting family.

Upon our arrival, Marcella gave us a brief tour and explained the house rules. The main ones being that quiet hours are between 10 pm and 10 am and to not be naked in the common living area. Something that usually goes without saying but hey, might as well give us the heads up. (Please note: if being quiet for 12 hours or not having a locked door is an issue, you might want to consider an alternative location.)

Overall, my stay was an incredibly fun and unique experience. Not only do I have some trendy Insta photos from the experience, but some wonderful memories as well!

Planning on Staying at The Funky Loft? Click here to book a reservation! (And use this code for $40 off!)

Thank you, Marcella, for hosting me during my stay in New York. As always, the content and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The post Staying at The Funky Loft in Brooklyn, New York appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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Oh New York, you beautiful city, you. It might just be the most touristy, overcrowded, obscene places in the world. But that is the same reason why it is such a magnet and why we all gravitate towards it. The same things that make New York a madhouse or a freak show are the exact same reasons why people love it! If you plan to spend 48 hours in New York, you will surely experience the magic at some point or another.

Unlike the city of Los Angeles where I am from, New York City is an actual city.

Apologies to my LA-lovers, but New York not only has the skyline, crowds and vibe worthy of calling itself a city. It also has the history, where so many of our own family members landed themselves before starting a life in America.

It truly is one of the most spectacular things in the world, knowing that most of our families starting by stepping foot off the boat onto New York soil.

Many of these sites listed below can be seen with the City Pass New York. The pass allows you to see the The Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the price of $122. (Please note, some of these options you must choose between and cannot see ALL of them). 

If you have more than 48 hours or if sightseeing is a major part of your trip to New York, this will save you approximately $280 (adult price) if you were to see every site on the list. If you only plan on visiting two of these sites during your trip to New York, I would skip this pass.

Similarly, if you are planning to visit New York in more than two days, I have listed several other options within the text of the itinerary. From restaurants to sites, you’ll have enough activities to fill your schedule for weeks!

Day 1 7 am Breakfast The Bagel Store

New York is KNOWN for its bagel scene. Lox bagels, everything bagels, and even cragels! What’s a cragel you may ask? A cragel is a croissant and bagel combo and is found in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at The Bagel Store. This place is famous for its rainbow bagels and eccentric flavors like cotton candy, bacon schmear and, of course, the cragel.

This family-run business has the friendliest staff you’ll find in New York and the bagels, whether you like ‘em plain or you like ‘em weird, are AMAZING! The store delivers across the country so once you’ve tried them you can have them long after you travel back home.

Other options: Pietro Nolita, The End Brooklyn

8 am Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

One of the most iconic scenes in New York is found halfway between Brooklyn and Manhattan atop the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Not only do cars make this commute to and from the city, but there is an upper level that you may walk across. The best time of day to visit this famous spot is between the hours of 6 am and 8 am during the weekday. 

DUMBO is also legendary, with its famous bridge-meets-street scene. If you have the time, swing by the Brooklyn Bridge Park as it also has a great view, but not worth missing the first two items if not on the schedule. 

10 am One World Trade Center

Do you remember where you were on September 11th, 2001? I remember it so clearly, it was a day of such horror and tragedy that even as a middle-schooler, I knew that what was happening was pure evil.

Start your morning paying tribute to the Americans who lost their lives at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Afterwards, check out the newly rebuilt One World Trade Center where you can view the city from its observatory at 102 floors up. For those architect lovers, head over to the Oculus and marvel at its design.

12:30 PM Enjoy the Best Italian Food at Gelso & Grand

In the heart of Little Italy is one of the tastiest and aesthetically pleasing Italian restaurants I’ve ever dined at! We were lucky enough to be treated to lunch here by Gelso & Grand’s owners and had no choice but to be surprised by the decadent meals they decided to grace us with. The three of us enjoyed a Smoked-Salmon Eggs Benedict, Croque Madame covered with hollandaise with ham inbetween, and their famous Inferno Pizza with spicy capicola mozzarella and chile oil.

But the best part was the “smash cannoli,” the dessert that the restaurant is known far-and-wide for. Served with a tiny mallet and an extra-large cannoli, this dessert is best enjoyed after smashing into itty-bitty pieces and mixing each of the flavors together  We had a s’mores-gingerbread combo that tasted like an open-campfire mixed with the very essence of Winter nostalgia. This was definitely one of my favorite meals in New York!

Other options: Catch NYC, NOMO Kitchen, Cafe Henri, Freemans

2:00 pm Stroll the Streets of Greenwich Village

The epicenter of the city’s 1960s counterculture movement is now one of the most chic places to live in New York. Here you can find popular cafes, jazz clubs and Off-Broadway Theaters amongst the legendary brownstone buildings. Marvel at some of the more expensive apartments and even stumble upon Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in the Sex and the City series.

As you walk along the tree-lined streets, Washington Square Park, and enjoy the colorful flags of the LGBT-friendly neighborhood, maybe fantasize that you yourself live here. And while you’re there, pick up a cupcake from the famous Magnolia’s!

3:30 pm Meander Down The High Line

I had never heard of High Line until my most recent trip to New York. The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail located high above the street. It was originally created on a former New York Central Railroad spur, but had been abandoned (though still decorated with plenty of unused tracks). Now, tourists come to marvel at the view as it’s sandwiched between the edge of the island of Manhattan and the city skyline.

If you’re coming here for a leisurely stroll, make sure to check out the Urban theater at Tenth Avenue and 17th Street. It is an open-seating area with a window over the avenue providing an aerial view of the west side that could otherwise only be seen from the windows of a Manhattan skyscraper.

5 pm Pop in for a Bite and Shop at the Chelsea Markets

Looking for some of the best grub in a casual setting? The Chelsea Markets are a collection of local shops, eateries and bars enclosed in a building located in the Chelsea neighborhood. Food ranges from sit-down meals to take-away, my favorite being Li-Lac Chocolates and Doughnuttery.

After you’ve eaten and strolled through the market, head back to your hotel to change and refresh before a big night out. If you’re not into the nightlife scene, this might be the time to call it a night!

Other options: Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beer, by CHLOE., Citizens of Chelsea

8 pm Enjoy the View at a Rooftop Bar and Party at the Best Bars in New York

It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without a classic rooftop view over cocktails, would it? If you’re looking to enjoy a view from the heart of the city, head to the St. Cloud Social Rooftop Bar at the Knickerbocker Hotel with a view of Time Square from Midtown, Manhattan. But if you’re looking for a grand view from afar, try Westlight at the William Vale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

Whatever you do, start your evening there and head to the best bars in New York City including The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley (located under The Happiest Hour), The Garret and Bathtub Gin. Because if you’re not at any one of these bars, you really didn’t get a taste of the trendy, New York City scene.

Other (rooftop) options: POD 39 Rooftop Lounge and Bar, Refinery Rooftop, Penthouse 808

Day 2 7 am Play for Breakfast at Boris & Horton

If you spent the previous evening dancing the night away in the city that never sleeps, it’s time for the ultimate hangover cure: puppies! One of New York’s newest cafes, Boris & Horton, is the first dog cafe where you can eat, drink and chill, but with a dog on your lap!

The cafe serves a variety of toasts with exceptional toppings (ranging from avocado to banana to tomato and tahini) as well as premium tea and coffee–perfect for soaking up last night’s liquid dance-courage. And while you’re noshing and recuperating, who wouldn’t want to hold a sweet pup? Most of the dogs are adoptable (see their bandanas), just careful not to snag someone else’s dog as this is a popular spot for people bringing their own pups to play!

8 am Take in the Views at Central Park

After you’ve gotten your fill of dogs and coffee, head to the famous Central Park to meander and see some of the famous sites. No doubt you’ll recognize the rock by Pinebank Arch from the movie Elf, The Bethesda Fountain, Bow Bridge, Columbus Circle from Enchanted, or Bandshell and the Conservatory Water from the famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

If you’re not a movie buff, simply enjoy some of the greatest sites within the 2.5-mile long park. Some of the top attractions to see within the park include the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Central Park Zoo, the Conservatory Water, Belvedere Castle and the Strawberry Fields.

10:30 am New York Public Library

One of New York’s famous, but less-visited attractions is the New York Public Library. Keep in mind there are over 20 branches of New York public libraries, but the famous one to visit is the Main Branch on 476 5th Avenue. I’m a bookworm myself so it’s incredibly inspiring to walk amongst the old books that contain so much history (both within the pages and the walls of the building).

And if you’re also into movies, you might notice that this was the set for several movies including Sex and the City: The Movie, Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, and of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

11:30 am Have lunch at Blue Box Cafe

Speaking of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, why not try it out for yourself? If you’ve seen the movie, you know that the only breakfast had at Tiffany’s was during the opening scene while Holly Golightly ate a pastry, admiring the fine jewels from a night out. Unfortunately for Miss Golightly, breakfast was not available at the time.

Lucky for us, Tiffany & Co. decided to open Blue Box Cafe, named after the famous light-blue boxes the jewelry company is known for. Enjoy the Fifth Avenue Salad with Main lobster, avocado and grapefruit or the olive oil poached skuna bay salmon with Ostera caviar. Of course the bill might be a tad expensive, but could you expect anything less by having breakfast within an iconic jewelry store?

Other options: BG Restaurant at Bergdorf Goodman, The Ritz Carlton Central Park, The Pierre

1 pm Marvel at the Flatiron Building’s Architecture

If it’s construction and architecture you’re after, look no further than the Flatiron Building, a “ground-breaking,” triangular skyscraper located at 175 Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, New York City. It’s famed shape makes it an awesome place to take pictures, but it’s really its foundation you’ll be marveling at.

Other options: Chrysler building, Grand Central Terminal, Trinity Church

3 pm Go All the Way Up to the Top of the Rock

Surely you’ve seen the Top of the Rock on Instagram as it’s one of the best views in town! Located 67 stories and 820 feet above ground is the observatory deck, providing unparalleled views of the city and its impressive skyline. The best time to come here is between 3-5 pm before the rush of tourists come for sunset, though watching at sunset is also marvelous.

If you have the time walk around 30 Rock down below and see if you can spot a camera crew. The crew of Jimmy Fallon’s show often look for people to interview for their show and you could be one of them! At the very least, consider standby tickets for Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or SNL.

Other options: The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building

5 pm Have the Most Luxurious, Old World Dinner at the Russian Tea Room

I remember the first time I heard of the Russian Tea Room. Carrie Bradshaw went here on a first date with Aleksandr Petrovsky at around 3 am for a real “Russian” experience. I wanted to learn what restaurant in New York possibly served dinner that late at night. Come to find the Russian Tea Room actually closes at 11:30 pm (unless you’re there for a party), but I ended up finding the pinnacle wonderful dining experiences!

The Russian Tea Room was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927 and is a famous, New York staple providing continental classics like borscht, caviar & vodka served in a flashy, opulent setting. Three levels of beautiful decor include the main dining room, the Bear Lounge and the Bear Ballroom, each level becoming more ornate and beautiful as you rise.

Did I mention Madonna used to work at their coat check downstairs? Located right across from their cabinet of Fabergé eggs and Matryoshka dolls, you’ll enjoy history at every corner of this famous restaurant!

7 pm See a Broadway Play

One of the best things you will ever experience in New York is a real broadway play! Just like the West Coast is known for its movie and television scene, New York is known for its theater and plays. As the finale of your trip, it only seems fitting to squeeze in a trip to Time Square and see New York in all of its bustling, show-stopping glory. 

Personally, I think recommending a good play is like recommending a good book and unless I know your tastes, it’s hard to suggest. But my personal favorites are probably Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton and Les Mis!

Extra Tips

Getting around New York is incredibly easy via subways, trains and busses. Depending on how often you plan to take the subway, you may only need to purchase one-way tickets. If you will be in New York 3 days or longer, I would suggest the 7-day, unlimited pass. 

Despite the fact that we all of Uber more than taxis, I still recommend taking a taxi while in the heart of the city. Most of the time, the fare is cheaper and they actually know where they’re going. Ubers use their GPS systems and I can’t tell you how many times they would get lost or take forever.

And if you’re trying to save some money, consider some of the following tips:

  • Enjoy picnics in Central Park
  • Stay at Airbnbs or hostels
  • Walk instead of taking too many cabs
  • Eat at local diners
Have You Been to New York? How Did You Spend 48 hours in New York City?

The post This is How You Should Spend 48 Hours in New York appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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Solo female travelers have a lot to think about on the road. We’re concerned about our safety, how we’re gonna pack everything and where the best Instagram spots are. But something else we need to consider that men typically don’t think twice about: purses. Specifically, making sure they’re not broken into. Not to fear ladies, I’ve found the best anti theft purse for your travels all around the world!

It all started when I was studying abroad in Sweden in 2010. Some friends and I went on a long-weekend getaway to London (one of my favorite cities in the world). It was our first, full day there and we were wandering around the Notting Hill markets. We knew it was a touristy activity, but the thought of these expensive and beautiful homes made us think we were in a fairly safe place. In hindsight, I realize how horribly naive I was.

So there I was, shopping for some cute gloves when I saw a pair I was interested in. I reached into my purse for my current gloves to compare the size and noticed my wallet was there, safe and sound. NO JOKE PEOPLE, I turned my head for 10 seconds and turned back to find my wallet was snatched right out of my purse.

Obviously, I was pretty devastated. And pissed.

That was definitely my bad. I should have known better! But this was the beginning of my traveling career when I was an inexperienced traveler who left her purse too open in a public setting, just begging for my contents to be stolen.

Now, I travel the world with my purse tightly under my arm, zipped up and only bringing the necessities. Always on alert and always afraid. That was, until now.

Introducing Arden Cove!

Arden Cove is a travel bag line that specializes in anti theft and waterproof purses. Known for its full-sized cross-body bags, the purse has numerous features that help keep thieves and pickpockets at bay.

The purse features full body, anti-slash lining and cut-proof straps to keep thieves from simply cutting through the bag. This same material is also waterproof so you can bring it to nearly ANY occasion.

To keep pickpockets from going into your belongings, the purse has locking zippers that attach to the chain link strap. The chain link strap is made super comfortable with a small and feminine shoulder pad. As if this purse wasn’t safe enough, you can use this as a cross-body bag so no one steals it off your shoulder.

Simply put, it’s the best anti theft purse for travel.

My favorite thing about this purse (aside from never worrying about theft again) it its size. It’s a fairly small purse, but the inside is surprisingly roomy! There are multiple pockets to simulate a regular wallet as well as larger pockets in the main compartment. I can fit my whole camera, additional lens, wallet, phone and few pieces of makeup without it looking bulky or overstuffed.

It’s size makes it perfect for just about any occasion, from a beach trip with the girls to a fancy date night on the town.

Of course, the same color doesn’t look good for every occasion. That’s why Arden Cove comes in 5 different colors: maroon, navy, cream, grey and black. They also make mini cross-body bags and waterproof laptop backpacks.

Some girls are purse hoarders that need a different purse for every outfit and occasion (no judgement, but I ain’t one of them). I pretty much always use the same three bags when I travel: a backpack, a Louis Vuitton when I want to be fancy and my Arden Cove bag. The days I use the Arden Cove purse are the days I feel a lot less stressed and ready to enjoy my adventures.

(Click here to order your very own Arden Cove purse for your adventurous travels!)

The post This Is the Best Anti Theft Purse For Travel appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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Oahu may be a tiny island in Hawaii, but you’ll find your days completely packed here (especially if you’re a nature-lover). If you’re looking for best things to do in Oahu, here are the tops things to see for yourself.

1. Hike the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Most guides will tell you to visit the very illegal Stairway to Heaven Hike. But I don’t want to ruin your vacation with a hefty fine or even jail time! The Wiliwilinui Trail is located in an affluent neighborhood 20 minutes from Waikiki. The trail may start easy, but it’s definitely a moderate hike once you reach halfway. As you climb the steep stairs that take you to the top of the ridge, you’ll realize it’s worth it when you see both the west and east coast of the island.

2. Spend a Night (or Two) at The Royal Hawaiian

One of the ritziest and most fantastic experiences on the island can be found at the famous Royal Hawaiian hotel. This 100 year-old property is in the heart of Waikiki and decorated from floor to ceiling in a pretty pink hues throughout the property. While the hotel might have been built over the burial ground of a Hawaiian king, don’t let the ghost stories keep you from the fabulous buffet, the gorgeous view from the Mailani Tower or a decadent experience at the Abhasa Spa.

3. Catch the Billabong Pipemasters Surf Competition or Surf on Your Own at the North Shore

The North Shore is considered to be one of the coolest and trendiest parts of the island. Naturally, it makes sense that the annual surf contest is held in this surfer’s paradise where the swells are huge and the number of kooks are low. Keep in mind that competition dates may change due to the weather. We were in Hawaii for the entire “planned” week of the competition, but it started on the last day of our trip due to the poor surf conditions.

4. Eat Tropical Cuisine at The Sunrise Shack

After you’ve started your morning in the North Shore with some great surfing and sunbathing, it’s time to grab a healthy treat at The Sunrise Shack. You can’t miss this tiny, yellow shack along the main road through the North Shore. The eatery provides healthy smoothies and super strong coffees, but don’t forget to treat yourself to their scrumptious papaya bowl!

5. Pay Tribute to Fallen, US Servicemen at the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor

On December 7th 1941, a day that will live an infamy, the Japanese army led a surprise attack on the United States of America and bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II. USS Arizona, a battleship built for and by the United States Navy, was hit along with 7 other battleships, 4 of which had sunk. 2,403 died that day and the USS Arizona was left underwater as a sunken tomb for the Americans that died. Today, we pay tribute to these fallen heroes by visiting their memorial and never forgetting what happened on that tragic day.

6. Play in the Sunflower Fields in the North Shore

On the way to the North Shore lies a private farm in Waialua that’s home to many fields including cotton, rice, soybean and wheat. Their most famous attraction is the field of sunflowers. In order to educate visitors about their property and farming, the owners have allowed tourists and locals to come take pictures amongst the sunflowers free of charge. Keep in mind, the sunflower season in this part of the island is extremely short. Very late October to early December is primetime for catching these tall beauties, but always call ahead to make sure they’re in season. (We were there for the end of the season, but the flowers had already died by then.)

7. Take in the Panoramic Ocean View at Pillbox Trail

Want to look like a hardcore hiker, but don’t want to actually commit? Try the pillbox trail on the eastside of Oahu.  Not only will you see the crystal blue waters of Lanikai beach, but with proper framing, the picture gives the optical illusion that you’re a lot more bad ass than you really are. Just beware, when they say “easy hike,” it’s definitely not “Los Angeles easy.” Unlike me, you should wear hiking shoes and athletic attire so you don’t twist your ankle on the steep hill.

8. Taste the Best Pork You’ve Ever Had at Kono’s

Kono’s is a multiple award-winning, local restaurant specializing in slow-roasted pork dishes ranging from sliders to sandwiches to burritos (not to mention their delectable milkshakes). And like all of the reviews and awards suggest, their pulled pork sliders on a sweet Hawaiian roll was probably one of the best snacks I’ve ever eaten in my life. There are locations all over the island in Haleiwa, Kapahulu and Kailua so you have no excuse not to shove all of the delicious pork in your mouth.

9. Run Around in a Flower Crown at Lanikai Beach

If you feel like becoming a tropical, Hawaiian goddess, then I’ve got the perfect tip for you! Pamakane of Ocean Dreamer creates the most amazing flower crowns and leis, making you feel like a Polynesian princess. Lucky for you, she lives in Kailua which is only 10 minutes away from the crystal blue beach of Lanikai.

10. Go Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay State Park

Guarantee a close encounter with exotic wildlife at the most beautiful bay in Oahu. Hanauma Bay is a state park that has hundreds of fish, some turtles and even dolphins every once in awhile in its protected, little cove. While its not the most isolated spot, you’re guaranteed to see wildlife during your visit. It’s not too pricey, but you do need to pay for parking, entry and food.

11. Try Spam Sushi

When in Hawaii, do as the Hawaiians do! Not found at any fine dining establishment, spam is a huge staple to the local Hawaiian food culture. At least the modern food culture. But one of the strangest delicacies? Spam sushi! It merely contains rice, spam and seaweed, but if you love processed ham as much as the locals do, you’ll be in heaven!

12. Enjoy the View From Diamond Head

One of the island’s legendary view’s is the Honolulu city skyline with the famous Diamondhead mountain alongside its skyscrapers. But an equally astounding view? The one from the top of Diamondhead. This tourist-friendly trail is accessible for everyone and perfect if you want a slice of nature without having to venture too far from Waikiki.

13. Take in the View From a Helicopter Ride

One of the best view in Hawaii doesn’t come from a hike or the Ohana Suite of the Sheraton. Instead, take a helicopter ride and enjoy an aerial view of this colorful island! More affordable charters will have a certain route with a number of seats to sell. But if you have a bit of money to spend, try a private charter that allows you to personalize your flight plan.

14. Chill in the Kaena Point Tide Pools

For even more wildlife, you’ll find nothing more splendid than looking at real habitats in the Kaena tide pools. At the furthest point west of the island are the most solitary beaches in Oahu. It’s quite a trek, but definitely worth checking out crabs, fish and snails.

15. Eat the Best Poke on the Planet at Da Hawaiian Poke Company

You’ve probably had ahi poke, but you probably haven’t had the best poke on the planet! Quite a tall reputation and a surprising one coming from a take-away restaurant found in a strip mall. But this fresh fish mixed with tasty spices and sauces make it the best poke that has ever touched my lips.

16. Marvel Friday Night Fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

If you’re staying in the Waikiki area, chances are you’ll enjoy the firework spectacle. Every Friday, the hotel puts on a free, 10-minute firework show that is visible from the beach. The show usually begins at 7:45pm or 8pm and lasts about ten minutes. Prior to the fireworks, Hilton Hawaiian Village hosts a Rockin’ Hawaiian Rainbow Revue complete with music, torch lighting, hula dancing and a Mai Tai for $35.

17. Hike to Manoa Falls and Swim Under a Waterfall

Not quite the gushing falls as you would imagine, but this waterfall is perfect for novice hikers or people tight on a schedule. This trail is incredibly easy to hike and located about 20 minutes away from Waikiki. The trek should be a two-hour activity to hike, enjoy the scenery and even take a quick dip.

18. Eat Some Sinful Delights at Leonard’s Bakery

Right next to Kono’s is the Honolulu sweets staple known as Leonard’s Bakery. The bakery is famous for making delectable malasadas that are similar to American donut holes, only slightly fluffier. Malasadas are a Portugese delicacy that was made for Shrove Tuesday back in 1953. Now, the bakery continues to make them everyday along with some other delicious baked goods like donuts, cookies, and cakes. There are a quite a few different types of malasadas like custard or chocolate-filled, cinnamon sprinkled, plain and more. Go for the plain ones as I believe they taste the best!

19. Absorb Some Polynesian Culture at a Real Luau

It isn’t a trip to Hawaii without a proper Luau and there are plenty to choose from. Rumor has it that the best luaus on the island are at The Royal Hawaiian and the Polynesian Cultural Center. We attended The Royal Hawaiian’s and not only watched an impressive show, but the buffet was out of this world (and I’m not one for buffets).

20. Enjoy the Adult Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki

Take a break from sunbathing on the beach or snorkeling with sea turtles and treat yo’self to a lava flow in a cabana or water submerged pool chair. The Sheraton Waikiki has two pools: one for children with a water slide and an adult pool with cabanas, floaties and an infinity view. The pool is for guests only, but why not stay a night and enjoy one of the best hotel views on the island?

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We all went through the shrapnel that was 2016. It was gory. It was dark. It was rough. Not many of us made it out alive. But for those of us who did manage to crawl out on our bellies to see the light of day that was 2017 were rewarded with a much better year. Want proof? Here’s why 2017 was the best. Well, the best for me, at least.

1. I traveled solo to London, Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Stockholm

When I married Kev in 2015, I knew we wouldn’t be doing all of our traveling together. After all, his job had roots and mine, well, didn’t. I guess it surprised us both that it took 1.5 years to finally go on a solo adventure without him. But I needed to venture on my own and I decided to do so in London, Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Stockholm.

And wow, did I love it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I missed Kevin. I missed him when I was cold and needed someone to warm my feet. I missed him when I needed a hot chocolate temperature tester. I missed him as my go-to photographer. (Kidding, I also missed him for other reasons. Like his cute butt. Have you seen it? It really is the best man-butt.)

But traveling solo reminded me that I love standing on my own two feet. I love exploring old cities and wandering down every single alley that I feel like. I even secretly love getting myself out of a tough spot, like when I got some strange stomach virus in Budapest that left me completely incapacitated for two days.

2. I spoke as a panelist at my first MAJOR convention

Before my solo trip to Europe, I had received an email asking if I wanted to be on a panel for a social media conference. Not just any social media conference–Social Media Marketing World, the largest social media conference in the world!

I had been asked to speak on a panel about how to drive Twitter followers to my content. At the time, I had been working for a couple of other companies as a social media manager. Lucky for me, this gave me plenty of experience to talk on the subject.

In addition to speaking at this event, I made some pretty good connections. But the best part was meeting Internet Wizard, Zach King! My excitement was borderline insane.

3. I stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado like a fancy person

Out of all of the places I’ve traveled and all the places I’m dying to see, one of my favorite cities in the world is only a 2 hour drive from where I currently live. That favorite place is: San Diego.

San Diego is like LA, but with a better attitude, less traffic and a much more charming vibe. Travel to San Diego and tell me you don’t love it, I dare you.

My mother-in-law was doing construction on her house and it was driving her crazy. My father-in-law decided to do the right thing and send her on a week-long trip to the famous and historical Hotel Del Coronado. And who would she bring along on this super-duper fancy stay?

THIS GIRL!

I’ve visited the Hotel Del Coronado before. Back when I had a 9-to-5 job with massage benefits, my husband and I drove down just to spend the day at the Del spa. But staying for a week, meandering around Coronado Island and showing my mother-in-law around the San Diego Zoo was just fabulous (and an incredible way to bond)!

4. I hiked Rainbow Mountain, marveled at Machu Picchu and explored the rain forest for my birthday

For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to cross South America off my list of continents to visit. Lucky for me, I partnered with Mint which provided me with the opportunity to travel to South America for my birthday. 13 days in Peru and 1 day in Colombia.

Machu Picchu was an obvious, of course. And the growing popularity of Rainbow Mountain meant that had to be explored, too (although that was definitely the hardest hike of my life).

But what I never thought would happen was my cruising down the Amazon River, seeing sloths, holding a baby gator and catching piranhas. I never felt more like an explorer than I did those two days in the remote part of the jungle. 

5. I made friends with some incredible travel bloggers and travel influencers

This year, I took the time to reach outside of Instagram and actually make friends with my colleagues IRL. Do you know what it’s like talking to someone everyday online and having no idea what they look like? (Of course you do. You too are on the internet and social media).

It started with Angie of The Lovely Escapist. I was inspired by her Instagram enough to ask her to teach me about photography. Imagine our surprise when we became friends instantly.

Meanwhile, Layla of LA Travel Girl had seen my obsessive growing crystal habit and reached out to talk metaphysics. From there I met Anna of Anna Everywhere and Jackie of Get Lost With Jackie. And I met even more travel experts when I went to the DR (scroll to number 7).

Travel blogging can often be a lonely profession as you travel alone and work from home alone. But meeting these women to help inspire me (and keep me sane) makes my job that much better!

6. Kevin and I celebrated our 2-year wedding anniversary

2 years may not seem like much, but making it past 2 years is actually quite an accomplishment.

Statistically speaking, divorce is incredibly common within the first two years of marriage. Why? Because it’s a major adjustment period. 

You THINK your love will get you through anything. But then you realize you’re not okay with sharing a bank account. Or that you have to actually clean since one of you likes a clean house while one of you never cared about being the biggest slob. Or that you actually need to keep working out to keep your body sexy and keep the spark alive. (Just a few hypotheticals. Nothing to read into, here.)

Last year, I talked about how marriage is hard. Fucking hard. And it continues to be. But the funny thing about marriage is that every single one has its own rhythm. Once each couple finds the rhythm and starts to go with the flow of it, the rest all starts to kind of fall into place.

We still fight. We still have our own issues we need to work on. But I love Kevin more than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone in my life. And the flow that we’ve found makes it that much easier to show him my love.

7. I dyed my hair purple

Now this might not seem like a thing, but as a woman shackled by the supposed “perfect picture of a female” as deemed by our patriarchal society, it kinda was.

I had always wanted to dye my hair purple. In fact, I dyed the under layer of my hair purple in college.

Then, as the final quarter of the year started to settle in, I realized I no longer had a job that required perfect, blonde hair (or any shade of “normal” for that matter). I wanted to stand out in a way that showed my individuality. I could finally follow in the footsteps of Katy Perry, Kelly Osborne and Nicole Ricci and dye my hair fairy purple!

So I did.

And I’ve gotten a lot of attention for it. Some good, some bad. The good: LOTS of old ladies are obsessed with it. The bad: being profiled at the Miami airport for smuggling weed because my hair fit some type of profile. If only they knew I haven’t smoked weed since 2006, right before I saw the compelling drama, Snakes on a Plane. Quite the movie of our time.

But I still love my purple locks and will continue to dye it for another couple of months until I get sick of only being able to wear black and white to match with my head.

8. I went on the most amazing work trip to the Dominican Republic

As a new blogger, it’s tough competing with travelers who can afford multiple trips a month. Their travels create a successful online presence and they get lots of work for it. Another example of how it takes money to make money. And another reason why I can’t stand social media and had a break down because of it.

Normally, I work with individual hotels or brands on trips I’m already planning on. But this trip was different. I was taking my FIRST work trip with a bunch of really great female entrepreneurs. We traveled through the unexplored Southwest Dominican Republic and wandered the streets of Santo Domingo. Apart from the humidity, I loved it!

Not only did I explore the unchartered territory of the Southwest Dominican Republic, but I met some INCREDIBLE women. I met Meagan (travel writer and sex columnist), travel bloggers Jessie, Taylor, Hannah and Wendy. Meeting these ladies was such an inspiring and fun experience!

9. I stayed at the Royal Hawaiian (again, like a fancy person)

Over 20 years ago, my family and I traveled to Hawaii. There, my Mom saw a family with their adult children and those children’s children. My Mom hoped that one day, we would all travel to Hawaii as adults and enjoy a different kind of travel. One that didn’t involve Gameboys and fast food.

So this year, my parents treated us to a luxury experience in Oahu. It started with leis at the airport and being driven to the Sheraton Waikiki in a limo. When we arrived, we found a huge suite with a mini Christmas tree and presents under it. Though Christmas was two weeks away, it had never felt more festive.

My parents were staying at the Royal Hawaiian next door and also had a suite. With a spare bedroom, one of us kids and our significant others would take turns sleeping in the spare bedroom.

On our second to last night, my parents treated us to a fabulous, in-room dinner. Catered from the restaurant below, it was one of the fanciest and ritziest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. There was 7 courses, a sommelier and 2 managers came up to say hello. My family drank champagne and vodka and continued to dance in the room all night long.

Best. Family Trip. Ever.

10. The Clumsy Traveler Brand Grew Exponentially

In the blogging world, it’s sometimes hard to quantify growth.

But thanks to all of YOU out there, you have helped this dream business of mine grow into something I could only fathom when I put my head to my pillow. I’ve worked with luxury brands and hotels I’ve wanted to visit for so long. I’ve made connections in unexpected places.

Most importantly, I turned my little passion into a business! One that still could use some serious growth, but a business nonetheless. And that, above all else, has surprised me and put more faith in myself than anything I’ve ever done.

So 2017 is ending and 2018 is just around the corner…

I look back on these moments not to brag or inspire. I look back on them to remember. This crazy world throws so many curve balls at us. Political climates grow hostile, a natural disaster occurs or someone we admire passes away. It’s easy to forget how good we have it when the world around us feels like its crumbling.

But amidst the terror and fear, aside from the discomfort and bizarre, 2017 really has been wonderful. I’m hoping 2018 will top it, some how, some way.

The post This is Proof That 2017 Was SO MUCH BETTER Than 2016 appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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Let me start by saying how weird this is. I mean, here I am talking shit about social media when odds are, that’s what led you here in the first place. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. But in all seriousness, most of you know how real I get from time to time. And since I am a human, I’m sure you can all relate to the feeling of drowning under the unforgiving and negative world of social media and all of it’s negative, depressing bullshit.

How did I (or we) get here?

It all started when Facebook bought Instagram and the trendy, corporate giant decided to change the algorithm. You know, the Instagram formula that decides to share content based on the number of likes and comments rather than chronological order.

At first it seemed unclear as to why Instagram would do such a crazy, weird ass move. Only now, years later does Instagram and Facebook’s shameful hunger for money seem so blatantly obvious.

At the time, serious, professional Instagram users (lol) went ballistic. Instead of a fair, normal way for followers to see influencer’s content, influencer’s now had to compete with millions of users to be seen by those same followers that subscribed to them. This was horrifying for a number of reasons, but mostly for the influencers that used Instagram as a platform to make money.

Likes, follows and comments help thousands of users monetize the platform. And while this business might have been a joke to a lot of people a few years ago, this mode of monetization has become a real business for some.

If Instagram died tomorrow (R.I.P. Vine), where would these users go and what would they do? The job market is a much more competitive place than it used to be and a lot of us saw Instagram as an opportunity to make money (even if we had to work twice as hard since most of us don’t know what we’re doing).

So what did these users do in response to Instagram’s changes? They cheated. They bought automated services or worse: paid for likes and fake followers. They created comment pods to bolster engagement. They started loop giveaways in an attempt to borrow other influencer’s followers. They get paid to continue advertising those dumb watches that every single girl is wearing (seriously, if I see another travel watch ad, I might just purposely step on a rusty nail and forgo a tetanus shot.) They hustled in ways that cheapened the Instagram experience. And none of them were happy about it.

Instead of genuinely engaging with audiences, influencers now had to leverage their users’ engagement just to survive. After all, what were we to do? So many of us had spent months, even years building our digital empire on this amazing, yet unpredictable platform. If we complained enough to Instagram and continued to work around the algorithm, we would get through it! We weren’t going to give up without a fight!

Yet two years later, us bloggers are still doing the same thing. Whoring ourselves out for likes. Plastering “candid” photos in an attempt to “get real”. And faking what used to be the most real way to connect.

And I was starting to go crazy.

Like many of the business owners mentioned, I too started investing myself and my website on Instagram. I saw thousands of users doing what I thought at the time seemed very easy and making thousands of dollars doing it.

As a millennial who was unhappy with her job and wanted something more, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

After working the damn thing for a couple of years, I felt like I had finally figured out the formula for success. But as time passed, I saw minimal growth, minimal interaction, minimal income.

“Not me,” I thought early on in the game. “I’m gonna be the one who gets to the top. Who reaches her goals even if it kills me.” The universe must have heard my dare because it was around that time that Trump was elected President of the United States.

I’m not about to get all political with you, that’s not what this blog is about and I hate polarizing people in such a cheap and stupid way. But all of you out there can agree with me when I say that our world is a sad, depressing and frightening place.

Fake news, terrorist attacks, global warming and a rampage of haters have scoured the world. Hurricanes, sex trading, civil wars and a lack of human rights seem to be raining down upon us all. It’s enough to make anyone sick.

Somewhere between the comment pods and the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I started to lose my shit. I was being bombarded on just about every level. Sexual predators. Natural disasters. Racist and sexist hate crimes. “Fitspo” models. It felt as though every single post was reaching through my cracked iPhone screen, grabbing me by the throat and suffocating me. Each of them reminding me that this world is a horrible, scary and unfair place. Thoughts like, “What was I doing all of this for?” “Why the fuck was I working so hard?” and “Does anyone care about anyone at all?” started to become daily thoughts from sunrise to sunset.

And all while this was going on, my Instagram engagement was plummeting. Earning a living, or even making a name for myself, was becoming farther away. The idea that I could succeed was becoming a distant star.

I was getting desperate. Maybe not “take-naked-pictures-in-a-changing-room-and-post-it-online” desperate. But whatever my version of desperate was. At first I felt desperate for the money. I wanted some money to pay my bills, to eat and to live! (That might sound dramatic, but “complimentary lip gloss in exchange for an Instagram post” doesn’t pay the bills.)

I was also desperate to keep up appearances. I had invested so much time and money (that belonged to both my family and myself). I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t let them see that they had flushed their money and endless support down the drain.

And finally, I was desperate to confirm my biggest fear wasn’t true: that maybe no one likes me after all.  “Am I not interesting enough? Beautiful enough? Am I just some basic bitch that thinks she’s special?”

That desperation led me to spend hours a day editing, liking and engaging, though my efforts were empty and had lost all meaning. After tips from an influencer friend of mine, I learned that to gain followers or create any semblance of a fan base, I needed to put a minimum of 5 hours a day into working Instagram. Gone were the days of being a freelance writer in the big city with a side blog. My days had now been replaced with obsessively engaging on Instagram, following every travel account I could find, and micro-blogging on my captions instead of my actual blog. 

Yes, it’s pathetic. Yes, I’m one of those girls who let social media define her. It’s embarrassing as hell, I admit. But when you’ve bet everything on yourself only to find yourself failing at it with everyone else passing you by, it’s enough to make your self-esteem crumble.

And crumble it did.

This was the job that I had chosen to pursue and I was failing at it. I started to feel worthless, exasperated and started questioning everything. The social media depression that everyone was talking about had started kicking in. And I couldn’t cope with it. 

“Why is everyone else succeeding but me? God, Sebrin, what a pity party you’re throwing for yourself. You should feel so lucky. How could you possibly feel this way when there are so many people who want to travel like you. You are ungrateful, unsuccessful and lazy.”

My inner voice wasn’t even letting me have a moment to process. I would think bad thoughts, then think how bad those thoughts were and beat up on myself for those bad thoughts. It was an utter shame spiral, my own personal hell in my head.

It’s probably no surprise that real depression started kicking. It’s something I’ve dealt with before, but nothing like this. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I would cry for hours. And soon, I wasn’t putting in any of the work into my blog that I had been so excited about one year earlier.

Despite the fact that I knew where the pain was coming from, I couldn’t put my Instagram down.

In my mind, I was “doing my job” seeing what my competitors were doing and how I, too, could reach success. I kept scrolling and comparing. Liking and comparing. Commenting and comparing. I didn’t see that all I was really doing was pushing myself further into isolation and despair. And all while feeling like my dreams of being a successful entrepreneur traveling the world would never come true.

Alongside Hollywood’s sex offenders and California’s bizarre heat wave (another incessant reminder that the world was falling apart), Thanksgiving was approaching. But it wasn’t just any normal holiday filled with stretchy pants and awkward family encounters. My grandmother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and we were planning on taking care of her during her remaining days. In addition to this, my graduating high school class had planned a makeshift reunion the day after Thanksgiving in my hometown’s trashy, country bar down the street from my parents’ house. Had I been confident, strong and even mildly successful, I would have stormed into the incredibly off-kilter dive bar like Romy and Michele and slapped the smug looks off of my peers’ faces. Or maybe even just have a good time reminiscing better, simpler days.

But much like the cat hair in my apartment that just won’t go away, depression was lingering and ready to make me feel hopeless. “You’re a failure Sebrin,” the depression monster said. “You failed in high school making friends and you’re failing now. If you think anyone would want to hang out with you, you’re sadly mistaken.”

There seemed like no better time to take an Instagram break. And for 1 week, I refrained from posting (much to the chagrin of some of my business obligations).

I wish I could tell you that my social break made me come back refreshed and ready to crush it. I wish I could tell you how I was able to return a new woman. I really, really wish I could tell you I came back fixed and happy.

But social media is complex. The very tool that connects all of us brings us all too much information at once. We have invited constant news and information into every minute of our lives and with it, constant advertising, comparison and the ability for others to make us feel like what we have and what we are is not enough.

I’m sure you’re wondering what my point is. Am I giving up social media? Did I learn anything from all of this? Some of you might think social media is pure bullshit and what the hell am I getting myself so worked up about anyway?

I feel like it might be too soon to say. I know my break helped remind me who I am. It reminded me that writing is mine. Writing clears my frustrations and fills my heart with purpose. I had been mistaking others’ goals for my own and I forgot what my own path was and always was supposed to be: to connect with others in a way that reached into the bottom of their souls. I want to connect with every single one of you in a way that makes you feel like I have at least touched some part of your heart and that we are all connected as one. And for me, I believe writing is what builds that connection.

Yet I still feel like that same girl who was broken only a month earlier.

My normal Instagram routine continued as usual, except that my absence cost me 100 followers (cue Ingrid Goes West freak out). At this point I realized that these users didn’t actually care about anything I do. They were using me for their own reciprocity game. Like my old knee-jerk reaction, I started to sink back into the “fuck this” mode and cursed Instagram.

So yeah, I still have some growing to do. But what I do know is that I’m gonna be more real with all of you. I’m gonna curse a hell of a lot more. I’m not gonna be so fake in the pictures I post. I’m also planning on sharing a lot more of myself through my writing.

But when I’m not being a freakish cat lady, I’m also a human being. It might take a while for me to learn to love the real me in front of thousands of people. I might not do all of this at the pace I would like. But I think a lot of you out there like me for me anyway. Or else you wouldn’t have probably read this far into my rant.

(And you know what? I take back what I said about those damn watches on Instagram. A girl’s gotta eat, amiright?)

To my loyal followers out there: please note that I am eternally grateful for your support. There are some of you who have been nothing but positive cheerleaders, supporting every novel of a caption I write. The darkness I experienced is not describing you or my connection with you in any way. More than anything, I’m describing my experience with the platform as a whole and the type of environment that we have created.

The post Welcome to the Unforgiving World of Social Media (And My Slow Descent Into Madness) appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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I know what you’re thinking. “The best holiday gift list? C’mon Sebrin, that’s objectively impossible.” Sure, there are a lot of different personalities out there, but challenge accepted! For real, tell me there isn’t one thing on here you couldn’t give your wanderlusting, Secret Santa or bestie! From stocking stuffers to expensive, UH-mazing gifts, here are some of the best travel gifts this year for all budget types. 

Saje Travel Accessories ($10 – $70)

Travel can wear and tear on your immune system. Sure painkillers and supplements help, but they’re incredibly bulky (not to mention it’s all full of chemicals and harmful ingredients). Saje is one of my favorite wellness brands out there. Not only do they provide all natural products, but many of them are small and compact for travel!

(1. Cool Me Down Refreshing Body Care Kit 2. Travelling Farmacy Remedy Kit 3. Resortal Healing Skin Ointment 4. Safe Hands Antimicrobial Hand Lotion 5. Arrive Revived Jet Lag & Travel Mist 6. Eater’s Digest Digestion Easing Remedy)

Ceramic Jewelry Tray ($38)

Whenever I travel, I look for small decor that I can take back with me. But sometimes you don’t have the money or the packing space for that item you really want. Luckily, this ceramic jewelry tray solves all of those problems. It matches most beautiful bedroom decor and is made by local Moroccan artisans. Not only do you get a gift an amazing present but you’re helping locals artists thrive! Win-win!

Atlas Coffee (Subscription Varies $60 – $199)

Sometimes we want to try different foods or beverages from various cultures around the world, but can’t actually go there. Good thing you can get a taste of culture right in your own kitchen!

Atlas Coffee is a travel-themed coffee-of-the-month club that explores the world of coffee. Each month highlights a new coffee from a new culture like Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Burundi and beyond! This is the perfect gift for your coffee/travel-loving family member or a travel-themed Secret Santa.

OtterBox DEFENDER SERIES Phone Case ($60 – $70)

The bane of any traveler’s existence is an expensive, cracked iPhone! And it’s not just travelers that worry about a cracked phone. Dropping phones, water damage and simple case protection needs to be considered too.

OtterBox cases are the best phone cases out there. They not only provide shock absorption for dropping and water protection, but also provide great style. There are several models and colors and even a customizable option! But I find that a minimal design is always best on the road. (You don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself as a tourist.)

GoPro HERO6 Black ($500)

We all know why GoPros are amazing: they capture wide views, can withstand the elements and are the perfect size camera for any vacation. That’s why you need to gift your wanderlust friend the newest GoPro Hero 6!

This gift itself is already amazing, but if you want to go the extra mile, don’t forget some of the best GoPro accessories! Some of my favorites are the adjustable headstrap, waterproof adjustable selfie stick and underwater dome

Scented Beeswax Candles ($6 – $25)

This gift is one of my favorites! Beeswax candles not only last longer but are much more healthy for ourselves and the planet. So long as the wax is cruelty-free, you’re set! And the perfect, affordable beeswax can be found at ZaxBeesWax. The scents are powerful and proceeds are donated to army veterans.

While seasonal candles are the perfect gift for anyone, tea light candles are best for travelers. The lavender scented tea lights in particular help to create a calming atmosphere and make any strange hotel feel much more like home.

Arden Cove Anti-Theft Waterproof Cross-Body Bag ($130)

Have you ever traveled to a wondrous, yet strange place and felt a little nervous about your purse? Maybe you heard a scary story about someone breaking into someone’s bag on the subway. Or perhaps you just feel uneasy walking around with a nice purse in the middle of Morocco. Let me tell you, I found the purse that will change your life and level of safety abroad.

The material is slash-proof, the zippers have locks to keep from sticky fingers, and the cross body chain will keep thieves from stealing it off your body. The best part is the compact size is still very roomy (I use it as a camera day bag).

Herbivore Botanicals Travel Accessories ($15 – $49)

Traveling can do a number on your skin and one of my favorite ways to combat dryness, circles and puffiness is through natural products. More specifically, Herbivore Botanicals. This is another all-natural product line with INCREDIBLY aesthetically-pleasing branding. These work as awesome stocking stuffers or White Elephant!

(1. Sea Mist Coconut Hair Spray 2. Coco Rose Lip Conditioner 3. Bamboo Charcoal Face/Body Cleansing Soap Bar 4. Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist 5. Coco Rose Body Polish 6. Mini Facial Oil Set)

Moroccan Glassware ($14)

Nothing says foreign, exotic globetrotter like sophisticated glassware from around the world. Made by the same artisans as the ceramic jewelry tray, this Moroccan glassware comes in blush, blue and white. Your giftee will invite friends over, pour some traditional Moroccan tea and serve drinks in your gift with pride.

Geometric Wall Map ($116)

Dreaming of your next adventure? We’re not all able to travel the world whenever we feel like it. So instead, make your place look like a place of global dreams and wanderlust inspiration. This geometric wall sculpture is modern and whimsical, making you want to travel the globe inbetween trips. This particular wall art is perfect on its own or as a creative collage of all of your travels!

DJI Mavic Pro Drone ($906 – $1,000 depending where you purchase)

Are you the best husband ever? Or maybe you’re just a magic mom who wants to give their child utter happiness. Whoever you are, if you happen to have lots of money to spend this Christmas, then the ultimate gift for your favorite traveler is a drone. And not just any drone, but the DJI Mavic Pro.

The DJI Mavic Pro is a compact drone with 24 high-performance computing cores, a new transmission system with a 4.3mi range, 5 vision sensors, and a 4K camera stabilized by a 3-axis mechanical gimbal. Basically, the best piece of photography tech out there!

Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack ($60 – $105)

Nothing screams “I travel around the world like a whimsical gypsy” like a super-cool satchel. Speaking from experience, Herschel backpacks are the perfect travel accessory! Instead of too many stupid pockets and extra weird stuff, Herschel has just enough to make you comfortable without overpacking. The backpack has one front pocket, a slot to weave in your headphones and very comfy straps. Plus, it’s incredibly wanderlust-y!

Personalized Travel Journal ($20 – $24)

I always seem to get journals as gifts. Dream journals, 5-minute journals, scheduling journals… you name it. But unless it’s super cute and matches my style, it stays in the corner of my room collecting dust. One of the best gifts you can give a traveler is the gift of collecting memories. These personalized journals are not only incredibly affordable but have a colorful, yet minimal vibe for any travel style.

Vintage Luggage Set ($345 – $1,095)

There are certain looks we all pine for so that we can embody the life of an epic explorer. Like those vintage suitcases you see in Titanic or The Lost City of Z. Now you can have the look of a vintage jetsetter with the functionality of a modern traveler. Steamline luggage creates beautiful, handcrafted luggage cases that embody the spirit of a traveler with classic style.

Normally, I would avoid vintage suitcases since they’re not compatible with our current style of travel in the 21st century. But these beautiful cases are an amazing exception. They come in a variety of matching styles and sizes, with trolley handles, silent-glide wheels, buckled leather straps and two TSA-approved locks. Perfect for any luxury traveler!

What Are Some of Your Favorite Gifts for Travelers? Share With Us in the Comments! *Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking these links add no additional cost to you, but help me make a little money so I can continue blogging for you awesome travelers! 

The post Hands Down, This is the Best Holiday Gift List for Travelers appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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It’s November 15th–halfway through November–and our minds can’t stop buzzing about the approaching holiday season. Gifts need to be purchased, outfits are needed for holidays parties… And most importantly, travel is happening to see (or avoid) family from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. With that in mind, I want to help you save all of the money with The Clumsy Traveler Holiday Giveaway!

I don’t need to tell you how expensive this season is. Buying everyone a gift is one thing. Add the airline ticket back to Mom’s house or hotels for your loved ones, and you’ve broken the budget. But I want to help!

I’ve partnered with Southwest Airlines to give you an amazing holiday that you’ll never forget.

In addition to my free ‘Baller on a Budget’ e-guide, one lucky participant will receive 10,000 points with Southwest Airlines. Depending on when you book, that’s two roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas! Or one roundtrip flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale! The possibilities are endless.

Not only will my e-guide help you save money before, during and after your travels, but the flight will help you save significantly! Need I go on?

Here’s How to Enter:

1. Follow @theclumsytraveler and @southwestair on Instagram

2. Subscribe to my website and receive your FREE e-guide

3. Every friend you tag in the Instagram comments after these steps counts as an additional entry into the contest!

Please note: Participants must be 18 years or older and can live anywhere in the world. Southwest Airlines flies within the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. All travel plans must be made within these destinations. No expiration date on points. Contest ends 8:00 pm PST November 20th, winner announced at 10:00 am PST on November 22nd. If the winner does not respond via email within 48 hours, their prize is forfeited to the runner-up. 

Good luck to all participants of this holiday giveaway!

The post The Clumsy Traveler’s Holiday Giveaway appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.

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