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Travel: Sand. Sun. Margaritas. Hawaii

I am a Beach fiend. No vacation is truly a vacation without some beach or pool time (with my preference leaning towards a beach). This year I decided to surprise my mom and take her to Hawaii for her Birthday. Win win in my book. I not only became the favorite daughter giving THE best gift, but I also get to escape the frosty winters of the desert and bathe in the sun. A girl couldn’t ask for more!

Prep: Pedicure, Check. Bathing Suit, Check. Sunglasses, Check. I mean who needs anything else when they plan to be a beach bum. *Disclaimer*: I packed waaaay more than the prep list listed.

At this point you are probably wondering which beach… Well with No further a due I present to you Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii!!!!
I will be blogging wanderlust photos of the island of Oahu… stay tuned.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XoXo Misty

Blowing in the Wind

Days such as today, remind me that escaping is a necessity. Vacations are a must! After a 16 hour day, the pressure for constant creative ingenuity leaves a craving to just SHUT DOWN, curl up into a ball and sleep. However, life isn’t like that! Not for me at least…. This leaves me lusting for an exotic adventure… A fling with a country that allows you let let go of your inhibitions and just be! No pressure to create, conform, maximize or any of the other synonyms that insinuate productivity for a Fortune 500 company. At this very moment all I want to do is sit still on a slice of gorgeous heaven on earth and let the universe whisper sweet nothing’s to me.. This is why I Flirt With Travel. Soothes my soul.

What do you do for a momentary relaxation?

Love, MistyPooh

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Its Not Rafting Til…

YOU FALL OUT!!!

At least that’s what the locals believe lol excited to be in a new country and being one with nature participating in Eco Tourism, we headed to raft on a beautifully humid and sunny morning. Like any first experience we had our reservations but our tour guide, Rocky, promised we had optimal weather and water conditions. Great water flow, beautiful weather PERFECT.

I was pumped, I took my Dramamine so my motion sickness was quelled. How do I know this you ask? Well its simple we drove 30 minutes through the twisty and winedy Arenal Volcano hills to reach the Balsa River  and arrived with out a problem within my body.

After basic instructions in which Rocky would be yelling out for the rowers , The Rowers being us , to follow he put the raft in the water and we headed out. It began simple… Just floating, then Rocky would bellow in his raspy Costa Rican accent Front. We began the row in sync forward. What I learned later is that it provided directional guidance for the raft not just to move us forward. The first pocket of bubbling water we hit was enthralling!!! You had to bear down and row through the rockiness while water sputtered and slapped you in the face. We continued and got comfortable with the momentum, my boyfriend who was my companion loves adventure! Obviously he was not feeling enough Adrenaline coursing through his veins, so for the group he asked if we could go faster? I Gave him the side eye o_O and thought we are still novices lol. Lets just enjoy this!!! But Rocky obliged and roared front hard! So front hard we rowed towards the “Crazy Hole” I really couldn’t give you all the details because they are blurry I just know one minute I was in the raft and the next lol I’m out flying down the river hitting every damn rock in the Balsa River. Now, as a safety briefing the instructions were given that if for any reason you fall out get on your back and float forward feet forward so if you do see a boulder you can bounce of it with your feet. Well gravity wasn’t having that, in fact I wasn’t floating. I was like a spearheaded rocket flying through the river towards what I considered imminent danger and serious injury!!!! Instead my body kept turning around so I would swiftly flow head first. It was a feat to keep my body up and not sink but it became easier after every time my legs started to sink  and hit every rock lining this death of a river. What I do remember  is that I was a floundering expletive speeding down the river lol cussing up a storm as I was assaulted and drowned by the water. I must have looked terrible because the guy was yelling life saving techniques as I kept going under lol I finally was able to grab the kayak that he was in for what seemed like support. But it was more like a bullet speeding through the rivers allowing my legs to get drug on the rocks. Finally the raft caught up to me and the pulled me in. I just sat there heaving, thinking im so over this lol

Once on break we ate some fruit that they picked up on the morning ride over, I have to say that was THE BEST pineapples that I have ever ate. Mouth watering, juicy, sweet. There was a wasp that kept trying to land on the pieces in my hand so I believe that he felt the same. Not wanting to be stung, I was doing creative twirls to take bites lol

After the break we got back in and continued. My Boyfriend, however, was very leery lolol he didn’t like being drug on the rocks and beat up by gravity. So he was calm lol we proceeded down with out incident and had a great time. Gorgeous site, Rocky went and found a Dart Frog ( Poisonous) and pointed out sloths, various birds. All in a great experience that I would do again!

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Ogasawara Picture Collage

Absolutely gorgeous island!!!

F’n Groupon!!!!

If I could smack someone through email I would. I can only describe the feeling that I have as rage. How dare Groupon advertise this gorgeous, sexy property to have it snatched from my fingers by the owner!!!! Boy, I tell you. I was super excited today. Well really this shameful debacle has been going on for the last couple days! So I was super excited yesterday, when we purchased an awesome Sea Garden Villa with private plunge pool in Koh Samui, Thailand for pennies I tell ya PENNIES. A Gorgeous traditional Thai room with some modern ties and glowing reviews. Now I’m a Groupon whore, so I understand the fine print game. Read, re-read, take a break and then read once more to make sure you aren’t bamboozled into a product you either don’t want or worst CAN’T USE. In this case We CANT USE it. I’m currently in knee deep with the owner. I’m ready to take him to the mattress so to speak for a beating. He won’t honor nor work with us, just leaves me disgusted. So I’m requesting a REFUND, either from him or Groupon, all I want is my little Duckets (money) back ASAP. Cus what I do know is that SOMEBODY on this email riddled virtual war is giving me a refund. Elements Boutique Resort sucks!!!

Sand, Sea and Dolphins: Day 2

After the magnificent start of day one I had high hopes of what this vacation could amount to. The second day on the island we had booked a boat tour. This tour promised to be a little bit of everything; boating, snorkeling, hiking, dolphins, all around merriment.  It started at 8am, but the captain called at 6:30 just to remind us when and where the tour started and to bring our lunch.  I kind of appreciated the wake up call.  

At 7 we ate a semi-hearty breakfast of rice, miso soup, tomato, and egg (😒).  We also prepped a lunch of homemade onegiri (rice balls) and set off for the tour.  This tour was run by the Pink Dolphin.  We found the bright pink boat not more than 2 minutes from our hotel.

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The Captain, a fifth generation Ogasawara dwellers’ family descends from Boston and Hawaii so both English and Japanese are his native languages. He was a warm and friendly man who immediately greeted me in English, which after tour upon tour in Japanese was such a relief.  The tour had maybe 20 people, and the ship was nice.  A covered roof, a proper toilet, and lots of places to look around the boat.  We started off on a two hour journey towards Mokujima (or husband island, all the Ogasawara islands are named after some family member). 

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The highlight of this tour is that we can swim with wild dolphins.  At one point on our way towards Mokujima the captain calls out that he sees dolphins.  I’m so excited, I’m grabbing for my fins ready to jump off, when he says we can’t jump, there’s also a shark with them. That was probably the fastest way to kill my excitement.  We continue on passing these beautiful rock formations which I later find out are all coral reef that emerged out of the water.  
 
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We go round two islands that are commonly home to dolphins, but today they were nowhere to be found. So we continue to Mokujima where we dock.  First we hang our lunches in the trees, hopefully away from the crabs and then launch into a sort of impromptu hike.  I expect the hike to be a light walk considering everyone is pretty much wearing their bathing suits, rash guards and beach sandals.
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 The first part of the hike was a cake walk, we get to the top and look out at the view, then the second mate of the boat, and our guide for this part points to another far away hill and says something in Japanese.  It’s translated to me that we are hiking to there.  My smile faded quick, fast and in a hurry.  We hike through, but the path is not necessarily established, it kind of felt just like we were marching through the brush, tree branches being moved back and forth, grass scratching here and there.  Onward and upward we climb when the captain of the boat pops out of nowhere and begins explaining the history of the island in English. I can’t explain how thankful I was for his kindness, because I was the only foreigner on the tour, so he could have easily gotten away with not saying anything in English.  
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It turns out the island used to be inhabited before WWII, but the US used it as a military base during the war and all the locals left.  He showed where battles had taken place, where the Japanese military communication center had once stood, the ruin that it was now in after being bombed. He pointed out where the old sugar cane fields used to be, and how people had made alcohol there, he showed where they used to raise live stock on the mountain and drew my attention to the many wells on the island. The island was nice to see, and given how green it was, I was surprised that it wasn’t inhabited again after the war. Only the fishermen returned to catch and dry fish.  There were no permanent residences though.  
 
From the top we climbed down a different way.  The descent seemed twice as hard as the ascent.  Turns out that the way up we were on a regular hiking path, the way down we took a goat path.  Nothing but question marks popping through my head when he said that. After falling once, getting thwacked with a thick branch that I entirely had not seen coming, we made it back to the food.  We ate lunch under the shade of the trees and then went snorkeling.  The ocean was strange, there were some spots where natural heat seemed to keep the water warm, and right next to it, it was entirely chilly.  The coral reef was kind of a dull brown and there weren’t many fish to be found, but sea cucumbers were everywhere.  
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After 40 minutes of snorkeling we got back onto the boat and went searching for dolphins.  I sat at the front of the boat a hung my feet off the side and fell asleep in the sun it was so relaxing.  
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Once we were closer to Chichijima, the island we stayed on, we found some dolphins.  In groups we jumped off the edge and swam towards the dolphins.  The first time, the dolphins were skittish, they swam away, we crawled back onto the boat and sailed towards them again.  My only complaint about the Pink Dolphin tour was the bottom step to get onto the boat.  Where you come out of the water is metal with these sharp holes, so you put your hands on it and lift yourself on, but you have to turn around to sit down or else you’ll scratch your knees on the floor which basically looks like a giant cheese grater.  But the challenge is that there is enough space for 3 people to get on, but 20 people rushing onto the boat, as I crawled up someone bumped me from behind and I lost my grip and tried to save myself which resulted in scraping a thick layer of skin of my middle and pointer fingers much like I had run my hand on an ultra sharp cheese grater.  I was bleeding pretty heavily after this.  Well we run into the dolphins again, and bleeding or not I decide I’m going to swim with dolphins today, so I jump in again and ignore the stinging sensation of salt water seeping in to my open wounds.  This time I get closer to the dolphins as the swim along in a group of three. 
 
But they swam away after about 30 seconds, so we all rush back to the boat, but I hang back and let the super zealous jump up first.  On the boat, they tell us we will go in one last time, so full guns blazing I go in again, swimming my fastest after one dolphin ahead of me when I look down and realize 5 dolphins are just kind of hanging out about 6 feet under me.  I stop to watch them when some d-bag guy tries to swim down and touch them and they scatter.  I only call him a d-bag not because he got excited when he saw dolphins but on his way back despite him seeing me clearly he rushes past me and kicks me. 
 
On the boat, I try to focus on the excitement of seeing dolphins but I’m fairly distracted by the fact that two of my fingers are still bleeding fairly quickly. I apply pressure and we head to Minamijima, a world heritage island that, in order to protect the land, they make a rule that no more than 100 people can go onto the island each day.  
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We get off the boat and walk around a shark pond protected by the rocky cliffs of the island, the guide begins to take us on another hike, but I look at the ground and see the path disappear into shrubbery and decide to hang behind. The last thing I need was to grab a branch and infect the wound on my hand.  Up top they check the view, down below I look at the crabs lining the pathway.  Then we walk I to turtle bay, there are no turtles to be found, but they were there as evidenced by all the tracks left.  We look a the water, take pictures and move back towards the boat, finally headed back for Chichijima at 6pm
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Altogether this was an exhausting day.  We take showers at the hotel and make a pathetic attempt to head out to the festival happening at the park.  Both of us are so tired we don’t do more than one lap around and head back to the hotel for dinner and sleep.  The second day was physically challenging and a bit damaging, but altogether great.  Image

If Ogasawara were a guy

If Ogasawara Island was a guy he’d be tanned to brown, with skin so sun-exposed its downright leathery. There would be no tan lines, because he hasn’t worn a shirt since the first desert storm. The sun would have bleached his hair long ago, and obviously he would have the beachy physique of someone that spends their days, diving, hiking, and boatin. He’d have the laid-back island feel to his personality, but he somehow would escape the urge to work on island time, and instead be surprisingly punctual.  He wouldn’t self-identify as being tied to any mainland, he’s an islander through and through. He’d be easy to love and impossible to leave. 

Here are the days of Ogasawara.

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The Dog Days of Summer: Vacation Edition

The weather has heated up, humidity is pushing people to their breaking point.  The sun pretty much reaches full force at 4:30 in the morning. Sandals are the only reasonable footwear, and school kids are running wild at 11 am on a Wednesday.  There is no getting around it, summer is in full swing. But rather than complain about the ever present bead of sweat trickling down my neck, I put my mind to greater feats: planning my August vacation.

Now, if you are paying attention, the obvious question is didn’t I just take vacation. The answer is yes, but spring vacation was a long, pain-staking three months ago, and summer deserves it’s due. By some fault of life, this summer’s vacation is a paltry seven days; however, with some good planning, I shall be enjoying a more acceptable 11 day vacation.

Of course my first instinct is to book a hotel for ten nights and live it up away from Tokyo, but I learned the hard way, that every trip must end at least one day prior to vacation ending or work will not be pleasant to return to.  This I learned coming back from winter vacation after midnight and waking up in the morning and dragging myself to work. Three words: Don’t do it. However, I also know that I enjoy a nice day of cleaning and packing before any trip. This leaves me with a viable nine days for actual vacationing.  Turns out that is more than enough.

My first plans for this summer included any island close to Japan, but not Okinawa (since I went there last August already). The unfortunate thing about vacationing in Japan is that the entire country takes vacation time at the same time. Try finding a cheap flight overseas when you are competing with literally every other person in a country.  Ticket prices almost double around the three major vacation periods (Golden Week, early May; Obon, early August; and New Year’s, ‘nuff said). After looking up airfare prices to Guam, Bali, the Philippines and others I felt my heart break a little bit more with each new country.

Then, I started looking back at my list of places I was interested in traveling within Japan.  First, I looked into Izu a hot-spring rich resort area. Next I looked at Takayama, a beautiful historic town. These were both great options, but I have been vowing for the last four trips I had taken that I deserved a real island getaway. Could I really deny what my heart wanted. I find time and again that self-denial is not my strongest trait. So, I started looking up islands in Japan.  There are the Izu islands, not too far away by ferry, and probably very pleasant in their own right, but my heart was set on something more exotic, and if not exotic, then remote. Finally, I was reminded of a place someone had told me about a few months ago.

Ogasawara. I beautiful and tiny island chain of islands about 1000 km (621 miles) off the coast of mainland Japan. There are no flights to the island, in fact, the only way to get to Ogasawara is a 26 hour boat ride.  This place definitely qualifies as remote, but getting away this far has its benefits.Image

This island chain has been dubbed the Galapagos of the east. As it is so far from any continent, the evolution of plants and animals is utterly unique. The Ogasawara Islands took biological shape over millions of years as flora and fauna gradually crossed the 1000km kilometres of ocean from Polynesia, south-east Asia and south-west Japan, thanks to the wind, or the birds, or logs floating on the ocean waves. They settled on the islands, the various species evolved uniquely according to their environment, becoming distinctive species. They were mostly undisturbed by humans until settlement began in 1826.

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To begin with, going to this island felt like a dream, simply because of the long time it takes to get there. But after finding a great deal, three nights, four days on the island and two days on the boat, I found myself committed. The island is full of activities both in the water and on land.  There are forest treks to take a look at the unique fauna, and evening tours to see glowing mushrooms and the absolutely breathtakingly clear skies. In the water there are amazing coral reefs, sea-kayaking, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving and snorkeling.

If the island delivers on half the promises websites seem to be offering it sounds like a piece of paradise. Now, I’m just left with one very important question. What does one wear to paradise?