Season 1, Travelsode 2 (The Blue Lagoon — Iceland)

The second travelsode of Travel Unplugged takes you to the beautiful Blue Lagoon! Located just outside Reykjavík, this geothermal spa (which is one of National Geographic’s “25 Wonders of the World”) is a “must see” on your travel bucket list!

Links:

More info about the Blue Lagoon (including pricing/directions) – http://www.bluelagoon.com

Products — http://www.bluelagoon.com/shop/us/

Icelandair (stop over for up to 7 nights on your way to Europe) —  http://www.icelandair.us/flights/stopover/

Gate 1 Travel — http://www.gate1travel.com/scandinavia-travel/

The Life of Travel Be’s…

logoTravel is like a sensuous dance choreographed to the different rhythms of life.  In order to make the most of your trip, keep in mind the 10 Travel Be’s:

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Riding an elephant has been on my bucket list for years! The ultimate experience is to interact with them in either Africa or India while they are in their element.

Be Inspired

Whether it be a beautiful beach photo on social media (i.e. Pinterest), a book or movie (i.e. Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love), an inspirational travel quote, or a fabulous travel blog (*waves* “hi, y’all!”)…be inspired by things around you.  It can be just the boost you need to encourage you to start planning your dream getaway.

Be Independent

Most people feel more comfortable traveling with at least 1 other person while others are a bit more adventurous and prefer to travel solo.  Regardless of if you are with a group or on your own, be independent!  This is your trip.  Be selfish and make sure you see the places or do the things on your travel bucket list for that place.  This doesn’t mean you stand up at breakfast and say “Alright, y’all…you are boring and I’m gonna have to jet and do my own thing because I will slit my wrists if I have to visit 1 more museum.”..then make a dramatic exit in a whirl of scarves and your phone cued up to “Flawless” by Beyoncé.  I mean, you can do it but maybe save those dramatics for after dinner when there is mood lighting, k?  Work out an itinerary with your travel partner(s) and figure out what the “must see/do” places & experiences are.  Then figure out if you all want to do the same things.  It’s okay if you don’t.  Just carve out time where you part ways and have your own independent adventure to live the greatest experience you can dream of.  Trust me, you don’t want to be on a plane flying home while giving your boo the side-eye because you gave up visiting the Eiffel Tower so he could walk around WWII battlegrounds.

Don't let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you're in Rome.

Don’t let this be you when your friend suggests a day of watching ESPN at the hotel when you’re in Vegas.

Be Adventurous

Explore the world…that’s what it’s there for!  Being an explorer allows you to be bolder than you are at home.  Immerse yourself in the culture, go whitewater rafting, go hot air ballooning over an African desert…whatever it is, make sure you take your sense of adventure and push yourself (at least a little bit) outside of your boundaries.  Think of at least 1 day of your trip as an “adventure” and plan things that will allow you to have a “wow” experience.

Sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

My view from the sunrise hot air balloon ride over the desert of Dubai, UAE.

Be Innovative

I love traditional tours but always mix in something unique for each trip.  While it’s a great idea to start each adventure by taking a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour to orient yourself with the city, make sure you book something fun & exciting too.  It could be a spa getaway, an overnight camping trip in the desert, riding camels in the Sahara, sunrise hot air balloon ride, visiting the Harry Potter movie set…you name it.  Museums are nice but make sure you give yourself time to do something that will allow you to truly experience the place you are visiting.  If there is something you want to do and there is no formal organized “tour”, call up the place and ask them if you can have your own unique experience.  Nine times out of 10, it will work and you will have an experience that most people will wish they had thought to do.

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Research + proper planning = a fabulous trip!

Be Prepared

(Including the “baby be’s”: be safe, be knowledgeable)  Research the place you are visiting.  My travel boo is Rick Steves.  Love him!  His books are THE BEST!  You need a game plan before you arrive (unless you are the type that just figures it out as you go…if that is you then know that we will never travel together because my nerves can’t take you).  This will help you maximize your time, avoid tourist traps and focus on enjoying your trip.  You may also want to go to the State Department’s website (www.osac.gov) and check out the country report for the place you are visiting.  It gives you great info on crime and other concerns (i.e. privacy, health, etc).

Rocking the abaya in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Rocking the abaya & hijab in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Be Culturally Aware

I love being an American and am an unapologetic feminist.  Even with all the struggles we have here in the U.S. when it comes to race, crime, poverty, etc…it’s one of the greatest countries on Earth.  But, sometimes I don’t like some of the people that live here…case in point, the current state of affairs with black men being gunned down by police officers or vigilantes who suffer no repercussions from those illegal acts.  Black lives matter.  I am also very aware that I am afforded rights here that I wouldn’t be granted in some other places.

With that being said, be aware that each country has their own set of struggles & cultural sensitivities.  Some are stronger than others.  On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I made sure I wore traditional clothing [a black abaya (long cloak) and hijab (head scarf)] so that I would not run afoul of their religious laws nor make people feel uncomfortable.  While it was a huge adjustment visiting a place where women don’t have as many rights as men, I tried to at least blend in physically since being submissive was a bit of a stretch for me (smile). When visiting other countries in the Middle East that don’t require the abaya, I made sure I was covered (long skirts/pants, long-sleeved blouses, etc). The last thing you need is unwanted attention or to be hassled by the religious police.  Yes, it may be hot but you are a visitor in their country.  And who wants visitors that don’t respect the house rules?

Be Open-Minded

The beautiful thing about this world is that it’s made up of so many different kinds of people (which is both a good thing and a bad thing).  What is normal to you may seem absurd to someone else.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind.  For example, if you plan a trip to Amsterdam and know you have very strong views about drugs & sex then make sure you avoid the Red Light District.  Please don’t tour the Red Light District wrapped in a cloak of judginess (is that a word? Spell-check says it isn’t but I kinda feel that it is…hmmm…too lazy to verify so I’m making an executive decision that it’s a word).  Where was I?  Oh, yeah, cloak of judginess…don’t walk the RLD pointing fingers at the people entering the coffeeshops or having impromptu prayer sessions for the sex workers.  Know yourself and if you don’t think you can handle certain situations, avoid them.  While drugs & prostitution are stigmatized and mostly illegal in the U.S., they aren’t in the Netherlands.  Sex workers have unions and get benefits.  Yeah, it’s weird to those of us not raised in a culture where it’s accepted as a daily part of life but I live by the motto, “if you like it, I love it.” and keep it moving.

Be Positive

This may be the hardest one for those that aren’t naturally a “glass half full” person.  It takes work.  My trick is to take a couple of deep breaths, fuss about it on Facebook complete with a full dramatic recap of what happened and a Meme (probably Kevin Hart).  Make the “disaster” funny.  Once you can laugh, you can start to get perspective. Being angry doesn’t help you fix the situation.  Anger is a thief as it steals your good sense & happiness.  Little issues become huge issues.  Don’t be that person who has a meltdown because you ran out of gum.  And, honestly, if things have gone horribly wrong…they can only get better, right?

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I'd have to sleep at the small regional airport I was at in Japan. Sigh...

I actually posted this to Facebook when my flight to Hong Kong was cancelled and I was told I’d have to sleep at the small regional airport I was stranded at in Japan. Luckily, I was able to sweet talk my way into a hotel about 45 minutes away.

Be Patient

Things go wrong.  Flights are delayed or cancelled, that fabulous hotel that you booked actually looks like the Motel 6, or you can’t find anyone who speaks English.  Trust me when I say that everything will work out.  It always does.  A little patience takes you a long way and can keep your dream vacation from turning into your worst nightmare.  With so many travel apps and international calling plans, it’s easier than ever to get help.

Morning meditation with a yogi

Morning meditation with a yogi in Bali.

Be Kind

A smile goes a long way.  It’s universal and understood in any culture.  You don’t need to know the local language (but it helps if you at least learn a few key phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you”).  I’ve had more people open up and share wonderful experiences with me just by being genuine and offering a pleasant smile.  Plus, a smile makes you beautiful and who doesn’t want that?

I hope this list of Travel Be’s helps you to plan and enjoy your next fabulous vacation.  Are there any Travel Be’s that I missed?  Let me know!

Trouble Finding Your Passion? Start a Bucket List!

What are you passionate about?  Not sure?  Create a “Bucket List” that includes things you’ve always wanted to try or do.  You never know…one of those items may be what you are destined to do with your life!

Too many people wait until a certain time in their lives before they start pursuing their dreams.  Why do they wait?  There are various reasons:  “I want to wait until I get married”; “I want to wait until my kids are grown”; “I will do it when I retire”, etc.  Sometimes these “reasons” are really excuses.  START LIVING NOW!  Don’t wait until a certain event or milestone happens.  We never know when our last day on Earth will be.  Why not make the most of the time you have?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Single?  Do not wait until you find that special someone.  Fill your life up with things YOU want to do in the meantime.  That means you’ll bring some fabulous stories to your next relationship.

Have children?  Don’t wait until your kids are grown.  Inspire them to want to live a fulfilling life as they observe you pursuing your dreams and taking chances.

Don’t wait until you retire!  In this economy, who knows when that will be!  Start your bucket list now so you can have an awesome retirement filled with things you love to do and places you want to visit.

The great thing about a bucket list is that it helps you to visualize what you want to do and take action when opportunities arise.  Groupon and Living Social have deals everyday!  This is how I fulfilled my dreams of skydiving, race car driving…and in January, a trip to Iceland!  Best part?  I am able to achieve my goals on a shoestring budget!

I am a long ways off from retirement and still waiting to meet Mr. Right.  But, you know what?  I’m happy!  Everything isn’t perfect.  There are times when I feel like I’ve failed at life…especially when others make insensitive comments.  However, instead of punching them in the throat taking it personal, I force myself to remember all of the things I’ve accomplished from my bucket list.  I didn’t get here overnight.  In fact, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Bali (another bucket list item) where I learned how to meditate properly and use yoga to control my mood.  And you know what?  My imperfect life is pretty fulfilling as I’m living, learning, dreaming and exploring!

So…join me in making an awesome bucket list!  I promise that you will love the feeling of trying new things.  Some you may enjoy…others you may not.  That’s the beauty of bucket lists.  It’s like shopping for dreams 🙂

Need inspiration?  I’m addicted to the free iPad app “iWish” which provides inspiration in the form of photos, quotes & maps as well as allowing you to create your bucket list electronically.  I also recommend Bucket List Living Magazine.  Follow the directions below and use the coupon code “3free” for a free 3 month subscription.  Let’s start living the dream!

What’s been on my bucket list?

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How to Use the Bucket List Living Magazine Coupon

  1. Go to “App Store Downloads on iTunes”.  Search for Bucket List Living Magazine.
  2. Download the free app by tapping the FREE button.
  3. Tap the INSTALL APP button.  You will then enter your Apple ID Password and click OK.
  4. When the magazine app is finished installing tap the OPEN button.
  5. Permission to send new issues and push notifications from Bucket List Living Magazine is requested.  Choose OK.
  6. Tap the SUBSCRIBE button and then the CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS button.
  7. Enter the coupon code into the account number box and tap the CONTINUE button.  After you enter the code you will receive a notification that you have subscribed successfully.  Tap CLOSE. (The current issue should begin downloading in the background.)
  8. A VIEW button will appear below the current issue, tap it to begin enjoying the magazine.
  9. You will have access to any issue published during the trial subscription period.  At the end of the trial period you will retain access to any issue downloaded during the trial period but will be required to pay for any subsequent issues.

Finding Nikki

heart-intuitionI started this blog about 18 months ago with the purpose of sharing my travel stories and inspiring others to travel.  Then, I became obsessed with the “Stats” page…and scrutinized every post while asking myself why I wasn’t getting more visitors, likes, followers, etc.  I started changing my writing style, writing on a variety of topics…all in an effort to see that blue bar rise.  And still nothing changed.  It was like I was banging my head against a brick internet wall.  Why weren’t people catching on to my blog?  Am I not interesting?  Maybe my writing sucks?  I know it can’t be my sense of humor because I’m funny, dangit!  All of these questions I asked during my downward blog spiral.  I began to question myself.  And you can’t question yourself or your abilities if you expect to be successful.

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During my downward spiral (which thankfully didn’t include bath salts & binge drinking), I realized 2 things:  1) I had gotten away from the original purpose of my blog and made it all about me; and 2) I found some awesome bloggers who inspired ME!

273804852315650202_mjBoTy0N_cBefore I became obsessed with stats, I enjoyed writing.  And I think it showed in my work.  I’ve had so many people say that I should turn my travel tales into a book.  Unfortunately, I started to write my book proposal during The Dark Times (which is basically when I got caught up in stat whoring).  The proposal was going nowhere.  I had absolutely nothing to say…I couldn’t articulate the concept of my book to save my life!!  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to pitch my travel show idea…and cannot seem to formulate the words to adequately convey how awesome my idea is.  It’s like I was stuck.  But last week while enjoying the sun & beach in Cancun, it hit me.  I can’t write my proposals because I don’t believe in myself since I felt like my blog had failed.  Which is so crazy in hindsight.

People define success in so many different ways.  So why am I choosing to define myself as a failure when I have successes?  One being that my blog post on the Warrior Dash was recently published in Obstacle Racing Magazine in December 2012…which was major for me since it was the first time I’ve ever seen my work in print!

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I’ve also had the major blessing of being inspired by so many awesome bloggers here on WordPress!  Whenever I start to doubt myself, I go to Candy Coated Reality to get inspiration & motivation.  Lesley Carter has a totally fabulous blog called Bucket List Publications…and let me tell you, this is THE place to go if you are trying to figure out what to put on your bucket list.  Whenever I need a laugh, I love to read Sandee’s 1800ukillme blog (her post on “Chilean bass sex tapes” will have you on the floor).  I’ve also found some beautiful places to visit by reading the awesome travel blogs of Tvor Travels, Still Times, Toemail, and A Traveller’s Tale (just to name a few).  I am even inspired to take more time to explore my own city due to reading Aaron’s The Adventures of Elatlboy blog (and he takes some pretty cool photos too).

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So, I guess it comes down to realizing that when you feel uninspired, take a step back and connect with others.  Believe in yourself and define your own success rather than relying on others to validate you.  I choose to believe that success happens in stages…and this is but one link in a massive chain of success.  Before I sit down to finally finish my proposals, I think I’m going to break up with my Stats page…because clearly things haven’t been working out.

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Thanks for reading and as always…happy travels!

P.S.  I’m always looking for new inspiration, so please let me know of any blogs you’d like to recommend!  Thx!

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for My Close-Up

To quote the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  What woman doesn’t want to do a boudoir photo shoot and be all glam & sexy?  I started out buying this package with the intent to lose all this weight and be like, “BAM! How you like me now?”…but, that didn’t quite work out.  Ha!  Rather than reschedule the shoot (again) until I can look like Skeletor from HeMan, I realized that I was focused on the wrong thing.  I have historically taken a Nation of Islam approach to weight loss…by any means necessary.  Be it Atkins (staying in Phase 1 forever), starvation, weight loss pills, being a workout fiend…you name it, I was doing it.  The problem was I couldn’t maintain the “extreme measures lifestyle”.  Even when I lost a lot of weight (and in some cases, maybe too much), I was never satisfied.  I always found something I needed to improve.  Something that was imperfect.  What I saw in the mirror wasn’t what other people in reality saw when they looked at me.  All I saw were all of my failures, insecurities, baggage, failed relationships, bad decisions, etc.

When I told my best friend that I thought the leather seats in my car needed Botox because they were cracked from all of my weight sitting on it, she told me to put the crack pipe down.  If only.  I mean, couldn’t she see that if I was on crack then I’d be skinny?  Now, I may be trying to steal her dvd player for a “weight loss hit” but I’d still be thin!

I have been caught up in the “industry” standard of beauty for so long, I can’t remember a time when I was ever satisfied in my own skin.  I felt I looked more like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid than Princess Tiana from Princess & the Frog.   I would covet the figures on magazine covers that sold me a faux reality based heavily on airbrush & illusions.  I thought, “If I eat 3 beans a day, I can look like that!”  But it never happened because I’m just not built that way and there came a point when my sanity broke thru the haze of phentermine & 2-a-day workouts & I realized I was miserable AND hungry. I wanted a biscuit and could care less about skinny jeans.

Then it hit me…it’s okay to be “imperfect.” I figure that if God created me this way, then I am perfect in His eyes and that is all that matters.  Now, am I trying to look like Precious and run off with a bucket of chicken?  No (although some chicken does sound good…focus Nikki).  I am just taking a smarter approach to weight loss and changing my mindset.  I eat what I want in moderation and workout.  I am focusing on pushing myself beyond my preconceived limits (both mentally, physically and emotionally).  In the here and now, I decided to strip myself bare & accept myself as I am.  By allowing myself to be photographed like this, I am telling myself that it is okay to be me.

I’m not Naomi Campbell thin (and my iPhone 4 cost too much to throw at someone…they can get my old Motorola).  I’ve never had the figure of a supermodel and I want a bowl of ice cream just thinking about being a size 0.  The only way I will ever be that size is to smoke crack and meth with a side of smack.  Healthy for me is being a size 8/10 and having a some junk in the trunk…to keep me warm in the winter.  I have decided to define beauty for myself as I strive to get back to that size.  I am committing myself to living a healthy lifestyle and seeing how far I can push myself in certain physical endeavors (i.e. marathons & triathlons).

Honestly, I’m just trying to be happy with myself.  To that end, I figured I’d release my poorly hidden diva (because y’all know I am the first one to jump in front of a camera) and get my photo shoot on. I can pick out plenty of things I need to work on but I choose to see someone who doesn’t look half bad.  So, I’m not going to make excuses and say the camera added 20 pounds, because as Shakira would say “hips don’t lie.”  I’m just going to continue on my journey and look as fabulous as I can until I reach my destination!

I know this has felt like a “Dear Diary” entry but there is a key difference…Holly Hobby isn’t on the cover and my brother isn’t trying to crack the code to spill everything to my parents during dinner.  Special shout out to Sarah at Sarah Esther Photography who handled the shoot.  She is FAB-U-LOUS! I really cannot say enough great things about her.  Sarah is so creative & her work is phenomenal!  In fact, she is photographing my brother’s wedding this summer.  Girl’s got skills!  She’s also running another boudoir photo special so definitely check her out!

Without further ado, here are a few pics from the shoot (which were shot at the W Hotel in Buckhead).  Thanks for listening to me share my hangups and entertaining my vanity!

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