Myanmar: A Magical Untouched Country

There are 195 countries in the world. For 60 years, one of those countries, Burma, (now known as Myanmar), was isolated from the rest of the world. For 60 years no one was able to see what this country had to offer. It blows my mind. After one of the world’s longest running civil wars, Burma opened up its doors to tourism in 2012.

Myanmar, lucky country #40 for me and #28 for Andy, quickly became one of our favorite destinations, hands down. From the thousands of pagodas in Bagan, to the floating gardens in Inle Lake and chaotic streets of Yangon, this country surprised us in so many ways.IMG_9367

Myanmar was one of those countries that I’m not sure I even knew existed until about a year ago. I pride myself on being a geography buff (thanks to my World Map shower curtain from Amazon..YOU NEED TO BUY THIS) so I’m actually kind of embarrassed admitting that to you. A few months back I started seeing photos of Myanmar from a few travel bloggers I follow and quickly added “see the balloons on top of a pagoda at sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar” to my bucket list.

After doing a bit of research we had to adjust our 6 weeks in Asia slightly so we were able to see the balloons over Bagan (they stop launching around April 15th due to weather conditions). We planned only 1 week in Myanmar and it was the perfect amount of time for each of the cities we chose but there are still a few other locations that we wish we added to the itinerary. Sometimes I like leaving a country knowing that there was way more to see, just means we will have to come back one day. SO…we planned 3 nights in Inle Lake, 2 nights in Bagan and 1 night in Yangon.IMG_7919

When we arrived at Heho airport we realized how underdeveloped this country is. You arrive in one big open room where you’re greeted by a couple super friendly Burmese men and they show you to a stand. The stand resembled that of a kids lemonade stand, but it wasn’t a lemonade stand, it was the Immigration counter. A double door opens up right next to the stand and the airport crew start throwing the checked luggage on to the ground, it was actually a much easier process to collect our bags here than the fancy belts that JFK have. We were off! Inle Lake is about an hour drive from the airport and up until you get to the archway of Inle, the scenery is pretty sparse.

Mingalaba (hello) Inle Lake!

For 12,500 kyat each ($10 per person) we were in! Our driver stopped a couple of times to let us watch the locals tend to their floating gardens. We arrived at our resort which was right on the lake, fit with a large deck with reclining wooden chairs for a front-row sunset view over the water. Pretty spectacular, to say the least. We were welcomed to ourIMG_8778 room by a baby tarantula that was hanging out in our bathroom and was so excited to see Andy that he ran right over his foot. I’ll let your imagination create the picture for you but for some context, there were loud girly screams (x2), high jump-style leaps onto the bed and an immediate phone call to housekeeping. Guess that was our big welcome to Asia! The 2 women who showed up to kill the eight legged monster were giggling and had no fear putting it in a rag. Andy felt extremely emasculated afterwards but soon got over it.

ANYWHO- the next day we took our bikes and went to the neighboring village of Mine Thauk where we walked along a long wooden bridge that connects the land village to the water village. We decided to eat at a local restaurant there where the only way to get there was by a boat to drive us about 50 feet across. We sat on tiny stools only a few inches from the ground and enjoyed our Myanmar beer for a whopping $1.50 for the big boy. From 12-3pm it is SO hot here that it makes riding your bikes nearly impossible. If you come here, especially during hot season, make sure to find a hotel with a pool (Few recommendations: mid-range stay-Inle Lake Resort (where we stayed) and for a little bit pricier places but gorgeous: Novotel or Sanctum Resort).

IMG_0270The following morning about 7am we headed out onto the lake for a private boat tour which ran us about $35 total for the entire day. We sped past local fisherman balancing on the edges of their boats while they paddle with one leg, visited local silversmiths, wood-carving shops and silk factories. Our favorite part of the day was visiting the village of Indein where we got lost in the sparkling gold pagodas of Shwe Inn Thein. On our way up we bartered with a women in the market for a white handmade shawl for me ($6) and it was there where we heard the phrase “lucky money” for the first time. She took our kyats and brushed them all over her scarves and shawls that she sells repeating lucky money. She told us it meant that when someone buys something and they brush the bills over the products they sell it will bring them luck for the rest of the day.

We absolutely loved Inle Lake and if you decide to go there feel free to email us for recommendations (!IMG_2979 2

Balloons over Bagan

Oh Bagan. Bagan is where we made friends with a local, An Cho, climbed to the top of a secret temple and learned that Andy Best cannot drive an e-bike. I’m not being mean and I am not exaggerating when I say there were about 6 times when I feared for my life and the life of my husband. His knuckles were white, his back was dripping with sweat and he was as stiff as a board. That being said, he did improve tremendously over the 48 hours we were there and I am very proud.IMG_0607

Bagan was one of those places that you just have to see for yourself. I’m not sure my words or pictures can even do it justice but I’ll give it a whirl. The best times of day and most popular times to be outside (as a tourist) in Bagan are at sunrise and sunset. For just $5 for the whole day you rent an e-bike and get lost in the thousands of pagodas that are still standing. Of course there are the larger temples that all the guidebooks say “you must see” but Andy and I found that our favorites were the smaller pagodas that had no one else there.

Until about a year ago you were able to climb up the temples, a lot of them have steps on the outside or secret entrances on the insides, but after a tragic accident Bagan banned climbing on pretty much all of them. A few travel bloggers have found “secret” temples that you can get away with climbing and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t determined to find one of them. I had to cross that off my bucket list!

On our way to Old Bagan, we pretty much got driven off the road by a slow moving car, and our soon to be friend, An Cho pulled over to see if we were okay. We were fine (don’t worry Barb!). An Cho started chatting with us and  we got into a conversation about climbing temples. He said there is a “secret” temple that he’d show us and it’s a spot only locals know about. An Cho quoted, it has “the best view in the mornings to watch the balloons”. My eyes instantly lit up.IMG_0659

Okay so when you were just reading that, were you thinking to yourself, come on guys why would you follow a local to a “secret” temple, HELLO, that screams, scam, money pit, semi-dangerous? I know you did. Because at first, we did too. I hate that we instantly felt that way, but I think it’s a product of the world we live in in America. It’s not a bad thing to be super cautious but in this part of the world, I think in certain situations, it’s okay to be open to random meetings like that.

So we get to the temple with An Cho and it was AMAZING. Afterwards we sat under Buddha downstairs and had An Cho (did I mention he was an artist?) show us his paintings. He taught us about how Burmese people name their children, by the days of the week, and from what plants he got his colors from. We ended up negotiating and bought 3 paintings from An Cho. Lucky money everywhere!!!! He showed us how to get to a veggie restaurant we were dying to try and then we said our goodbyes. Meeting An Cho has been one of the highlights of our trip so far.IMG_1286 2

About midday on in Bagan is so extremely hot you NEED to find a pool. We opted for the cheap & chic hotel called Sky View Hotel that was $25/night that had a great rooftop but no pool. Luckily, our good friend had recently visited Myanmar and told us about a great little travel hack and we confidently strolled into a beautiful hotel to use their pool for the day.  I’ll pay it forward if you want to know about how you can stay in Bagan for cheap & also live the secret life of luxury at the same time. Just drop me a line!IMG_1002

We woke up at 5am to hop on the death trap I mean e-bike to go to our “secret” temple. Turns out, the temple wasn’t so secret after all. It didn’t have the loads of tourists that the man made hill that Bagan created to watch sunrise/sunset but it had about 15 people on the top of the pagoda. I was bummed obviously but somehow we scored the best seat in the house with no one in front of us. We watched the sky go from black, to light blue, to golden-orange as the balloons started to rise up from behind the pagodas. Not sure if I’ll ever experience another sunrise like that in my life.

Yangon, you crazy city you.

IMG_0058 4Based on recommendations we strategically planned one night in Yangon. For us, it ended up being the perfect amount of time. We stayed at The Merchant Boutique Hotel ($40) which also had an awesome rooftop that had a great view of the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda which glimmers high at 325 feet above the rest of the city. This place was stunning. From monks walking around to prayers being said, it was surreal.IMG_3104

We headed down to Chinatown around 19th street to try and find some famous Crab Rangoon at the Rangoon Tea House but they were all sold out! Bummer. The rest of the food was great though, definitely recommend checking this place out. After walking around for a solid 30 minutes in 98 degree, sticky heat, we both looked at each other and decided to call it a day. The streets were SO hectic and crowded but it was surely a sight to see.

To us, Myanmar felt like one of those countries that are on the brink of an absolute tourist explosion. We are so happy we came here before that happens.

The people, pagodas and way of life are truly impressive.

Onto Laos!

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All you need is…family

Family: (n) a basic social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group (according to

Well, in today’s day and age the dictionary definition of family has changed in so many ways and what we define our family to be is different for every single person.

After 4 months of traveling, I’ve identified one major theme across the board, no matter what country we are in, or what culture we get exposure to, the importance of family reigns number #1. The definition may vary but your family will always be a unit.

That unit sticks together, through good times & bad, because that’s just what family does. IMG_8016 2

Andy and I have such a unique life right now with very little consistency. I’m not complaining, seriously, I love going on safaris one day, getting lost in city streets another day and sitting doing absolutely nothing but people watching the next day. But no matter what your day to day lives may be, we all need a support system to lean on. The support we have from our families to live out our dreams of exploring the world has been exactly what we needed. They answer our texts at weird hours in the day, look through all the pictures we send them and are genuinely interested in what adventures we are having. They hear about the annoying days we have, the not so great food in some countries, the complaints about mosquito bites & not having enough clothes (from me not Andy). Even though they’re thousands of miles away, it’s like they’re right around the corner.

That being said, the 4 month mark was the absolute perfect time in our trip to have the opportunity to see my side of the family, my unit, for a few days on the beautiful island of Aruba. For a very special occasion, might I add. My dad married my sister’s best friend’s mom, Mary. How cool is that?!


Quick background info for you in case you don’t know our story: Tess (my sis) and Keri (my new sis) met when they were 5 years old and have been best friends since. Keri’s 3 older brothers, Sean, Ryan & Kyle and I all went to high school together and we all grew up one neighborhood over from one another. Queue Mary. 

There’s just something about Mary. Bonus points for whoever knows what I did there. Mary is the modern day Wonder Woman. She protects kids in her day job and raised some pretty great kids in her everyday life-job. About 4 years after my mom died, my dad gradually got the courage to make Mary more than just a friend. And thank God he did!

So finally, after 6 years together, my dad & Mary tied the knot in front of all their kids, their significant others & 2 grandchildren. It was both intimate & incredibly moving to be a part of such a special ceremony for two people that deserve the best “Plan B” that life is offering them. We’ve all been calling one another brothers & sisters for years but to officially now have 4 more siblings that I get to annoy for the rest of my life is SO exciting!!! Kidding, guys!!IMG_8086

Aruba, ‘One Happy Island’ they call it. With sparkling blue ocean water, dazzling sunsets & 80 degree weather, what’s there to be sad about?! I did get a little sad though when my 4 year old niece took me aside in the pool and said “okay let me tell you all the things you’ve missed out on”…I mean…come on….heart melted. After hours of catching up with everyone, rounds of a new drinking game we invented called, Patrumble (don’t ask) and a few of us dancing on stools at the bar, our first official family vacation came to an end. 

y%IyWlxTRweCJbodp7XTJgMy family dynamic has changed drastically in the last 10 years. One constant that has remained throughout has been the support they’ve always provided. Our “unit” is far from ordinary, extraordinary to be exact. In the best way possible. My family went from 2 parents & 1 sister to 1 parent and 1 sister, to now, 2 parents, 2 sisters, 3 brothers, plus 1 sister in-law and 2 brother in-laws. Sounds like a weird math problem right? We’re basically the modern day Brady Bunch. In all seriousness, with all of the subtractions & additions to my family unit, the final outcome, in my eyes, has always, and forever will be, positive.

Family: (n) a support system that you know will always have your back, no matter what. (according to me)


Living in Medellín, Colombia

“How many of your parents said you’re fu%k!ng crazy for coming to Colombia?” This is what our native, Medellín tour guide asked us two minutes after meeting him.

I mean, 25 years ago this city was dubbed the most dangerous city on earth. Even 10 years ago, this place was seriously violent with pockets and neighborhoods you absolutely did not want to roam around in, even in the daylight.

So I get it.

I get why 100% of the people on our tour, people from all over the world, raised their hands when Juan asked this question, including us.

But after 4 weeks of living in Medellín I can honestly say that this city is FAR from dangerous and probably the most inviting city I’ve ever lived in.IMG_0615

Juan also asked another question, in 3 words what comes to mind when you think of the country Colombia, 9 times out of 10 people answered with: cocaine, Pablo Escobar (he who shall not be named) and coffee. Juan said nothing was “off limits” we could ask whatever question we wanted and he would answer it. People asked a lot about the racial profiles of Medellín, a few questions about Narcos (which Juan crushed immediately and said only about 10% of that show depicted what really happened) and a lot of questions revolving around drugs and the presence they still have in the city.

There were times during that morning where I would catch myself staring into space, staring at Colombian locals that were around 30 years of age or older, thinking about what they must have seen growing up. This city averaged 17 homicides PER DAY at one point during the ‘he who shall not be named’ reign. (Side note: I call him that because Juan said mostly everyone in Colombia hates this terrorist and if we said his name loudly it would spark outbursts by locals J0W94q0NRlqkdwiy+lmTwwbecause it brings back such awful memories). 

Okay enough of the doom & gloom.

The good news is, this city has overcome a lot and to this day Medellín still has to live with the stigma about being dangerous & unruly which is far from reality. My hope after you read the second half of this post is that you’ll book your ticket here and see what it’s all about.

We chose to live in El Poblado which is a luscious tree lined, hip neighborhood filled with tons of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and bars, located in the hills of Medellín. 

It was PERFECT for our 4 weeks living here.

Day 1 in Poblado and we realized that our 3 phrases we knew in Spanish weren’t going to get us very far so we enrolled in some Spanish classes. Gabriela was our teacher at Toucan Spanish School and she was great. There was not one word spoken in English the entire class, come to find out, at the end of our 10 hours together (2 hr classes for 5 days) we found out she didn’t speak a lick of English. Blew our minds. We thought she was justdaGlzZkvS0aRKpb7yCJzrQ trying to hold us accountable for speaking only Spanish while we were there. Any time I was practicing my verbs and adjectives in Spanish I would tease Andy and insert English words when I was unsure and she would laugh her ass off. She especially enjoyed how Andy doesn’t have the ability to roll his R’s.

So in short, Gabriela and I had a special bond making jokes about Andy, we now know more than 3 phrases in Spanish and can get through an entire dinner at a restaurant not speaking a word of English to our waiter. Success in my book.IMG_3094

Okay now it’s my favorite part of the blog, to tell you the Top 10 Must Do’s in Medellín:

  1. Stay in El Poblado or Laureles (Laureles if you want more of a quieter/residential neighborhood that still has cute cafes and restaurants just not really a party scene that Poblado has)
  2. Do the free walking tour of Medellín with (try and go on a Thursday and get Juan as your guide)
  3. Try buñuelos, arequipe, empanadas and ajiaco soup (our fave!)
  4. Book a day trip to Guatapé and climb El Peñol (679 steps to the top, maybe don’t wear flip flops like I did) make sure to explore the town of Guatapé it is so colorful and pretty!
  5. Get cocktails at the Envy Rooftop of the Charlee Hotel in Parque Lleras (Poblado neighborhood) right before sunset for great views of the city.
  6. Go to Mercado del Río for lunch or dinner. It’s an upscale cafeteria market where they have food from a variety of restaurants and cuisines. Think Chelsea Market in NYC or Time Out Market in Lisbon.
  7. Go see Comuna 13 and either book a graffiti tour or read up on the history before you go and create your own tour. It used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellín and now has the famous escalators you can go up to see the way the people of Comuna 13 live with great views of the city. The graffiti is seriously mind blowing.
  8. Climb to the top of Pueblito Paisa which is an old Antioquian village in the middle of Medellín that also has great views.
  9. El Castillo was a fairytale-like castle in the middle of the Poblado neighborhood. Pack a picnic and go find a spot in the gardens to lounge & eat.
  10. Create your own food and drink tour of El Poblado and go to these places: order the meat & cheese plate at Bonhomia, sit at 37Park with cocktails in hand and munch on the free popcorn, go to Pergamino Café & Café Velvet for the best cappuccinos, get tacos at Criminal Taquería, book a reservation at Carmen (if you didn’t try it in Cartagena), eat at Il Castillo for the best italian in Medellín, try the arequipe crepe at Crepes & Waffles, order the crunchy tuna tartar at Delirio, eggs benedict at Ganso y Castor and make SURE to find yourself dancing one night at Chupitos or another hole in the wall, Christmas-light blinking club in Parque Lleras.IMG_8962

So if Juan were to ask me again what 3 words would I use to describe Colombia, now having lived here for a month, I’d probably say: resilient, welcoming & strong.

The biggest takeaway Juan wanted us to leave with on our tour was to tell people not about the awful times Medellín encountered but how these people overcame the brutality to make this city one of the most lively of all South America. So after 4 weeks, Andy and I will definitely be leaving with a great sense of respect for this country and would encourage everyone to come spend some time here.

Oh and Andy still can’t roll his R’s, in case you were wondering.



Picture Perfect Cartagena

The artist is back!

Today I’m going to be your teacher and the work will be called, ‘Cartagena, the city of vibrant colors’.  Pick up your paintbrush, use my words and channel your inner Botero to paint your masterpiece.

Ready? Let’s go.

The dazzling blue waters of the Caribbean ocean meet the edges of an old historic ancient city wall. It’s golden hour and the hues of light pink, baby blues and canary yellows hit the ocean perfectly making the ripples in the waves glisten so brightly that you can’t take your eyes off of them. You look around and because you’re up aboveIMG_9355 standing along the city walls you see cobble stoned streets lined with palm trees wrapped in twinkle lights. The streets are filled with extremely tenacious salespeople showcasing their bracelets, CD’s, sombreros and mochilas. Music is starting to get louder and louder as the clock keeps ticking and you see a few Colombian locals dancing in the palm frilled plazas with the colorful buildings behind them.

How’s that to get your masterpiece started?

When I lived (still cannot believe that is past-tense) in New York City a fun weekend getaway was always a must from time to time. You’ve got to escape the concrete jungle, especially this time of year, to get your healthy dose of Vitamin D, leave your stressful job and get lost in a brand new world for a few days. Cartagena would be my weekend getaway choice for you Northeast folks. A quick 4 hour-ish flight and you’ve got yourself a perfect little holiday filled with endless ceviche, rooftop sunsets and dancing!

Where to stay?

Andy and I are big proponents on staying in Airbnb apartments as much as we can. Why? You get to feel like a local. It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. You should try IMG_6231 2it if you don’t already. More planning goes into it because you want to make sure you’re staying in the best part of the city that fits your interests but it’s totally worth the extra Google searches.

We opted to stay in the walled city of Old Town Cartagena and I HIGHLY recommend this. You’ll be in the center of it all, steps away from the top restaurants and bars, and the best part is you don’t have to take a taxi anywhere! You can walk everywhere in Old Town and because it’s not that big you can absolutely see it all in your little weekend getaway. Our apartment was in a tall building that was a renovated hotel building, close to Parque Fernandez de Madrid. We were lucky enough to score a high floor apartment with amazing ocean and city views. Hotel Bastion was one street away if hotels are your thing and you don’t want to give Airbnb a shot and I’ve heard great things.

What to do?

Get lost. No I’m not being rude. Really. Get lost.

Our favorite thing to do in Cartagena was step out of our apartment with no wifi on our phones and walk through the streets, up, down, across, all over Old Town with no agenda at all. The doors to the buildings are so intricately designed that it makes you want to go home and rip your front door down and get one of these babies installed.

Walking around Cartagena reminded me of a mix between Marrakech meets Havana meets Old San Juan. For all my travel junkies out there, you’ll know what that means! IMG_6204

ALL OF THE COLORS in Cartagena are unreal. Even if you wake up hungover and miserable you can’t help but be happy when you’re walking down these narrow streets. It’s like a million rainbows fell from the sky and painted the most picture perfect place.

While you’re walking around, snapping photos of these idyllic doors and flowered balconies make sure to grab a fresh arepa from the guys selling on their carts in the street for a tasty afternoon snack. IMG_2036

Find good spots to take in that sparkling sunset. Here are a few for you:

  1. Townhouse Boutique Hotel & Rooftop. Take the elevator to the roof just about an hour before sunset to grab a good table and order the Gin fizz cocktail. This new rooftop only fits about 30-40 people, has great music and a tiny pool that you can stick your feet in as you watch the sun go down.
  2. Top of the Movich Hotel. We decided to skip out on taking a boat to the islands on this time around. We were just in the Maldives & south coast of Sri Lanka so needed a tiny break from the island life. Instead we bought a couple day pool passes at Movich, and it was SO worth it. For $70 each you get access to their rooftop pool and bar from 10AM-7PM and $35 of that money goes towards your food/drinks. It has unbelievable views of Cartagena! A little oasis atop of Old Town.
  3. Cafe Del Mar. This is a VERY popular bar on top of the wall that overlooks the ocean with no obstructions for your sunset view. It’s over-priced and filled with tourists. We opted to sit on the wall next to Cafe Del Mar, could still hear the music and enjoy the sunset from there. A little anti-social of us but hey, I hate sitting next to other Americans when I’m in a foreign country.

Where to eat?

I got a list of recommendations for restaurants from a bunch of friends before I left. A few that I will pass on the recommendation for: Maria, La Cevicheria, Donjuan, Cuba 1940, Juan Del Mar (when you make your reservation make sure they seat you in front of the band) and for a great breakfast go to Mila. You really can’t go wrong in Cartagena for food. Everywhere is great. I’d argue though that my empeñada on the street was the best thing I ate there. So maybe one night skip the restaurant and support the local street food vendors instead. IMG_2179

Two pieces of advice before stepping foot off that plane.

Make sure you have enough space on your phone for all of the photos you will take. I  just looked and I’m embarrassed to say that I took 486 pictures in 4 days. How is that even possible? Most of them are doors, balconies and me in front of them. Andy has really mastered the burst feature on the iPhone, he nails it every time!

Second piece of advice. Brush up on your Spanish. Seriously. Or else you’ll get really good at pointing on your trip. Pointing at your menu and your Google Maps when asking for directions or ordering. Memorize a few key phrases so you can try to speak the same language.

So when you’re sitting at your desk day dreaming about the Caribbean ocean, maybe forego that US virgin island you’ve been to before (no offense USVI) and try the vibrant South American city of Cartagena.

You will be in for a special treat.

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The Best of Sri Lanka: The Ultimate Guide

“I’m going to Sri Lanka, for 3 weeks.”  I remember uttering those words and having people look at me with puzzled faces as to why we’d choose that location over other Southeast Asia hotspots, like Bali or Thailand.

Reactions to our destination of choice included words like: “random”, “why”, and “OoOoh interesting”. Picture the emoji with the hand on chin, eyebrows curled, looking upward in contemplation.

There are certain countries that are new to the tourism thing and when you are traveling in them you can tell that they are on the verge of a tourist eruption. Places like Myanmar, Borneo, Montenegro, that really haven’t been discovered by a ton of tourists, especially Americans, are exploding with people booking trips left and right. If I were a gambling woman, I’d bet all of my Rupees that Sri Lanka, is on the edge of an absolute tourist apocalypse. AKA…book your tickets there….NOW… before it’s filled with selfie stick predators & fanny pack wearers. IMG_8249

In all seriousness, Sri Lanka, “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, should be at the top of your “I gotta see this before I die” list. If you read my last blog post, you already know that your five senses will go bazerk, you’ll see oodles of elephants and meet some of the happiest people on the planet.

What more could you ask for in a country you’ve never seen before?

When it comes down to it, traveling requires a lot of planning and, for many people, can generate feelings of stress, frustration, and overwhelming thoughts.

How can you see everything in an allotted amount of days, save up for it (newsflash: blog post coming SOON about this) and trust that where Google tells you to go (in this case, Sri Lanka) is best for you and your travel desires?

Yeah, it’s stressful, right?!

Well I wanted to outline how I would build out an itinerary for this country, with some advice from our own experiences and funny stories along the way.

IMG_2456 IMG_5325 2IMG_2838Things to do before you leave for Sri Lanka:


-Get your e-visa online within 1 month of departure. For two people, this will cost you $70 and is good for 30 days of travel in the country.

-Buy some good bug-spray. You will need it. There was one point in Ella where I went to bed with Andy, and another little guy…this mosquito bit me, NO JOKE, 7 times throughout the course of the night. After that night I’d rub on my extra powerful deet, as unsafe and gross as that was to sleep in. Worth it.

-Pack your temple gear. Men, your shorts need to go below the knee, so unless you like sag like it’s the 90s, bring some lightweight pants. Girls, no cute tanks or Levi denim shorts for you while seeing those historic temples! Pack a lightweight scarf for the shoulders and a sarong or harem pants. I bought a few sarongs while in Sri Lanka so leave room in your suitcase. Almost opted for a sari (link photo)… so sad I didn’t go through with it.

-Hire a driver or guide to bring you through the country. These are usually set up through travel agencies and some Trip Advisor forums have guides information too. Or ask me for Bakir’s information!

-Go to Currency Exchange beforehand and get some Sri Lankan Rupees so you have them right when you land.


Best Places to See in Sri Lanka:

-Habarana (Sigiriya area): This is where you can do Minneriya National Park and see loads of ellies!! You can also climb up to Pidurangala Rock.

-Kandy: make sure to stay in the hills and take a gander in the Botanical Gardens.

-Take the scenic train down to Ella but make sure to stop in Nuwara Eliya. Side note: on the train, make sure to post up in one of the open doors so you can hang out of it. Unlike America, there are zero rules on this train. Your arms, legs, hands, entire bodies can be leaning a whole 45 degrees outside of the moving train. You just have to make sure to keep an eye out because there are low hanging branches and tunnels that could ruin your trip, catch my drift?IMG_6887

-Nuwara Eliya: this is a must stop. It’s a British built city (also known as Little England) filled with tea country hills that are so green it will be your new favorite color! Make sure to go to World’s End in Horton Plains for sunrise. Skip the Botanical Garden, it’ll take 2 minutes to get through it, save your 100 rupees for the famous Ceylon tea instead.

-Ella: when Andy and I got here we looked at each other and said, so THIS is where all the cute restaurants are! This street reminded me of Seminyak in Bali. Little boutiques, massage whole in the walls and rustic coffee shops. Get lunch on the rooftop at Cafe Chill. This is beanbag, no shoes, type atmosphere.  Grab an iced tea or a refreshing lime soda!!! Make sure to hike up to Little Adam’s Peak.

       – Where to stay in Ella: (queue funny story) Like I said, Andy and I fell in love with Ella at first sight. Maybe it was the tiny taste of America we felt it gave us. Needless to say, we were PISSED when Bakir started driving further and further away from the tiny downtown into the winding hills. As the roads got narrower and the minutes started hitting 10, 20, 30 minutes outside Ella, I had to say something to Bakir and tell him we didn’t want to stay this far away. A combination of language barrier problems and confusion happened, and all we wanted was to turn around and  head back down to Cafe Chill. The Hideaway Ella where we finally arrived, was GORGEOUS. It was a small hotel sitting atop lush rolling hills with a view to die for. We looked at each other after we just asked to cancel our reservation and were both like “oh shit, this is worth the drive”. Next,  the OWNER of the hotel knocks on the door. Her words were, “you do not like my hotel?”. Hearts sank and we decided that the 30 minute drive was worth the luxury and serene escape on the hill. It ended up being our favorite hotel. Whoops!

-Udawalawe: we opted for this National Park versus Yala National Park because ALL of the reviews said how Yala was overrun with way too many jeep tours happening at once that you often had to wait in a long line to see any animal. We felt like we had the whole park to ourselves in Udawalawe, animals were always front in center to our jeep, no lines, no tourists.IMG_9799

-Mirissa: beach town with hippie vibes. This is a must stop. Eat at Little Tuna for some great sushi. Find Secret Beach. You’ll have to walk uphill mostly through a neighborhood and then will stumble upon a small bar perched next to a small cove where you can catch an epic sunset. Do some morning Kundalini yoga with Mirissa Yoga. Climb up to Rock Island around 5PM at Mirissa Beach to get a good seat for sunset.

-Unawatuna: we opted for some luxury here and stayed at Cantaloupe Aqua Hotel. Take a tuk tuk to Dalawella Beach and have them stop at the Dream Cabana so you get pay your 500 rupees for the palm swing that takes you flying over the ocean.

-Galle: day trip from Unawatuna. I was a little underwhelmed but the walled city downtown area was pretty cute. It was about 95 degrees the day we went and at high noon. Not great planning on our part so make sure to go early in the AM or at about 5PM before sunset for some cooler temps.

-Colombo: we spent 1 day here and thought it was plenty. We went to The Gallery Cafe for lunch, chic little spot. Other recommendations that were sent to us by a friend who is Sri Lankan but didn’t get a chance to try were: Botanik, Attic, Sky Lounge at Kingsbury Hotel and Love Bar.

The ‘teardrop of India’ is something truly special that I hope everyone I know gets to experience (before the tourist apocalypse, of course). The language barrier is tough and there are tons of mosquitoes but every awkward, unproductive conversation and itchy bite is totally worth the scratch.


My ‘Someplace Better’

There are a lot of aspects of my life that I am very open about. Hello, I am an over-sharer, remember?

But there’s one huge part of me that I’d say I’m rather private about, or so I’ve been told. Now that I am traveling full time and fulfilling my life’s desire to see the world without constantly checking work emails and to simply be present, I think you should know what made me this way.

Why do I have a burning desire to experience new cultures? Why do I get the most satisfaction checking things off my bucket list? And why do I say YES to everything travel related?

In short, the answer is my Mom.

9 years ago today I lost the person who made me. The person who gave me my auburn hair, my freckles, my height (sorry Dad, it’s true) and the courage that I can be anything I want in this world so I better never hold back.


I’m a true believer that what happens in your childhood shapes the person you are today. Hands down.

Life throws you curve balls and this was ours.

You learn how to get through it, channel your anger and sadness to be strong. You turn that energy into willpower. You don’t just throw your hands up and give up when you get that curve ball, no way.

This isn’t supposed to be sad. I want it to be inspiring; to show you that shitty things happen in your life and how you can turn them (eventually) into a positive outcome and get someplace better.


Switching gears.

I follow a ton of travel bloggers. One in particular has a mantra that you can travel the world on $50 a day. He released a contest and wanted to award 1 person with $18,250 to quit their jobs and go travel for a year.  His ask was to get raw, honest and share WHY traveling makes you tick? I shared my entry with my closest friends and family but decided today that I’m going to share with everyone.

I didn’t win.


And that’s okay because by writing it down it helped me. It confirmed that what Andy and I are doing this year was perfect for us.

Our own little curve ball that we decided to throw into our lives on purpose.

Here’s my contest entry:

Science says that you receive about 50% of your genetic makeup from each of your parents. If there’s such thing as a travel chromosome then I would be absolutely convinced that I was the mailman’s daughter. As a kid, both my parents made it a point to tell me that there is so much out there in the world and you can’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and experience it. My parents had never been out of the country (aside from a few Caribbean islands), and never had the travel bug quite like I do.

For me, my burning desire to see the world and escape the safe nest my parents created occurred 9 years ago. It was my junior year of college and I was about to travel half way around the world to study abroad in Sydney, Australia. My mom helped me plan the entire semester, from travel to housing to convincing my dad this once in a lifetime experience would help shape the woman I’d become in the future. Exactly 7 days before I was about to leave my cushy New England college and plunge into a world outside of everything I knew, my mom suddenly & tragically died.

During that week where I could barely comprehend how my life had just drastically changed I somehow made one of the best decisions of my life, and that was to still go to Australia. Everything I did while I was abroad I did for her. I know it may sound cliché, but I know that since February 2009, I genuinely live everyday like it’s my last.

Post college, I moved to NYC with $800 in my bank account and a chip on my shoulder to conquer one of the most intimidating places in the world. My dad said I was nuts, my friends said I should stay home, but that only motivated me to show them that I could make it.

In the last 7 years I have traveled to countries I never thought I’d see, established a career in technology, and got engaged to my best friend.  The travel gods must have heard my prayers, or maybe it was my mom’s god wink that sent me a man that fully embraces the travel lifestyle and desire to see every inch of this world.

In my book, I’d say I’ve conquered NYC and am ready for the next journey. Together, we would help inspire others to explore the world and, if given the option to take the comfortable route or uncomfortable route, always choose the latter because it can lead to something amazing.

I mean, what could be more uncomfortable than living out of a suitcase during your first year of marriage?!

Genetically speaking, my parents may not have passed down that travel gene, but they instilled characteristics inside me that have led me to travel the world without fear and embrace every opportunity that comes my way.

It wasn’t just this event that helped shape me into the woman I am today. I am surrounded by such powerful women in my life that of course will never replace what my mom was able to give me everyday but they sure have a much bigger impact than they may think.

My little sister Tess, Mary (my dads fiancé), my amazing mother in law, Barb, my Aunt Geri and Aunt Thea – you all have qualities in you that remind me of my mom in someway. Not to mention my amazing cousins, sisters-in-law Sarah & Nisha, new sis Keri and last but certainly not least, my best girlfriends.

You have all helped me in so many ways possible and for that I am forever grateful.

But the biggest mention needs to go to my Dad because he had to become a Dad-Mom to a 17 year old and 20 year old.

What a guy.

He may have got his grays a few years earlier than most dads but he did it, he got us through.

The 3 of us knocked that curve ball out of the god damn park.


Come home? Namaste in Sri Lanka.

I’m not an artist, but let me paint a quick picture for you.

Rolling hills, lush green gardens, grand king coconut palm trees, honking tuk-tuks, flourishing tea plantations, refreshing lagoons, monkeys running on the streets, Indian Ocean breezes, Buddhist prayer songs, elephants feeding in the wild.

Got your visual?

Sri Lanka makes your five senses go absolutely mental. 

You blink and you feel like you’ve missed something.

My tastebuds have never been so challenged by the foods I am trying. My ears are buzzing when I go to sleep from the sounds of the busy cities. I look down at my arms and re-trace the beautiful henna tattoo a nice Muslim lady intricately drew on me. I can still smell the 3 different types of tea that are harvested in that Nuwara Eliya tea factory.

Holy shit. We are only 1 week iIMG_1201-2n to our 3 week Sri Lankan trip. What more is there possibly to discover about this gem of a country?

Yet, when I am walking around these towns or staring out the car window trying not to miss a thing, there is a major common theme I keep noticing here:

These people do not have a lot of possessions and they are happier than ever. They grow most things they eat. They open their homes to strangers. They are so proud to be Sri Lankan.

But most importantly, they are SO happy. So happy to be alive.

Case in point: Meet Bakir, our guide. The jolliest man you ever will meet. I mean, he greeted us with flowered necklaces, took photos of us in the airport with our luggage at 1AM, smiling and giggling even after he had waited in the airport 3 hours more than he had to because of a delay. What a saint. IMG_2414

He is always asking “you are fine?” and teaching us words like “Bohoma Hondai” (meaning: very good) and my personal favorite, blasting the music in the car at 9AM to a fantastic mix of songs that sound like: Feliz Navidad meets Bollywood hits meets Bob Marley. We wave our hands in the air for him and he gets a kick out of it, EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.

Who needs a Starbucks drive thru when Bakir creates one for you? He will be speeding on the road and see a king coconut stand, slam on his breaks, honk his horn and negotiate how many rupees we will pay. The man or woman will break the coconut open with a massive knife and hand it to us through our window with a cute pink straw. No long lines, no annoying speakers or rude service people. Our own personal Sri Lankan drive thru. We’ve tried, corn right off the husk, fresh curd (yogurt), lollys, jackfruit, strawberries, you name it.

I’d argue that everyone coming to Sri Lanka needs a Bakir in their life. He takes us to places that other guides don’t tell you about (we know this because we’ve done the research). He always makes you feel comfortable and safe. And he teaches you about the Sri Lankan culture and history.

One thing Bakir has taught us that has stuck with me since the very beginning is that Sri Lanka is the emblem of HARMONY. There are 4 major religions on the island. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim & Christian. They all live in the same neighborhoods, mixed, happy and cohesive.

Sri Lankans pride themselves on this harmonious lifestyle. It is so damn inspiring.

IMG_2541One of the days, we went to the top of Gampola, a place called Ambuluwawa Tower which is a complex sitting at over 3,500 feet with 360 degree views of Kandy and neighboring towns. The best part about this majestic fortress is there is a gated area where all 4 religious centers are next to one another. You open the gate and there sits a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, a mosque and a church.

Wazir, Bakir’s friend, took us to the Ambuluwawa and was SO excited to show us this part of the grounds. He says that his friends come here to pray and everyone can be in one area together.


Lately I’ve been asked “how exactly did you plan this 3 week trip around Sri Lanka.

Truth be told, the first time I pulled up a map and started to research the best towns to go to and how to get to each one, I was extremely overwhelmed. This island looks small on a map but there are so many places to see that I didn’t want to miss anything. I decided to research and find a travel agent to help me.

Susan, you are a God send.

Susan planned this 22 night/23 day expedition for us and it has been awesome. The best way to see all of Sri Lanka, in my opinion, is to hire a driver because the roads are not the best. There are no major highways and you need to have someone who knows what they are doing (Bakir, you are a WILD driver but hot damn you put those Mumbai bus driving skills to WORK!).

We are taking a train tomorrow to Ella which is dubbed the most scenic train ride in the world. So train is another mode of transportation, cheap & reliable, just a little bit more time consuming. We have first class seats. I am not bragging – they were $10.

“What about recommendations?” you ask.

I’ve compiled my TOP 8 MUST SEES of Sri Lanka so far so if you ever find yourself in this part of the world you know where to go. I will update this on a future post after we finish our trip here!

1) Stay in Habarana: do a village tour, try coconut sambal, do a Jeep Safari to Minneriya National Park to see elephants in their natural habitat.

2) Take in Sigiriya Rock: Take photos of Sigiriya (rock fortress) from afar because it really is breathtaking. But IF you are into the SUPER touristy thing and enjoy waiting in lines to climb, get hit in the head with selfie sticks, then walk up to the top. If this sounds like your nightmare  then you’ll enjoy hiking up to Pidurangala Rock instead – OUR FAVORITE (FYI: pretty off-the-road type of hike, make sure to wear sneakers. You have to scale a few rocks to get up to this viewpoint so be careful, I slipped and skidded down one, yeah-ouch). But this view of Sigiriya is UNREAL.

3) See The World’s End: Take a hike to The World’s End in Horton’s Plains for breathtaking views outside of Nuwara Eliya.

4) Eat like a local: I’d be lying to you if I said I haven’t been having dreams about penne a la vodka from Cafe Buon Gusto or a bagel from Essa Bagel but try really hard to eat the Sri Lankan food, it is yummy.

5) Climb Ambuluwawa Tower: This tower lies just outside of Kandy. Take the tiny staircase all the way to the top and say hi to the Monk waiting up there for you – then just enjoy the views.

6) The Hills of Kandy: Stay in the lush hills of Kandy, which provide a serene escape from the hectic city below.

7) Get a massage: We opted for one at Athreya Hotel & Spa in Habarana (they start with you sitting directly across from your partner, if you opt for a couples massage, and crack oil over your head with their palms and start deeply massaging your scalp, FYI to the ladies, when you flip on your back they massage your boobies, I was a little surprised so thought I’d share the secret with you)

8) Meet the locals: Go to a local’s house to get a true feel for the Sri Lanka lifestyle. If you hire a good guide they will know where to take you.

Sri Lanka has been nothing short of extraordinary. Referring back to #7 (when I was getting my massage) and they were massaging my ear lobes it hit me like a ton of bricks: this is my life. We are doing this.

We are traveling with no obligations other than to see what the world has to offer. And for that, I am so grateful.


Want to see more pics? Check out our new gallery!

Oooh the Maldives. Where to even begin?

I know what you’re thinking.

The Maldives…really?

Arguably one of the most unrivaled luxurious destination hot spots in the world – the Maldives archipelago is, in fact, a dream. But before we get into what these glimmering islands are like to vacation on, let’s start here:

Why was the Maldives stop #1 for the Bests? 


Let me take you back a couple of years ago, when Andy and I were JUST friends. Brace yourself (this is the part where my constant over-sharing comes in and Andy will be cringing). Over coffee, Andy and I were having a chat about our travel plans for that year and my bucket list came up. As he was scrolling through it, we somehow got to the topic of relationships (which we so often did) and Andy asked, “what do you have envisioned for your wedding?”.

I quickly answered, “I’ve never wanted a lavish wedding. I’d love something small and intimate, maybe somewhere crazy like the Maldives.” I literally blurted out the first island I could think of.

It was about a week later when I opened up my Bucket List on my phone, there was now a line that said, ‘Marry Andy in the Maldives’.

I’m pretty sure my stomach dropped to my butt.IMG_0387

Dramatic, as usual, I immediately called him to see why he would write that so sneakily and he just calmly responds with “maybe someday”.

Okay well if that isn’t the quintessential Rom-Com quote then I don’t know what is.

Let’s press the fast forward button for a minute.

Taking you to just a few weeks before we got engaged in July of 2017. We had started talking a little more seriously about our potential 2018 travel plans. Andy made a comment along the lines of, “why don’t we start our trip in the Maldives?”

I thought to myself REAL quick… I KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MALDIVES.

I suppressed the excitement I had inside me and said, “eh, I don’t know maybe somewhere like Thailand first?”. Even though there was no doubt in my mind I wanted the Maldives to be first.

But a girl can’t be that obvious, can she?

OK – now we’ve fast forwarded just a couple more weeks to our engagement in Portugal (which you already know about).  What I didn’t tell you was Andy had printed out 2 fake plane tickets: one that had my name, Samantha Best (which I totally didn’t even notice… whoops!) and one with his. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him… in the Maldives.

I’ll just pause for a moment: AWWWW is right.

Now to December 28, 2018.  We had a small, intimate ceremony with immediate family in Rhode Island (where I’m from) to make it official. It was perfect.

We wanted to get married before we started our year of travel. And you can’t actually get married in the Maldives unless your Maldivian, which neither of us are (minor oversight).

January 20, 2018 we wrote our own vows and got married on a beautiful beach of South Male Atoll.

The ceremony was special for so many reasons. We were able to have a traditional Maldivian ceremony where an accompanying Boduberu Troop & flower girls greet us at our room. The bride (me) steps outside first, and the groom (Andy) steps out second. We were both given tropically decorated flower parasols that were placed around our necks. Next, we were escorted down the long, winding boardwalk with our musicians beating away at their drums all the way to the archway they built for us on the beach.


These drums must have a special hollow core that allows for the sound to permeate across the entirety of the island because it drew about 34 half-naked international beach goers to our ceremony.

So much for romantic and secluded.

The way I’m describing this may have you thinking it was disastrous, but it wasn’t.

It was imperfectly perfect.

And even though we were both somewhat mortified, we came to the Maldives for one reason, and it was to express to one another, through our own vows, how much we mean to each other.

Now, enough of the lovey dovey stuff. Let’s talk about what these dreamy islands have to offer.


First things first, Maldives = luxury = e x p e n s i v e.

If this place is somewhere you want to travel to, which you all should, make sure you know this going into it. We decided to splurge and go for the Sunset Jacuzzi Water Villa where we had not 1 but 2 bathtubs overlooking the crystal blue ocean and our own personal dock to jump into the water whenever we pleased.

Because we got married here I kind of felt like royalty from day 1. Every person that worked here knew who we were from the moment we stepped off the 45 minute speed ferry from the airport. All week they referred to us as ‘306’ (AKA our bungalow number) but then the staff we got to know closely, like Ricky & Jenah, called us Mr. Andy Best and Mrs. Samantha Meg.

We spent most days being lazy, reading in the sun with the occasional swim out to sand bars that formed and trying to not find ourselves swimming with the baby sharks. They’re harmless but, as Andy kept saying “Where there’s baby sharks, there’s mama sharks”.

The resort we stayed at offers an entire sports package with snorkeling, diving, paddle boarding & that jumpsuit contraption where you have a jet pack on and can walk on water. We decided to just sit back, relax, and sometimes pinch ourselves that we were even here.

The Maldives were an absolute gem of a place to start our year of travel. We came, we saw, we conquered. And checking ‘Marry Andy in the Maldives’ is, by far, my most proud accomplishment to date.


And we’re off!

 After months of planning and sharing our plans that we’d be quitting our jobs to travel full time for a year (maybe longer), we are OFF! No more 7am alarms, no more checking our phones constantly for emails, no more free breakfast and lunches at work (okay, that’s kind of sad). We are finally traveling with zero obligations. And it feels good. It feels real good.

Brief history of how the Bests became the Bests. Andy and I met while working at LinkedIn about 3 1/2 years ago. I was in sales, he was in customer success. What does that mean exactly? I sold LinkedIn products and Andy made my clients great at using those products.

We consistently took work trips together over the years, lots of planes, trains & automobiles filled with full fledge belly laughs, a lot of OVER sharing of details about my dating life to Andy, followed by lots of eye rolls and “come AWWWN Sam” by Andy. Nonetheless, we formed a friendship that was like no other. In January of 2017 we had the talk of all talks and decided to start dating. I remember years ago (when we were just friends, don’t forget) Andy made some sort of comment over a beer on the Upper East Side, “Sam, if we ever dated, we’d skip the BS and just jump straight in.” Well he sure wasn’t lying.

In February of 2017 we took our first international trip together to Iceland. Short snippet on why we chose this beautiful country first. Andy and I are big bucket list people. We fullsizeoutput_9d4both have one written down, always have. The satisfaction of crossing things off a list is so gratifying. Andy likes the pen and paper model while I use the Notes section on my iPhone.

Any who, at the top of both of our bucket lists at the time was “see the Northern Lights”. The hopeless romantic that I am (or try to be) decided to trade in some airline miles and surprise Andy for Valentine’s day by spending it in Iceland. I remember about an hour before I told Andy where we were going and my big surprise, I was having lunch with my dad at my favorite childhood restaurant, Town Spa Pizza. If you’re from Rhode Island or Massachusetts and don’t know what Town Spa is, go there immediately.

My dad said, “Sam, why are you acting so weird? You don’t like your pizza?” My response: “No dad, I am about to tell my best friend that I have feelings for him and that I’m surprising him with a trip to Iceland.” My dad’s classic response: “You’ve got to be kidding me, Sam! Who do you think you are?”

Well listen, if anyone knows me they know I am spontaneous, impulsive and LOVE giving people I am close with a good surprise. I wrote in a cute card, “Andy, there is no one I’d rather see the Northern Lights on Valentine’s Day”. (I can see Andy’s face blushing as he reads this post, thinking god dammit Sam why do you have to tell everyone EVERYTHING.)

I think this is an important part of our story. When you travel with someone, you learn SO much about them. And that’s exactly what happened on this 1st trip for the pre-Bests. It solidified that we have similar interests, crave a good adventure and more importantly, we love experiencing all of those things together.

Note: It didn’t all go according to plan. We still haven’t seen the Northern Lights.

IMG_7573Fast forward to July 2017 in the gorgeous Algarve Coast in Portugal. Andy proposed. More on the proposal story later, I promise. The proposal is the reason we are in the Maldives (our 1st stop on our 2018 year of travel). It was a few weeks later when we started to reaaaally get serious about potentially traveling for an entire year. We both set financial goals for ourselves and decided to start talking about it with friends and family, this way we’d be held accountable for actually making it a reality. Our parents were supportive, our friends were excited, and that was that. We were in.

We played a game one night in our tiny studio NYC apartment that helped shape our year ahead. We each wrote down our top 10 places that we’d want to travel to and then compared lists to start building our itinerary. We had 5 places in common. Let me tell ya, it is VERY hard to narrow down places to go when you want to see absolutely every country and every city in the entire world. Andy had to remind me that it’s not like we will never travel again, so narrowing it down will help us start to feel good about our agenda.

Traveling gives me a sense of fulfillment, a purpose and a better sense of the person I want to become. Feeling uncomfortable in places where the culture is SO different than that of the United States makes me feel comfortable in a way that is difficult to describe. Being exposed to new smells, new sceneries, new people is so exciting and I’m sure anyone reading this who enjoys traveling feels the same way.

I’ve been struggling with what voice I want this blog to have. Do I want it to be just suggestions on what to do when you’re traveling to these destinations, or what it’s like to travel out of a suitcase in our first year of marriage, or updating everyone when we cross things off our bucket lists? It’ll be a combination of all of that.

But what I decided is that it will be raw and honest. The way I write is the way I speak. I’m not changing any of that. I am a normal girl that likes to travel with her husband and we decided to save our money, quit our jobs and spend it on what we love to do the most in this world, and that is to see it.