Year Three

WordPress so graciously reminded me yesterday that it was my three-year blog-a-versary, and with as busy as life has been, I welcomed the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the last three years here at Pictures and Plane Tickets. When I hit “publish” on that first day I would have never imagined all that would happen over the next three years, let alone all the fun adventures we’ve experienced, crazy things we’ve done, and the interesting people we’ve met from all over the world. There are a lot of great memories crammed in to those 36 short months.

Enjoying Cocoa Beach before our first cruise

Enjoying Cocoa Beach before our first cruise

I’m actually in slight awe thinking about all that we have accomplished (travel-wise) over the last three years. One of our first adventures documented on the blog was our first cruise to the Bahamas. Since then, we’ve been on three cruises, visited six new states, traveled to twelve different countries, stepped foot on two different continents, explored five out of the six main Hawaiian islands, checked off eight Bucket List items, swam with sharks, jumped out of an airplane, got scuba certified, zig-zagged our way across the U.S., and much more! We’ve ate, drank, laughed, and photographed our way through a good portion of the world, yet at the same time, there are so many more places that we yearn to explore–places like Thailand, Fiji, Mexico, Italy, and Greece.

While we have some exciting and dream-worthy adventures on the horizon I can’t guarantee what the upcoming years will bring; the one thing I do know, is that we will continue to laugh and photograph our way through each and every adventure. And I hope that you’ll continue to join us along the way.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Aloha!

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My Perfect Day on Maui (Part 1)

The excitement is building for our “Maui Christmas” Trip (see what I did there?) ;-) so today I’m sharing my idea of the Perfect Day on Maui. And technically, because Maui is so diverse I’ve decided to include two posts for this topic: part 1 (all about West Maui) and part 2 (South and Central Maui). For the record, it’s Hawaii, and guys I’m pretty sure that ALL days spent in Hawaii are perfect… so let’s just get to the list, shall we?

TheGazebo

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so indulge in a stack of fluffy, flavor-packed, Banana-Macadamia-Nut-Pancakes or a delicious, cheesy, omelette AND enjoy the beautiful view. I don’t know if there is a better way to start your day. The Gazebo opens at 7:30a.m., but you will need to arrive EARLY in order to avoid a long wait.

  • Napili Beach

NapiliBeach2

Since we are in the neighborhood I’m spending a few hours at my favorite west side beach, Napili Beach. One of the best beaches in Maui with its soft sand, protected bay, and palm tree-lined backdrop–not to mention, the views of the offshore island, Molokai, are incredible. Rent a paddleboard at 808 boards or Water Works Sports Maui and get out there and have some fun.

Lahaina Pizza1-1

I know what you’re thinking… in the land of plate lunches, fresh fish, famous kalua pork, and mouth-watering pineapple, why in the hell am I choosing a Pizza place for lunch? Good question. Besides the fresh Chicago-style pizza and amazing ocean views, you simply can’t beat an $8 lunch special which includes a personal pizza, side salad, and a drink. The best part is that my husband and I usually share because there is SO much food; I could be wrong, but I don’t know if you’ll find a cheaper lunch in Lahaina.

Lahaina Pizza-1

Oh and while we’re here, let’s hop across the street and get dessert at Ululani’s Shave Ice, because it’s HAWAII, and one does not NOT get shave ice in Hawaii.

Shave Ice

  • An Afternoon of Whale Watching 

Whale Watching1

Not only do tourists flock to Maui during the winter months, but Maui is also a hot-spot for whales, and during the months of December through April you’ve got to get out on the water and go whale watching. I once read that mornings are the best time to go as the wind and waves pick up in the afternoon, and although I haven’t tested this theory for myself it seems to make sense. So for the purpose of today’s post we are going in the afternoon, but just know that I typically book a morning tour. :) I wasn’t impressed with my Pacific Whale Foundation tour on our last visit, so this time we’ve booked with Trilogy Excursions (full review to come in January).

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

  • Dinner at Leilani’s on the Beach

Leilani's-1 Leilani's Blue Hawaii-1

Is it a bad thing when the waiters/waitresses recognize your party half way into your vacation? My husband and I miiiiiiight go to Leilani’s every night a few times during our trips to Maui. I’m a huge fan of the fresh fish tacos and the happy hour specials, and my sweet husband always saves room for dessert, specifically the Hula Pie–a slice of macadamia nut ice cream, piled high on a cookie crust, and topped with fudge, macadamia nuts, and whipped cream. He even loves me enough to share this dessert with me. That is true love my friends! (PS…if you save your receipt you can get a free Hula Pie on your next visit). All the more reason to go back again, right? :)

Leilani's Hula Pie-1

  • Sunset at Ka’anapali Beach

Ka'anapali Sunset

Right after your delicious dinner at Leilani’s, take a stroll along the beach adjacent to Whaler’s Village. Ka’anapali Beach was voted America’s best beach in 2013 (according to Tripadvisor.com), so on your next visit don’t miss an opportunity to relax on the sand and snuggle up next to your sweetie as you watch the sun dip below the horizon.

Up next: Part 2 (My Perfect Day in South Maui and Central Maui).
What would your perfect day in West Maui consist of?

Posted in Christmas, Food, Hawaii, Maui, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The World Traveler’s Christmas List

Let’s get back to having some fun around here, shall we? Can you believe Christmas is only 22 days away?

You guys, it’s no surprise, but I LOVE Christmas. All of the family parties, the delicious food and amazing drinks, the classic movies (“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”), and cheerful Christmas music. Everyone seems to be in a good mood, so of course it’s hard to deny that feel-good Christmas Spirit.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite gift ideas for the world travelers among us. Some of these are on my personal Christmas list, some are great stocking-stuffers, and some are sure to surprise your sweetie come Christmas morning.

Christmas List Collage

The World Traveler’s Christmas List

  1. Sunglasses
    Tropical destinations are always on my horizon and I like to come prepared with a pair of sunglasses (or two). I’m loving the cute bows on these Chanel glasses and I also have my eye on a pair of Kate Spade’s.
    chanel 5171 sunglasses
  2. Travel Toiletry/Shower Bag 
    When I travel I like to keep all my toiletries in one place. I find it much easier to grab one bag that holds all of my toiletries rather than rummaging through my entire carry-on for that one hair tie.
    Kate Spade Collage
  3. Packing Cubes
    Staying organized while on-the-go can be a challenge, and if you’re an overpacker like I am sometimes the challenge is downright frustrating. Help your beloved traveler keep their bags organized so they can focus on exploring, instead of worrying about cramming everything into their carry-on.
    Packing Cubes
  4. Luggage
    Because let’s face it, luggage gets beat up, torn, and broken after so much use over the years. I’m loving this teal Osprey backpack–I might need to order it before our trip to Thailand next summer!
    PicMonkey Collage
  5. Canon PowerShot Underwater Housing
    After completing my SSI Open Water certification my thoughts turned to all of the amazing photos I could capture in my new underwater world. This gift idea is definitely a splurge, so maybe next year I’ll work on making sure my name shows up on Santa’s “Nice” list! ;-)
    CanonUnderwaterHousing
  6. Lonely Planet Travel Guides
    When it comes to Travel Guides I’m a Lonely Planet girl through and through. (Unless we’re researching Hawaii–in that case, please pass me the “Blue Books“) :) Italy, Greece, and Fiji are all on my Christmas List. Which destinations would you include?
    TravelGuides
  7. Travel-sized ANYTHING
    Does your traveler have a stocking hung by the fire? Fill it up with travel sized soaps, shampoos, lotions, and sanitizer. Not only will they breeze through airport security on their next vacation, but the travel-sized bottles look incredibly cute as well (am I right or am I right??)
    bath-and-body-works-lotion
  8. Travel Accessories
    Speaking of stockings, what about including a new passport cover or colorful luggage tag?
    PicMonkey Collage
  9. A Cute Scarf
    Not only is a scarf a great fashion accessory, but it takes up minimal space and is incredibly versatile: they’ll be reaching for this scarf to use as a blanket on that cold flight, or maybe they will roll it up and use it as a pillow in order to get some shut-eye on that next layover.
    Scarf

Sources: 1|2|3|4a|4b|5|6|7|8a|8b|9|

What did I miss? I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

**Disclaimer: I am not associated with any of the above products nor I am receiving any compensation by mentioning them on my blog, Pictures and Plane Tickets. These are products that I either own or want to own.** Merry Christmas and Happy Shopping!
Posted in Budgeting, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Thankful

Last Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Being around my family for four days was incredible. We talked, played games, watched football, went shopping, indulged in delicious food, had many laughs, and just enjoyed each other’s company. We all live pretty far from one another so being able to spend quality time with those who matter most to me was simply perfect.

Temple Square1

I wish I could see this sweet one every single day!

Throughout the weekend I was reminded of how many kind and considerate people there are in this world. When I hit “publish” on my last post I have to admit that I was a little nervous; I felt like I put my heart and soul out there and shared some very personal information with all of you. I never thought I would get such a heart-warming response. The thoughtful messages and uplifting emails that poured in were remarkable. I want to express how thankful I am to have so many compassionate people on my side–people, many of whom I have never met in person, reached out to express concern, offer encouragement, and took the time to say a prayer. I just want to say Thank You. Thank you for your kind words, your support, and for taking time out of your day to lift me up when I was down. TempleSquare-1 I am overjoyed to report that I received wonderful news this afternoon–the biopsy results confirmed that the tumor is benign. It was the news we had been praying for, and thankfully our prayers were answered. I will have surgery to remove the tumor and meet with the surgeon later this week. Thanksgiving is a day dedicated to giving thanks, and as I reflect on the rollercoaster ride that was these last four weeks I am so thankful for my health and for all of the amazing people who have helped me through this rough patch.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

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Quiet

It’s been quiet around the blog for a few weeks, and truth be told, it’s been quiet around my house as well. I’ve had some blog posts prepared, but it just didn’t feel right to share them during this time of uncertainty. I couldn’t bring myself to pretend that everything was okay when it wasn’t.

While things have been quiet in the literal sense, my mind has been the complete opposite. Constantly thinking, worrying, and stressing, all while trying to tell myself to stay positive, to be calm, to stop worrying…that everything is going to be okay.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office two weeks ago the only thing I kept thinking to myself was, “I’m 28. I’m only 28.” I tried to think positive and tell myself that it was “no big deal,” however, I was completely blindsided by the news my doctor shared. My thoughts turned to my sweet husband and all of our adventures, as well as the many adventures that are planned over the next few years–I didn’t have time for this news. And my heart broke when I thought about my family and how I would tell them what was going on–I knew that was going to be the hardest part.

After the appointment I called my mom and tried not to cry, but as I told her the situation and mumbled the words, “Mom, I’m really scared…”, I broke down. I’ve admitted on the blog before that I feel like I have too many places to explore and not near enough time, and now that fact was more real than ever.

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Between the appointments and the stress over the last two weeks I’ve had time to reflect. To think about life and how precious it really is. I’ve had time to think about my family and friends, and about my sweet husband and how supportive and loving he is, even in times when I probably don’t deserve it. I’ve thought about how many amazing adventures I’ve had over my short–yes, short–little life, and how grateful I feel for all of those opportunities.

I worried about telling too many people the details of my situation as I didn’t want them to stress, and I didn’t want people to think I was feeling sorry for myself. Even on my worst days, I know that others have it much worse than I do, but that didn’t stop me from feeling scared and anxious. I couldn’t help but think that people my age should be going in for an ultrasound to celebrate life and a pregnancy, not to diagnose a tumor.

As an adrenaline junkie, I’m always searching for the next thrill; but this news rocked me to my core, and for once in my life I was truly terrified.

I try to keep this blog a happy, positive space, spreading my love of travel with like-minded travelers, but today I’m sharing a part of this personal journey because life isn’t always beaches and endless adventures. Life is incredibly precious and circumstances can change quickly.

I’m hoping that by the time our Christmas trip to Maui rolls around, the hardest and scariest parts will be behind us. Based on my appointment this morning, it sounds possible. I’m looking forward to heading back to my favorite place in the world with my favorite person in the world to celebrate a clean bill of health, and most importantly to celebrate a new-found appreciation for life and the amazing adventures that follow.

Life has taken on a whole new meaning…Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

Kalalau Trail-1 Quote

Posted in Hawaii, Inspiration, Maui, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

A Bucket List Anniversary

If you would have stopped by during these last two weeks you would have found me in front of my computer consumed by research–I spent my free time pouring over reviews, reading tourism websites, haphazardly scratching down random itineraries, and adding items of interest to my never-ending travel list. I ate, slept, dreamed, and thought about all things Italian, Greek, and Thai.

Trip Collage

Somewhere within the chaos of essentially planning three different trips at once my OCD kicked in, and I created a spreadsheet to organize my thoughts, track costs, and plan budgets–nerd alert! Seriously though, that spreadsheet was something fierce. ;-) And after calculating an estimated cost for each trip, Cody and I spent the majority of our nights discussing each destination and then essentially talking ourselves in circles for the next three hours… :) (Okay, to be honest, there are nights when we spend 30 minutes talking about what we want for dinner because neither of us can decide what to make–so you can’t be too shocked with our indecision about where we want to spend two weeks next summer. Right? Riiiiiiiight?)

Every night we would come to the same conclusion–they are all equally AMAZING! We couldn’t make a wrong choice, which really just made our decision even more complicated. This same conversation continued in happy circles until on a whim we pulled up Google Street View.

But wait, you mean you haven’t planned a vacation by taking an impromptu virtual-road-trip halfway around the world? That’s a completely acceptable way to decide on your vacation, no?

Well it worked for us, because within five minutes of “virtual road-tripping” we knew exactly which destination was right for us this time around.

Koh Tao!

Koh Tao!

Source

We’re headed to THAILAND!

With its clear, turquoise water, diversity of sea life, and incredibly cheap dives (I’m talking around $30USD per dive, folks!) the tiny island of Koh Tao is known to divers throughout the world. And not only is it a hot spot for divers, it’s also a hot spot to see (and dive with) whale sharks. Hello bucket list dive!

whale shark

We’ll be doing some island hopping and spending some time in Bangkok and the surrounding area as well. So here’s to our first experience in Southeast Asia (another new continent for us!), an amazing fourth anniversary trip, and hopefully checking off a few more bucket list items!

Have you been to Southeast Asia? Leave your suggestions of places to go and things to do in the comments below. :)

**I also want to take a moment and say THANK YOU to all of those who commented on my original post. Your advice about each destination was a big help in our decision-making process. Your words also pushed Italy and Greece up near the top of our travel list, so expect to see posts about these two countries in the near future. Thank you all!!**
Posted in Asia, Budgeting, Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Lava Trees

Located on the eastern side of the Big Island, just southeast of Pahoa town, is a state park known as the Lava Tree State Monument; and after a long day of road-tripping in your rental car this 17-acre park is the perfect opportunity to get out and stretch your legs. The trail is less than a mile long and there is no fee to enter, so bring your camera and a picnic, and enjoy a walk through this unique forest.

Lava Trees2-1

Lava Trees1-1

Lava Trees-1

Stay on the Trail my friends!

As you walk along the path you may notice that these trees do not look like typical Ohia trees with deep green leaves and bright red flowers, instead they look like giant rock statues–which is exactly what they are. After reading the signs within the park I learned that over 200 years ago a lava flow covered the area in scalding hot liquid fire, and the Ohia trees slowly burned as they were coated in lava. Once the lava cooled all that was left were these unique molds frozen in time within the jungle.

Lava Tree Collage

Lava Trees3-1

So many faces looking back at me in this park...

So many faces looking back at me in this park…

No matter your location on this side of the island, you can’t help but think about Goddess Pele and her explosive power (especially when you are essentially playing on the slopes of the Kilauea volcano). And as the lava creeps towards Pahoa town I can’t help but think about all of the residents affected by this most recent flow. I guess when you live near an active Volcano you have to mentally prepare yourself for this type of disaster, but I’m hoping that Goddess Pele will somehow change course.

Sending my ALOHA!

Posted in Big Island, Hawaii, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments