How to Navigate Iceland in 4 Days

August 9th – 13th, 2019

I went to Iceland in the summer of 2019. I was studying abroad in London at the time and decided that I would fly to Iceland as a quick stop on my way back to New York. My mom flew from New York to meet me so that we could travel together since I had been without her in Europe the whole summer. It had been my dream to go for a while I had seen so many beautiful pictures of the country and had serious FOMO when it came to going to the Blue Lagoon. It was one of my favorites and one of the most beautiful countries that I have been to. It felt like going back in time to before humans seeing all the undisturbed lava fields, mountains and glaciers all around us. It was probably the most untouched country I have ever been to. My mom was afraid we would run out of gas or something would happen the the car and we would be stuck in the middle of miles upon miles of lava fields with no one to help.

Day 1 (Arrival Day)

The first day we flew into Iceland and met at the airport. My mom landed first (coming from New York) so she picked up the rental car and checked out the Reykjavík area while I was flying in from London. We reunited in the parking lot after my two months away from each other and headed to the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon was great especially after a long day of flying. We put on our bathing suits and went out to the lagoon. You have to cover your hair with conditioner before you go in because the water is so harsh it will dry out your hair for days. The tickets include a drink and a face mask so we did the face mask first which was very refreshing and then went to the edge to lounge by a warm spot. We each got a glass of wine after our masks had washed off we enjoyed the warm water as we sipped on it listening to all the different languages being spoken around us. After we had finished our wine we were pretty wrinkly and prepared to get out. We washed off and headed to Reykjavík where we bought a few groceries (some pasta, sauce, peanut butter, jelly and bread) and headed to our airbnb. Our Airbnb was beautiful it was in an apartment building on one of the busy streets with lots of shops and a balcony. We were on the top floor so we had a great view of the small city. We ate dinner early and headed straight to bed since we had to be up early the next day.

View from Airbnb in Reykjavik here is a link to the Airbnb if you are looking to stay in something similar.

Day 2

The second day began early since we had to get to Silfra by 9am. We spent the whole day traveling the Golden Circle which is the most popular route through Iceland. Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park where we experienced our only pre-booked excursion, snorkeling in Silfra between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This was absolutely remarkable, the water was crystal clear and you could even drink it since it came straight from the glaciers in the mountains. To be warned though it was incredibly cold, like can’t feel your face or hands level cold even though we were practically fully covered by dry suits. The whole thing was about an hour long and was an added cost that you should factor in if saving for the trip. It was definitely worth it it was like seeing a completely new world under the water. Full of deep caverns surrounded by rocks and the occasional fish. Before we went I was scared that it was going to be like snorkeling above an abyss like in the movie Piranha but it wasn’t like that at all. It felt more like snorkeling through a cave that was so clear you could count the rocks. We then walked around the park to see the waterfall and the overlook of the tectonic break. The waterfall was beautiful but it didn’t compare to the beauty of Silfra.

The next stop on the Golden Circle was Strokkur Geyser. This is one of the easiest to see and most frequently erupting geysers in the world and it erupts every 5-7 minutes so it is worth a short stop. There are a lot of other geothermal pools and streams to look at in the area so you can take a break and walk around but don’t step off the trail or you could burn your skin off which wouldn’t be a good way to spend your legendary trip in Iceland. While we were there a woman reached over and put her fingers in the water. Luckily it was not one of the thermal pools but our hearts stopped for a minute waiting for her to start screaming in pain.

Our final stop of the day was Gullfoss. This waterfall was explained to us as the Niagra Falls of Iceland. I’ve never been to Niagra falls but I was in awe of the power of this waterfall it’s hard to imagine something that is double or triple this size what it could power. You could only see it from the top cascading over the rocks and sort of disappearing down the cliff. The waterfall was so powerful that the path down to the top was wet and you could feel the mist the closer you got to the falls.

View from the River Hotel

We ended the day by driving to our hotel the River Hotel in Hella. This was by far our favorite hotel that we stayed in in Iceland. It was right on a river where people went salmon fishing from dawn to dusk. The hotel had a restaurant (make reservations early that day if you want to eat there), a bar and a hot tub. The rooms weren’t incredibly lavish but it felt really authentic. We didn’t make reservations early enough for dinner so we ended up eating at a restaurant that was less than 10 minutes away. It was good and had a nice view overlooking a golf course.

Day 3

Day 3 had a lot of driving but the destinations were worth it especially the stop on Day 4 which was our favorite and like something we had never experienced before. The day started early, we drove from Hella along Route One for about half an hour until we reached Seljalandsfoss.

Second Waterfall in the Gorge

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. It is right outside the Golden Circle so you will probably encounter a lot of tourists in that area so getting there early is ideal. Seljalandsfoss is the only waterfall I’ve ever visited that you can walk behind. The path is wet from the water blowing back on it so make sure to wear waterproof clothing or have extra clothes in the car so you don’t get wet. Make sure to wear suitable foot ware as well so you don’t risk slipping since you have to do some climbing up and down hills including scaling a few steep rocks. The main waterfall is really amazing it is really cool to be able to see the falls from the back. If you want to keep the waterfall experience going there’s another waterfall tucked away in an alcove in the rocks that is something not everyone takes the time to see. To see it just follow the path to the left if you are looking at the main waterfall it is less than a 5 minute walk. It involves some balance especially after a lot of rain you have to step on rocks next to the gorge wall in order to get to the falls. The day we were there the river was pretty full and you couldn’t walk to it without getting your feet wet in the freezing cold water. From what I have read you usually can walk there without hopping from rock to rock. Regardless of possibly getting wet it is a really cool waterfall and worth the few extra steps.

Following these two waterfalls we drove to our third waterfall of the day. This waterfall was called Skogafoss, it is about thirty minutes further and it is another main attraction of the Ring Road (Route 1). It is a big waterfall that you can stand at the bottom of and even go swimming in the water at the bottom but brace yourself for the cold. The ground is flat so it is a perfect waterfall to stop and take pictures in front of. After you’ve seen the bottom of the falls you can hike up the stairs to the top of the waterfall and the hiking trail beyond. From up at the top you can see the ocean in the distance and the mountains and glacier in the other direction. After you walk up the stairs there is a platform where you can see over the top of the falls. If you continue up the trail you can see more of the glacier and there are a few other smaller waterfalls that you can look down at along the way. This is a popular hiking destination so you a lot of people camping out preparing to hike to the glacier the following day or setting off on their journey with their big packs and hiking poles.

The next stop is yet another 30 minutes further. This is probably the most photographed location I see of Iceland. I see it on guys Tinder profiles about once a day if that tells you anything. It is also probably the most dangerous location we went to. This location is the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. This is one of the two beaches we stopped at on the south coast. It had large rock structures that stand up in the water and unreal shapes carved out of the cliff face that is closest to the water. It was surprising that these shapes could be made in nature. The cliff face looks like a geometric step like pattern that you can climb up or sit on. This beach is increasingly dangerous if you catch it on a rough day. It is known for having “sneaker waves”, these are waves that come out of nowhere and drag people into the water into the strong current where they inevitably drown. There are signs all over the beach about not getting too close to the water or turning your back to the ocean and news articles posted about the people who have died by doing so. There is about tourist a year that ignore the signs and end up paying with their life. It was honestly a little scary thinking something like that could happen but on the day we went the water was extremely calm so there wasn’t much need to worry. This is the reason we don’t really have any pictures of the beach. So if you decide to visit this beach especially on a rough day please be careful and don’t turn your back to the water.

We took a short break from sight seeing to get lunch in Vik and stop at a popular church at the top of a big hill there. The church has a beautiful view of the cliffs and a far off view of the rock structures at Reynisfjara about 10 minutes away. We got lunch at Halldorskaffi a small pub-like restaurant that is connected to the Vik Information Center. Another thing we learned about Vik during our short time there was that it is one of the best places to see Puffins in southern Iceland. This was something that I wish we had been able to see. The only chances to see them, however, are either at dusk or very early in the morning neither of which we were in Vik for.

After lunch it was time for us to continue our sight seeing. Our next stop was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon an hour along the road from Vik. The canyon is a nice hike there are different places to stop and get close to the canyon from above. You start at ground level and hike up the hill (about 30 minutes) there are about three places to stop and look down at the river and canyon walls. The final look over is a platform that is over part of the canyon. I didn’t stay on the platform very long since heights make me dizzy especially when I feel like I’m looking down at the heights. We took a few pictures on the platform and then started the walk back down the canyon.

We stayed in Hof for the night which was about an hour from the Canyon. Make sure you have plenty of gas since there isn’t much along the road other than lava fields, plateaus, mountains and towards the end a large glacier. It was a beautiful drive with a great view. Hof was the only place possible for us to stay since the very few hotels in the area were either sold out or not finished yet. We ended up staying in a “hotel” that was made up of a bunch of different little houses. The only one that was available when we booked the trip was the largest with probably six different rooms, a kitchen, living room, hot tub and all glass exterior. It was insanely expensive but our only option other than that was a tent so we took it (like I mentioned I was traveling with my mom – she doesn’t do tents).

Day 4

The forth day had our favorite location which was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon was unlike anything I have ever seen before. It was a body of water right under a glacier so chunks of ice would fall off of the glacier and into the water and become icebergs. You could take boat trips on the water or just walk around and enjoy the scenery. There were probably 50 chunks of ice in the water some being so large they made the boats look small and other being small enough that you could pick them up. They all varied in color from white to blue to translucent. As the icebergs sit in the water they break apart so some if you are lucky you can catch them breaking. They break and fall into the water creating the smaller icebergs and then float out to sea. The lagoon ended in a fast moving river that lead to the ocean some of the ice landed on the beach and created sort of a crystal looking shape. Honestly if you go anywhere in Iceland this would be my top recommendation. I have been to plenty of waterfalls, glaciers, canyons and cities in my lifetime but I have never seen this anywhere else in the world and I don’t think I will again.

From the lagoon you are just a five minute walk along the river, under a bridge to Diamond Beach. You can watch the icebergs travel along the river and float out to sea. Some of them wash up onto the beach and create sort of a ice-made diamond look, hence the name Diamond Beach. They catch the light and create a contrast with the black sand beach in a really beautiful way. There are signs along the river talking about the wildlife in the area and what the different colored ice means. On Diamond Beach there are big signs that explain the meaning of the beach and talk about the northern lights which you can see in the area during the winter.

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon

About a ten minute drive down the road is another smaller glacier lagoon called Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This one is less of a tourist spot and is smaller so the ice is concentrated which leads to some great pictures. They also offer boat rides and I believe they offer glacier tours as well so make sure to book these things in advance if you are interested. If you only have time for one I would still pick the larger lagoon and the beach but it was still a great stop.

If you have some extra time in the day consider making a stop at Skaftafell National Park on the way back west. There are a lot of trails at Skaftafell leading up to the glacier, to waterfalls and other beautiful sites. In that area you can also take a helicopter or plane up onto the glacier to walk around or (in the winter) explore some of the ice caves.

*WARNING* The one mistake I made when planning our trip was booking a stay in a Volcano Hotel. This is honestly one of the worst experiences I’ve had with a hotel in all of my traveling. We wanted to book a hotel near Vik to stay in our last night since that was about half of the way between the Glacier Lagoon and Reykjavík. I booked a hotel on one of the travel websites that said it was in Vik but when we arrived back to Vik (around 4pm) we discovered that the hotel was an hour and a half away and was only reachable by 4×4 bus. When we called saying we were unaware of this they said that by the time we arrived all of the buses would have departed and our only option would be a 18km hike. When we said that wouldn’t work they said they would offer us a private ride up to the hotel but it would cost us an extra $400 so we took a hard pass and decided to email the travel site and just find another place for the night. I don’t believe this hotel is even still running (I couldn’t find it on Google when I looked) but the lesson we both took away was to read the fine print when booking a hotel you don’t want to lose money by finding out there is no way to reach the hotel you booked other than a long hike or $400 ride.

Waterfall on the long drive to Hotel Ork

We ended up having to book a hotel from the road while we were driving and picked Hotel Ork which was great for our last night it had just recently been renovated so it was an extremely nice room plus the man who worked at check in was extremely cute. We ended up eating at their restaurant which was equally good we had our last lamb meal nof Iceland and got ready for our flight home the next day.

Day 5 (Departure Day)

Day five was our last partial day in Iceland. We had a couple hours of free time before the flight so we decided to spend the day checking out the shops in Reykjavík. The drive there took us a little less than an hour which was nice since we had done so much extra driving the day before having to go further than we planned to stay in the hotel we ended up staying in. We enjoyed the time we had left in Iceland and then headed to the airport.

Photo while Shopping

If shopping isn’t your thing there are a fair amount of hot springs in the area around Selfoss where Hotel Ork is. This would provide some relaxation especially if you happen to be a nervous flyer. These hot springs are more popular among locals and usually they are a lot cheaper than pools like the Blue Lagoon. Some of them may even be free. If either of those options don’t sound appealing you could also use this time to tour some of the more popular attractions in Reykjavík such as Hallgrímskirkja (a very unique looking church in the center of the city), the statue of Leif Eriksson, the sun voyager (a boat shaped sculpture) or one of the many museums in the area.


Iceland was one of my favorite places I’ve ever traveled to. The people were so nice and it was probably the safest place I had ever been. My mother dropped her wallet while we were at the black sand beach with the structures in the water and we didn’t end up realizing until the next day. We decided to retrace our steps even though we figured it would be near useless but it turns out someone had returned it cash, credit cards and all to the near by restaurant. We were honestly stunned we never expected to find it let alone the money we had left in it. People there watch out for eachother since it the communities are so small and isolated.

The food was also amazing. We ate some of the best lamb and salmon we had ever had. We originally heard that Iceland was unreasonably expensive, being it on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but it ended up being fairly reasonable. We bought bread, peanut butter and jelly and ate that between meals and for breakfast everyday which saved us some money and two nights we had rooms with kitchens in which we were able to make pasta with marinara sauce and share a bottle of wine we also bought in Reykjavík at a small store. I usually do this on most trips since I have a lot of food restrictions but it also saves a lot of money and time being able to make a quick meal on the go with things you have in the car. (See my article about traveling with Dietary Restrictions here If you have read my other pieces you also know that I typically carry cards that state my allergy in a variety of languages. I had my Icelandic card with me and was able to show it to all the servers we had along the way although a few weren’t originally from Iceland so I had to communicate my allergy in English which was our shared language.

We loved Iceland are we’re glad we went. At first we had planned to not rent a car and just spend time around Reykjavík but that would’ve been a huge mistake. If we hadn’t left Reykjavík and the Golden Circle we wouldn’t have seen so many of the amazing waterfalls and the glacier lakes that we ended up being the highlights of our trip. So if you get the chance to go to Iceland make sure you rent a car or choose a tour that takes you outside of the Golden Circle. I promise you won’t regret it.


My Travel Bucketlist

Being motivated to write throughout this pandemic has been a struggle for me since I am not feeling super inspired. I figured I’d try to get the ball rolling again by sharing my growing list of all of the places I want to go in my life. So here is my ever-growing travel bucketlist separated by continent! My list is ever-growing and I would love any suggestions let me know where else I should go in the comments below….

North America

Glacier National Park, Montana
  • 🇺🇸 Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • 🇺🇸 San Francisco, California, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Redwood National Park, California, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Lake Tahoe, California, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Yosemite, California, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Maui, Hawaii, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Seattle, Washington, USA
  • 🇺🇸 New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Austin, Texas, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Zion National Park, Utah, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Badlands, South Dakota, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Glacier Park, Montana, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Grand Teton, Wyoming, USA
  • 🇺🇸 Yellowstone National Park, USA
  • 🇵🇷 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Toronto, Canada
  • 🇨🇦 Toronto, Canada
  • 🇨🇦 Lake Louise, Canada
  • 🇨🇦 Niagara Falls, Canada/ USA
  • 🇬🇱 Greenland
  • 🇨🇺 Havana, Cuba
  • 🇨🇺 Cayo Coco, Cuba
  • 🇲🇽 Tulum, México
  • 🇨🇷 Costa Rica
  • 🇧🇧 Barbados
  • 🇧🇿 Belize
  • 🇰🇾 Cayman Islands
  • 🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands
Costa Rica


Berlin, Germany
  • 🇩🇪 Berlin, Germany
  • 🇧🇪 Bruges, Belgium
  • 🇬🇷 Santorini, Greece
  • 🇬🇷 Athens, Greece
  • 🇬🇷 Mykonos, Greece
  • 🇵🇱 Krakow, Poland
  • 🇵🇱 Warsaw, Poland
  • 🇨🇮 Galway, Ireland
  • 🇮🇪 Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
  • 🇬🇧 Brighton, England
  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Cardiff, Wales
  • 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Isle of Skye, Scotland
  • 🇨🇭 Interlaken, Switzerland
  • 🇨🇭 Zermatt, Switzerland
  • 🇮🇹 Amalfi Coast, Italy
  • 🇮🇹 Sicily, Italy
  • 🇮🇹 Tuscany, Italy
  • 🇮🇹 Capri, Italy
Paris, France
  • 🇫🇷 Paris, France
  • 🇫🇷 Nice, France
  • 🇩🇰 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 🇩🇰 Faroe Islands, Denmark
  • 🇪🇸 Madrid, Spain
  • 🇪🇸 Seville, Spain
  • 🇪🇸 Bilbao, Spain
  • 🇦🇩 Andorra
  • 🇸🇪 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 🇭🇷 Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
  • 🇳🇴 Bergen, Norway
  • 🇱🇺 Luxembourg
  • 🇲🇹 Malta
  • 🇸🇮 Slovenia
  • 🇨🇾 Cyprus
  • 🇱🇻 Riga, Latvia
  • 🇲🇪 Montengeo

South America

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 🇨🇴 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
  • 🇦🇷 Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
  • 🇦🇷 Buenas Aires, Argentina
  • 🇵🇪 Montu Picu, Peru
  • 🇵🇪 Cusco, Peru
  • 🇺🇾 Montevideo, Uruguay
  • 🇻🇪 Angel Falls, Venezuela
  • 🇨🇴 Cartagena, Colombia
  • 🇨🇴 Bogota, Colombia
  • 🇨🇱 Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile


Chefchaouen, Morocco
  • 🇪🇬 Cairo, Egypt
  • 🇪🇬 Alexandria, Egypt
  • 🇲🇦 Marrakesh, Morocco
  • 🇲🇦 Fes, Morocco
  • 🇲🇦 Chefchaouen, Morocco
  • 🇺🇬 Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda
  • 🇰🇪 Kenya
  • 🇹🇿 Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
  • 🇿🇲 🇿🇼 Victoria Falls, Zambia/ Zimbabwe
  • 🇳🇦 Skeleton Coast, Namibia
  • 🇿🇦 Cape Town, South Africa
  • 🇿🇦 Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 🇸🇨 Seychelles
  • 🇲🇺 Mauritius
  • 🇲🇬 Madagascar
  • 🇬🇭 Ghana


Tokyo, Japan
  • 🇯🇵 Tokyo, Japan
  • 🇯🇵 Mount Fuji, Japan
  • 🇭🇰 Hong Kong
  • 🇷🇺 St. Petersburg, Russia
  • 🇹🇼 Taiwan
  • 🇮🇩 Bali, Indonesia
  • 🇮🇳 Delhi, India
  • 🇮🇳 Agra, India
  • 🇹🇭 Bangkok, Thailand
  • 🇹🇭 Phuket, Thailand
  • 🇹🇭 Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
  • 🇸🇬 Singapore
  • 🇰🇷 Seoul, South Korea
  • 🇻🇳 Vietnam
  • 🇵🇭 Philippines
  • 🇲🇻 Maldives
  • 🇰🇭 Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • 🇰🇭 Cambodia
  • 🇳🇵Nepal
  • 🇱🇰 Sri Lanka
  • 🇱🇦 Laos
  • 🇦🇪 Dubai, UAE
  • 🇹🇷 Istanbul, Turkey
  • Jerusalem
  • Tel Aviv
  • Dead Sea
Dead Sea


  • 🇫🇯 Fiji
  • 🇳🇿 Auckland, New Zealand
  • 🇹🇻 Tuvalu
  • 🇵🇫 Bora Bora, French Polynesia
  • 🇦🇺 Brisbane, Australia
  • 🇦🇺 Perth, Australia
Perth, Australia



*Disclaimer* I do not own any of the photos used in this post!

Best Attractions in Sydney, Australia

January 8th – 12th, 2020 | January 22nd – 23rd, 2020

After I graduated college my mom and I went on a big trip. The first place we stopped was Sydney, Australia. The city was really nice though at first glance it didn’t seem like there was much to do. It took a few days to really appreciate the city. By the end of the trip it felt like somewhere I could live it felt similar to London in the summer only much, much warmer.


Walk around the Circular Quay area – We walked around the harbor right by the opera house and the bridge. It was beautiful to see all of the major landmarks in person to get the best picture of the opera house walk around under the bridge and look for the break in the fence and visa versa for a picture of the harbor bridge.

Take a cruise around the harbor – One of our favorite things we did in Sydney was take a cruise around the harbor. It was the best way to see the entire harbor and really learn about the history since driving would have taken multiple days and the harbor is the major center of the city. You can see the beaches, where the navy operates from and some celebrity homes.

Walk around the shops in the rocks – there are a bunch of really nice shops in the rocks area. You can find a lot of items that you can only find in Australia. There are shops there that sell wool and alpaca clothing, opal jewelry and aboriginal art. There was a fun print shop that did pictures of dogs in various outfits and activities. It was called Pop on the Rocks and it was definitely worth a visit they had an Australian bulldog in the shop as well if you’re looking for a little dog time.

Hyde Park and St. Marys Cathedral – We visited St. Mary’s Cathedral for mass the Sunday we were in Sydney. It was a beautiful church with a very European look right next to Hyde Park. After the service we went to Hyde Park and then walked down Market Street which had some beautiful upscale stores and lead up to the Darling Harbour area. If I had more time in Sydney we definitely would have spent time there as well.

The Galleria – if you are looking for high ended shops and have some or a lot of money to spend the Galleria has probably everything you’re looking for from Gucci to Tiffanys. There are also a lot of high end shops near Hyde Park as well (where the space needle is) if that is your thing. A lot of the clothing stores there are in mall like structures or department stores so if you are looking to go shopping consider going to one of the many in Sydney (including the Galleria, Westfield, etc)

Walk from Bondi to Bronte Beach – Out of all of the things that we did in Sydney this was our favorite we loved it so much that we did it twice. We went to Bondi Beach which was crowded understandably since it was summer and warm. We walked to the pool right next to the beach (I am scared of sharks so I didn’t want to swim in the ocean in Sydney) which was beautiful. There is a path next to the pool that leads from Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach along the cliffs over looking the ocean it is a beautiful walk with beautiful ocean crashing on one side and amazing houses on the other. The first beach along the path is a dog beach (my heaven) with dogs running and playing in the ocean while their owners watched or swam. The next beach is Tamarama Beach which has a cafe and bathroom. The final beach on the path is Bronte Beach which is yet another beautiful beach with a park on the non-water side there are also restaurants right by the beach with smoothie bowls and snacks if you get hungry. If you still have energy and want to go for a swim check out the Bronte Baths, swimming pools on the edge of the water like at Bondi Beach.

Where we ate: 

  • Gateway – If you are looking for a quick lunch in Circular Quay check out Gateway it has all types of food and is like a giant food court with much better food. I really liked the Sushi at Hero Sushi. We ended up getting food there three times while we were in Sydney.
  • Nando’s – This is by far my favorite chain that and Pret were my favorite part of living in London and it was a highlight of Sydney as well.
  • The Dining Room – The dining rooms view might be amazing but the food is so so and the vibe is super uppity and judgy. I would recommend going there for a drink and stopping somewhere else for dinner if possible.

Where we stayed:

We spent two periods of time in Sydney while we were on that side of the world and ended up staying in two different hotels while there. The first hotel we stayed in was Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection this was the hotel we liked the best out of the two it was right under the bridge and had a really beautiful view. It was the perfect walking distance from all of the major sites like the bridge and the opera house. The second hotel we stayed at was Rendezvous Hotel Sydney The Rocks we liked this hotel as well since it had a pool and a kitchen in the room but we probably wouldn’t have stayed there a second time since it seemed a little old and had construction right next door that started at 7 am. The location of the second one was also in a really good place however and it was less expensive than the one under the bridge.

Tips for Traveling with Anxiety

Before I start the beautiful pictures you will see in this post were done by my friend Bridget, if you would like to see her other work check out her website

This post is going to be slightly different from the ones I have made in the past. This post isn’t about a specific place; it is more about my experience traveling with an anxiety disorder and how I try to limit what makes me anxious. I will first tell you all about my anxiety and where it stems from, and then I will go into detail about tips I have to make traveling with anxiety a little easier. My anxiety and general mental health issues started my senior year of high school though I didn’t know it at the time. It was routed in multiple life events that all seemed to come together to make the perfect storm of anxiety. I can get more into detail if people are interested in hearing about it, but long story short, I was taking medication my senior year that caused me to get sick every time I ate. That lead to me becoming anxious about being close to a bathroom since if I wasn’t and I got sick, it would cause an inconvenience or could be embarrassing. My anxiety began to grow when I had a few episodes where I almost threw up at a meeting or had to leave because I felt sick, which lead to me becoming scared to leave places I felt comfortable like my house or somewhere I knew I could quickly get to a bathroom. I began getting anxious in the car and on planes. Going on hikes or spending time outdoors when there wasn’t a nearby bathroom became out of the question. I stopped taking trips and doing the things I loved to do. That mixed with the added stress of having eating restrictions led to my first trip to Europe, consisting of me eating only Nature Valley bars and having a panic attack every time we left the hotel.

My mental health issues only escalated freshman year of college, where I would leave my dorm for food and class and nothing else. It wasn’t until I got in a fight with my then-boyfriend that I finally went to therapy for the first time. From there, I began seeing a therapist regularly every week and working on my anxiety. After about nine months of therapy, I decided to add an anti-anxiety medication to my routine. After finding the right one, which took a while, I finally was feeling back to normal again and able to enjoy traveling again.

I still have anxiety if I feel like I won’t have access to a bathroom while traveling, but other than that things, for the most part, have gotten a lot better. I was able to work with my therapist on exit strategies if I did start feeling sick and ways to relax until things went wrong, not jumping to the conclusion that it would for no reason. This year I was able to do a lot of things that I would have never imagined doing before. Things like going on long hikes in New Zealand and Iceland, going on a helicopter ride in Hawaii, going on an 8-hour boat ride in Australia. Activities that two years ago, the thought of alone would have given me a panic attack. These things still make me anxious, it’s not like I am 100% cured, I was just able to come up with ways to work around it so that I could still see and do the things I wanted. Here are some of my tips for how to do that (I understand this might apply to me but if you face anxiety when travel’s involved like I do you should try to mold them to your needs as well):

1. Know where your comfort zone is and slowly work your way outside of it.

Knowing the limits of your comfort zone is essential. You want to make sure that you aren’t going leaps and bounds outside of your comfort zone because, at least for me, that usually leads to a bad experience which makes me less likely to try again at least for the rest of that trip and I am unable to do the things that I want to. For example, when I am traveling, the idea of sitting on a bus for hours is far out of my comfort zone, whereas going on an hour-long hike is a little less so. On a hike, I know I can always turn back, or worse comes to worst, I could duck behind a tree. On a bus with no bathroom, the only option for leaving the bus is disturbing everyone on the bus and possibly making everyone miss their excursion. For me, it is more manageable to go on a hike, so that is what I do. Sometimes that means I miss out on something since I won’t go far out of my comfort zone, but I always reassure myself that maybe if I make it back there again, I will step a little further out of my comfort zone and do what I missed.

There was one time this year I pushed myself too far outside of my comfort zone by going on a helicopter ride when I was in Hawaii. Even though I was happy that I did it once we landed, I was anxious the entire time we were in the air, and I ended up counting down the minutes until I was able to get off the helicopter to calm myself down. Seriously I didn’t take my eyes off the clock it was okay 10 minutes down, 40 minutes to go, now 20 minutes down, etc. It ended up not even being worth it for me. I got some great pictures from the air and saw some things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise but being so panicked for that hour was such a bad experience I didn’t want to do anything else the rest of that trip that was stressful and ended up pushing myself too far.

2. Bend plans when you can to make yourself more comfortable.

When possible bending plans to make yourself more comfortable works wonders and opens you up for being able to move out of your comfort zone for other more important things. I will give a few examples of this. First, if it is something like me and you aren’t coWhen possible, bending plans to make yourself more comfortable works wonders and opens you up for being able to move out of your comfort zone for other more important things. I will give a few examples of this. First, if it is something like me and you aren’t comfortable somewhere like a bus, try to find alternate ways to get there. I usually opt for renting a car instead of taking the train because at least trains have bathrooms and if you rent a car you can pull over. That is important to me, even if it ends up being more money. I would rather pay more money and be comfortable during all of the driving portions of the trip than be always anxious and not willing to do anything else since I am too worn out from all of the energy I wasted being so stressed.

Another way that I bend the plans to make myself more comfortable is by going to restaurants I feel are less likely to make me sick and keep me from being anxious about what I am eating. Since my anxiety largely stems from stomach issues, usually having control over the food that I am eating makes me feel a lot more comfortable. I do this by going to restaurants that have vegan options, staying somewhere with a kitchen so we can cook our food (which is also money efficient), or going to restaurants that I know don’t typically use milk products in their cooking. This makes me feel 100 times more comfortable since I don’t have to worry about if I will get sick after eating or inspecting my food to see if it looks like there could be cream or cheese or butter in it, which adds a whole new level of worrying for me.

3. Coping mechanisms are your best friend for situations you can’t avoid.

Traveling can be anxiety-provoking, and some triggers and situations can be unavoidable, so it is good to have some coping mechanisms in your back pocket to calm you down if you need them. For me, these were important when I first boarded the plane when I was unable to distract myself with a movie or show. I need to figure out something to calm me down or distract myself until I feel more comfortable. Here are some that have worked for me (these can vary based on if you have access to these things or can become focused on something else):

  • Listening to music
  • Deep breathing (I usually go with 5 in – hold for 7 – 5 out)
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Reading a magazine or book
  • Talking to a friend or the person next to you
  • Watching a movie
  • Watching a video
  • Walking around the block (if possible)
  • People watching
  • Just focusing on something other than your anxiety in general something that takes your full concentration – could be as simple as counting the number of cars passing
My favorite song always calms me when I am feeling panicked

4. Have a plan and a routine, so you feel prepared when you feel anxious.

It can help to have a routine for when you start to feel more in control when things feel so It can help to have a routine for when you start to feel more in control when things feel so out of control. For me, when I start feeling anxious, I begin to make myself sick, so there are small things I always do to help. I usually get warm when I am anxious, so I start by trying to cool myself down first by taking off my jacket or rolling up my sleeves, I then put up my hair, and if that doesn’t make me feel better I drink some water. Drinking water always makes me feel better for reasons unknown to me, so I always make sure to have water on hand at all times. Small things like these can make you feel better when things feel like they aren’t in your control.

5. If the people you are traveling with don’t understand they are not your real friends.

This is something that I had to learn the hard way more than once. If mental health or dietary restrictions are something that majorly affects your life and minorly affects their lives, they shouldn’t make you feel bad about that. If there is something they want to do and you decide to do your own thing, it is not okay for them to make you feel like you missed out or make you feel guilty. If they do, they are not your friends or at the least not worth traveling with again. If someone cares about you, they will understand and make sure you feel comfortable even if that means they have to eat vegan food. Last summer, I traveled with a few friends from my study abroad program. I asked to take a ten-minute detour to pick up some food since I was hungry and hadn’t eaten since that morning (I don’t eat food in the airport out of anxiety, I will get sick on the plane). They told me that taking that time would mean they would have to wait too long to go to the bars and we would miss out on drinking time so they said no. I ended up having to wait until we left the bars and until after they got food and ate it in front of me to get something I could eat. At that point I was so hungry I felt like I was going to pass out. That ended up being the first sign that trip that they didn’t have my back (the second being a lot more dangerous) I learned the hard way that them not letting me feel comfortable so they could drink sooner was a sign that they weren’t real friends and if I had known that it could have saved me one of the worst trips of my life (a story I plan to tell later, includes sexual assault).

Traveling is something that can be made a lot more difficult when anxiety is something you struggle with. I am not saying doing these things will make dealing with anxiety any easier, and you should definitely get help if you need it, but as far as traveling goes, these are the things that have made me feel more in control. It is essential to know that mental health is an ongoing process, but it is important to make an effort to do the things you love when you feel up to it. For me the thing I love to do most in the world is travel so it is important that I found a way to still do that while feeling in control.

Disclaimer: I do not in anyway claim to be an expert on this topic it is just something that I have experienced frequently while traveling. If you feel like you need help, please talk to someone about it! Talking to a mental health professional can make worlds of difference, it doesn’t need to be the end of the world to speak to someone whether it is stress at work or needing to talk to your relationship talking to someone can change your life.

If you are in need of immediate help, please look up mental health or suicide hotlines or seek advice in your area from a mental health professional! 

How to Make the Most of 3 Days in Los Angeles

I went to Los Angeles to visit my friend Danielle who goes to University of Southern California. Unfortunately I got tonsillitis for the forth time this year (I’m getting them out Thursday) while I was there so I didn’t get to do much but I figured I’d tell you about what I did do and what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten sick and had gotten more than two days to spend there. 


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I went to Los Angeles to visit my friend Danielle who goes to University of Southern California. Unfortunately I got tonsillitis for the forth time this year (I’m getting them out Thursday) while I was there so I didn’t get to do much but I figured I’d tell you about what I did do and what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten sick and had gotten more than two days to spend there. 


Griffith Observatory is really beautiful. It has a great overview of the city and a lot of really nice hiking trails with more views of the city. It is definitely worth a stop if you are looking for a nice overview in LA. There are things to explore inside as well but it was such a nice day and I didn’t much time so I stuck to the outside. Going is free other than parking which is $10 an hour or they do have free parking at the bottom of the hill by the Greek Theater.

Santa Monica Pier was the first place I went in LA while I was there. I went for about an hour and just walked around the pier and on the beach. It was beautiful but I didn’t feel like it lived up to all of the hype that I have heard. I talked to some locals while I was there and they recommended Venice as well they said there’s more people watching and fun things to see.

View from the Scenic Stop on Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive – I didn’t get to explore as much of Mulholland Drive as I wanted to but I wish I had because what I did see is was amazing. There’s a great view of the city and you can see the Hollywood sign as well. You can drive most of the way from Santa Monica to the Beverly Hills area on this windy scenic road which I would recommend doing if you have the time.

Canyon Lake Drive is the best place I went to see the Hollywood sign and the best picture I got of me with the sign in the background. There’s not a ton to do there other than take pictures with the sign and go to a small park but if you are looking for an iconic LA picture this is the place to be. Put 3000 Canyon Lake Drive into your GPS to get to this location.

Driving around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood – If you love looking at big houses and beautiful stores which I definitely didn’t have the money for then check out Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Honestly this was my favorite day of the trip I loved driving around the beautiful neighborhoods and seeing streets like Rodeo Drive and Sunset Boulevard that I had heard about for so long.


Melrose Avenue – When I thought about what I wanted to do in Los Angeles shopping specifically vintage shopping is something I really wanted to do. I found my favorite place to do so in Fairfax on Melrose Avenue. I went to a thrift shop called Wasteland and Buffalo Exchange (If you haven’t been it’s one of my favorite thrift chains and I have found some really amazing things there).


There were only three bars that I went to in LA since I was sick most of the weekend days I was there. We ended up going to the bar on the roof of my hotel the Broken Shaker which was expensive like most rooftop bars but it had an AMAZING view of downtown so I would recommend stopping by just for the view. It gets crowded around 10:30/11 so try to go before then so you don’t have to wait in line. After that we went to the Golden Gopher which was the bar across the street from the hotel I was staying at. It had really really cheap drinks that definitely did the trick they were 75% vodka and 25% mixer for $7. It was the perfect pregame place since the club we went to after The Reserve had really expensive drinks that weren’t worth the money. We liked the club even though some of the men were a little pushy they ended up eventually taking no for an answer and leaving us alone.

View from the Broken Shaker

Where I stayed

I stayed at the Freehand Los Angeles. It was located downtown in a great location and was by far the nicest hostel I had ever stayed in. I shared a room with three other women and it ended up working out really well. There was a Whole Foods and a CVS a block away so I was able to get lots of food when I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out. The smoothie bowls were great and there was a ton of vegan foods so I had a ton of options.


Most of what I ate came from Whole Foods but I did go out to eat three times while I was in LA. I got Ramen noodles at the USC Village which weren’t great but was a great area to hang out. We also got Mexican food at Tocaya Organica which was really easy since all of the meals started off vegan and then you could add meat and cheese so I knew I could trust that the food was safe. The last meal I had was at California Chicken Cafe it was okay but I wouldn’t go back there if I visited LA again. I was expecting it to be like Nandos and it ended up being far from it. As far as dietary restrictions LA was one of the best places I’ve been as far with dealing with it and having a ton of options. They aren’t quite where Europe is with listing the possible allergens in food but people were really attentive when I told them I had an allergy and I didn’t get sick at all while I was there.

What I would’ve done:

  • Venice Beach and canals
  • Disneyland and Harry Potter World
  • Laguna Beach
  • West Coast Highway 


Transportation in LA is really hard. I ended up renting a car which costed a fortune and I didn’t feel well enough to use it most of the week. The days I did use it, however, it was 100% worth it! If I had taken Lyfts everywhere or the train I would’ve wasted a lot of time and wouldn’t gotten to see half of what I did see. So my recommendation would be to bite the bullet and rent a car and if you can wait until you’re 25+ to go to the city so that you don’t have to pay astronomical young driver fees (I ended up paying an extra $50 a day).

COVID-19 Disclaimer:

I did this traveling in late February/ early March before COVID-19 became a big threat in the United States. I did my best to distance myself while I was sick even though I wasn’t contagious my immune system was still low and I didn’t want to risk getting COVID-19 and spreading it to people who are more at risk than I am. Please don’t travel now unless it is absolutely necessary. Stay inside and distance yourself as much as possible only go out if absolute necessary (for work or groceries or medication). Please stay healthy and safe and keep in mind that health is a gift and that other people don’t have that basic luxury that others do so please be considerate of that!

COVID- 19 Update

As someone in the travel community I understand how hard it is not traveling now and having to cancel plans but it is so necessary to do so. We have to have to as a community think about more than just ourselves and the minor inconvenience we feel not being able to travel or do things like go out to bars and restaurants. We need to consider people that don’t have the luxury of being healthy or having a strong immune system and we need to social distance as much as possible not just for our health but for theirs. We need to put aside our wants and focus on others needs and come together as a community to make sure everyone is taken care of.

Take this time to spend some quality time with your loved ones and as a reminder of how many amazing memories you’ve had in the past year! Here are a few pictures of my family as inspiration!

Please be safe and stay healthy both physically and mentally in this difficult time and the difficult times to come! I will be posting about past trips during this time starting with Los Angeles tomorrow until I have the ability to safely go on future trips so stay tuned!

Top Places to go in Barcelona from a Girl Who Lived There

Barcelona is my favorite city in the world and feels unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The architecture and general spirit of the city is unlike any other city I have ever been. I studied international business at Universitat de Autonoma de Barcelona and live in Barcelona for two months. I loved just walking around the city, even the walk to class was amazing. During my breaks from class I would just walk everyday in a different direction to see a new part of the city. 

Highlights of the city:

Arc de Triomf, Barcelona, Spain

Arc de Triomf – the Arc de Triomf is a beautiful landscape that is a must see in Barcelona. It is in an exciting area of the city right on the Passieg de Sant Joan, which is the street I lived on when I lived there. It is right on the edge of the Gothic Quarters (which I will get to next) and just a few blocks from the beach. If you continue to walk down the street you’ll run into the Parc de la Ciutdella a beautiful park with a huge golden fountain. It is a great place to picnic or read a book in the afternoon.

Gothic Quarters (went on a tour in 2015) – You can get lost in the Gothic Quarters for hours, whether you mean to or not. It is this amazing maze of quiet streets right in the heart of Barcelona. It is worth spending time there if you have an afternoon. It is full of small bars, restaurants and shops and has a true authentic Spanish feel. It is bordered by Las Ramblas on one side and Barcelonetta on the other which are also great places to visit if you have time.

Park Guell – Park Guell is the first of the Gaudi attractions. All of the Gaudi buildings/ attractions are worth a visit but my three favorites are Park Guell, Segrada Familia and the skeleton building. Park Guell is unique because it gives you a full view of the city. The park is amazing with beautiful mosaics all over from the main buildings to the steps. If you were a fan of the Cheetah Girl movies growing up the steps are featured in one of the songs. I would recommend hiking up the hill for the full panorama view in my opinion that is the best view of the city and the best picture as well. You can see the whole city, we could even point out our apartment from up there.

Barcelonetta – If you want to go to the beach in Barcelona you should start off in Barcelonetta. This area is one of the more popular areas down by the water with lots of shops and restaurants. I would recommend starting your beach journey here and traveling down the beach to look for a place to sit and enjoy the ocean views or even the ocean itself.

Segrada Familia – This is without a doubt the most beautiful church, or better yet building I have ever been to and most people who have been there would probably back me up on that. It is amazing from the outside and it makes you think how could this get any better and then you walk inside and it does. Everything with the church has a meaning from the doors to the facade to the stained glass so it is worth it to go on a tour and hear it all explained. If you don’t go to any other buildings in Barcelona make sure to go to this one.


Passeig de Gracia is like the Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue of Barcelona it hosts the high end stores as well as the more affordable stores so it has a little something for everyone. Plus there are two Gaudi buildings on the street so even if you aren’t interested in shopping you should still walk up the street just to see the architecture.

Las Ramblas has some great smaller stores and is an amazing place to check out while in Barcelona. Its also just a great place to walk around and explore. There are a bunch of street vendors selling their merchandise and it’s a great place to get a real looking Barcelona jersey if you can’t afford an official one (make sure to haggle if you do because you can usually talk them down a fair amount).


Surf House (American/ vegan cuisine) – most of the time I lived in Barcelona I ate at home since I have a lot of dietary restrictions. (I have a full post on this if you are interested in reading here is the link: The only place I went outside of my apartment to eat was Surf House their food is what I would call healthy fusion there are burgers, nachos, smoothie bowls, burritos and poke bowls. They have some vegan food which is nice for me since I know it is safe but in general their food never disappoints and it isn’t super expensive either. They also have pretty good drinks if you are looking for a mojito or pitcher of sangria.


Sunrise at the Marina Near the Clubs

Clubs on the Beach – If you are looking for clubs in Barcelona you can’t go wrong with the clubs on the beach. They are a lot of fun and you can meet some really interesting people there. I would recommend Opium over the rest. It has always been my favorite of the ones I’ve been to. Shoko is okay too but is incredibly crowded so if it’s a weekend or you don’t like people on top of you all the time it might be best to avoid it. None of these bars are a real representation of Spanish culture but they are still fun. If you stay until the

Las Ramblas – If you are looking for a bar that has more of a Spanish feel check out the bars in Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarters. My favorite bar in Barcelona is La Oveja Negra (The Black Sheep) it has almost a cave/underground feel where you can just sit at long tables and hang out with your friends or make some new ones. It also has 13 Euro 2-Liter pitchers of sangria that will definitely hit the spot.

The W – If you are looking for an upscale bar with a great overview of the city check out the W but be warned the drinks are really expensive so if you’re on a budget maybe just go for the views.

Other bars to check out – The Mint, Dow Jones, Razzmatazz, Apolo


St. Christophers Inn

Other hostels to look into in Barcelona: Hostel One 

Other attractions worth visiting:

Camp Nou in Summer 2018

Camp Nou (if you are a football/ Barcelona fan), Parc Citadelle (walk to the golden fountain then possibly walk from there to the beach), all of the Gaudi buildings, the Bunkers (you can bring wine up and watch the sunset but it is a hike – I recommend the park above Parc Guell since there are escalators to take you most of the way up the hill and there is a bathroom near by).

Things to be careful of:

PICK POCKETS – the city is full of them. They will rob you if you are not being careful. It is nothing to be afraid of they are in most major European cities (such as: Rome, London, etc) but they are a lot worse there. It is important to be careful with your belongings do not carry a backpack on one shoulder or a bag that does not zip. Do not hold valuables openly in your hands (wallet, cellphone, passport, etc).  If you are carrying a purse make sure to put it across your body instead of on one shoulder and you should be fine. 

Be careful of your drinks in bars and clubs as well you should do this everywhere but I was drugged in Barcelona and know others who were as well. Always keep your hand over the top of your drink, don’t set it down anywhere and never take a drink from a stranger no matter what. 

Next: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Top Things to do in Knoxville from a UT Student

I spent four and a half years at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee and I learned a lot in and out of the classroom. I will share my favorite places in Knoxville and my recommendations for things to do in the area. Knoxville and East Tennessee are very underrated and don’t get a ton of tourists so you can get the chance to explore the area without being crowded with huge crowds like you would in Nashville.

The University of Tennessee

You can’t visit Knoxville without stopping by the University of Tennessee. From game days to just exploring the campus it is worth stopping by some of the more iconic landmarks of the university.

The Rock – seeing the rock is worth a stop. This is a rock right near the Haslam College of Music on which people write all sorts of messages. People paint it to raise awareness of things, spread the word about their organization, and celebrate game days and other events on the campus. It is even rumored that there have been a few proposals painted on the rock though I have never seen one for myself.

Neyland Stadium or Thompson Boling Arena – You can’t come to Knoxville without taking in a game at either Neyland Stadium (football) or Thompson Boling Arena (basketball). Neyland Stadium is one of the largest college football stadiums in the country. It holds more than 100,000 screaming Vol fans (and a few for the other team as well), and it is unlike any other stadium when the team is winning. The crowd can even be heard from across the river with fireworks and cannons going off with every touchdown. Make sure to go early for some tailgating and partake in the vol walk, wishing the players luck as they walk down to the stadium; you can sometimes even catch a glimpse of Peyton Manning if you’re lucky.

Campus during a solar eclipse – Ayres in the background

Ayres Hall – If you are going to see a postcard of the University of Tennessee, it would probably be of Ayres Hall. It is one of the most iconic buildings on campus and one of the most beautiful I might add. It is worth a trip up the hill after a walk down pedestrian walkway to see the famous building and get a beautiful view of the surrounding area. Plus, the stairs are quite a workout!


Fort Dickerson Quarry

Fort Dickerson + Ijams Quarry – always a great place to go in the summer or fall when it’s still hot. They each have their perks. Fort Dickerson is bigger and definitely where to go if you want to do a little cliff jumping or rock climbing but it can be a bit hick filled since its more of a local place. Ijams Quarry is my favorite of the two. It’s really easy to get to you can drive right up, there are bathrooms and equipment for rent. This gives you the ability to paddleboard or kayak. Usually, my friends and I would rent a paddleboard, which was about $12 for an hour, and we would paddle around but mostly sit and talk and swim when we wanted to. Going to the quarry was a great thing to do on Sundays when it was warm and helped with getting over the Sunday scaries.

Cabin in Pigeon Forge

The Smoky Mountains – The Smoky Mountains are an excellent perk of being in Knoxville. It’s great to have a place only 40 minutes away to hike and get a taste of nature. If hiking isn’t your style, try out Cades Cove, which is an 11-mile drive through the mountains with beautiful views and historical building sites. There are also hiking options along the way if you want to get out and stretch your legs or do a little more. Here’s a link to another blog that details more hikes in the Smoky’s

Ijams Nature Center – Another great way to spend an afternoon is at Ijams Nature Center. Outside of the quarry there are tons of paths and a lake you can walk around. There’s even a path that goes down by the river where you can glimpse the occasional paddleboard or kayaker.

The Bluffs – This is a little place that only people from Knoxville know of. It’s in an area up above UT hospital where you can hike to a cliff’s edge. It has a beautiful view of the river, city, and university. Going there at sunset gives a great view and is worth the short hike! You can find the location on Google Maps, and there is a small dirt lot to park in. Make sure to bring a flashlight if you do go near sunset as it can be dark in the woods.

Path Along the River

Worlds Fair Park – Another significant monument in Knoxville, as you can probably tell from most photos, is the sun sphere. This golden globe was built for the world’s fair many years ago, and Worlds Fair Park is a great place to see it. On top of large fields in the park, there is a playground, event halls, a museum, and a large reflecting pool. If you want a great view of Knoxville, you can take the elevator up to the top for free. From the top, you can see a magnificent Knoxville skyline. This is another great place to go at sunset.


Upstairs at Downtown Grill and Brewery

Near Campus – Other than on campus dining (Qdoba, Chick-fil-a, Subway, Salad Works, etc) there aren’t a ton of dining options around campus. There are three sit down restaurants of note like options that are not typical chains and those are Copper Cellar, Sunspot and Fieldhouse Social. There are also your typical chains like Panera, Zaxby’s, McDonalds, Moes, Cookout, etc.

Downtown & More – There are a lot of great restaurants in the Knoxville area. If you are looking for something casual with cheap drink, Downtown Grill and Brewery and Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern are great. Most of the restaurants in Market Square are great as well, Tomato Head being my favorite (I get the bacon salad with tofu instead of bacon, and it’s incredible). If you are looking for a fancier place to eat Emilia’s in Market Square is fantastic and has vegan and vegetarian options that aren’t on the menu. Another excellent place is Lakeside Tavern is about 20 minutes outside of downtown, but it is worth the drive. It is on a beautiful lake, and the food is delicious, they also have outdoor seating in the warmer months. If you are looking for something to do on Sundays, most people go to brunch; my personal favorite is Balter Beerworks, which has great mimosas and reasonably priced meals with a buffet.

Market Square – If you don’t go to Market Square while you are in Knoxville, you are truly missing out on one of the best areas in the city. There is a reason why they film there every time the Bachelor is in town for home-town dates. It is beautiful with tons of fantastic restaurants and a few shops. My favorites are Emilia’s, Tomato Head, Soccer Taco, and Tupelo Honey.


When it comes to bars in Knoxville it really depends on what you are looking for. It has all types of vibes from college bars to young professional bars to bars that your parents would love.

The Strip – If you want something with a college feel the bars on the strip (near campus) are a must. Cool Beans and Hannas are fairly strict with IDs so you don’t need to worry about 18-year-olds all over the place. Cool Beans is relaxed with cheap drinks and a bar game like beer pong and pool. Hannas is a relaxed bar downstairs and on the patio with more of a club vibe upstairs. If you are looking for an all-ages crowd, with proper ID (wink-wink), you can check out Uptown and Literboard on the strip. Literboard is like Hannas a more relaxed bar on downstairs and a club-esque dance-floor upstairs. Uptown is all dancing with live bands playing there every once in a while. Other bars around the strip of note are Half Barrel, Tapp’d, The Hill, and Fort Sanders Yacht Club.

The Old City – If you are looking for a more young professionals vibe going to the Old City is the move. Men have to pay to get in but they are worth it. Start the night at Pour and then as you get drunker move to Southbound or Hannas for some dancing. Barleys, Pretentious Beer Co. and Jig and Reel are also a ton of fun if you’re looking for a more low key night. If you are looking for something that is more country check out Wagon Wheel.

Cotton Eyed Joes – about half an hour out of downtown you will find Cotton Eyed Joes. When you think of Tennessee hoe down this is what you think of it is the iconic country bar in the area. They have different events different days of the week from Ladies Night to College Night to Karaoke but their main highlight is traditional country line dancing. Sundays are my favorite days to go. These are college nights. They have free pitchers of beer from 6pm until around 9pm and they give free line dancing lessons so you’re all prepared to do your best Footloose and Copperhead Road line dances.

Other attractions in the area:

Photo with Smoky at a UTK Baseball Game

The Old City (Bars and Restaurants)

Gay Street (Restaurants and Tennessee Sign)

Path Next to the River (Calhoun’s)

Tennessee Theater

Gatlinburg + Pigeon Forge


Ole Smoky Moonshine

Next: Barcelona, Spain

How to see New Zealand in Under 10 days (South Island)

So far this year my biggest trip has been to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. My mom and I visited all three in January of 2020 to celebrate me graduating from the University of Tennessee in December. Blog posts on Australia and Hawaii will come in the next few weeks for today I wanted to focus on the amazing week we spent on the southern island of New Zealand. I will focus on what we did and what I would do if I went back or had stayed for longer. While we were in New Zealand we followed the route of the Kiwi Experience hop-on, hop-off bus but we rented a car and did it on our own instead of with a group. I would recommend if you are looking for a cheaper option looking into Kiwi Experience their trips are great and allow you to see a fair amount of the island in a short amount of time without having the added worry of driving on the other side of the road.

Our Itinerary:

  • Day 1: Land in Christchurch
  • Day 2: Take the train from Christchurch to Greymouth, rented a car and drove to Franz Josef
  • Day 3: Drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka
  • Day 4: Spend the morning in Wanaka and then drive to Queenstown
  • Day 5: Take a day trip to Milford Sound
  • Day 6: Spend the day exploring Queenstown
  • Day 7: Drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo
  • Day 8: Drive from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch, return the car and fly out

Christchurch, Greymouth and Franz Josef

Alpine Train – The first full day we were in New Zealand we took the Alpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth to cross over the island and get a real view of the New Zealand Alps. The train only runs in their summer months so if you are going in the winter this will not be assessable to you. The train is beautiful and gives you a great view without having to worry about keeping your eyes on the road. There is a stop in Arthur’s Pass which a lot of people got off at so if you are interested in going to Arthur’s Pass (which we would do if we went again) I would recommend taking the train there. The train arrived in Greymouth on the west coast at around 1 or 2 pm which gave us the rest of the day to play with.

Greymouth – Greymouth is one of the larger towns on the west coast of the south island. There are fast food shops, restaurants, and shops if you want to explore the town. You can also travel north to see some beaches with big stone structures and an attraction called the Pancake Rocks which I would recommend if you have a full day to spend in the Greymouth area. We, however, were unable to stay since we had reservations in Franz Josef that night so we hit the road almost right away.

Stops from Greymouth to Franz Josef – There were a lot of beautiful stops on the road from Greymouth to Franz Josef that are worth the stop or detour. Our first stop along the way was in Hokitika. We explored the small town for a little bit seeing the beach which has the name spelled out in driftwood and is great if you are looking to stretch your legs. The real highlight of that area for us, however, was the Hokitika Gorge Scenic Reserve. This is about half an hour off Route 6 but it is well worth it! It is a short hike to a great view of a glacial river which is stunningly blue. You can also walk across a swing bridge to the other side and take a quick swim in the water if the weather permits but be careful to watch the current and be prepared for cold water!

Okarito Beach

After the Hokitika Gorge, we continued our trip further south stopping next in Okarito to see the Okarito Lagoon and Beach. The Okarito Lagoon was our favorite stop of the day. The lagoon is beautiful and has a great view of the mountains but the real highlight if the beach. The beach is unparalleled to any we saw on the trip. It is surrounded by towering cliffs and has roaring waves that crash against the beach. The waves are so rough that they create sort of a mist that hangs in the air making for great pictures and a nice walk down to the end of the beach where the sand, cliffs and water meet. We concluded our day by checking into our hotel in Franz Josef (The Oasis) and getting dinner at a restaurant in town (Alice May).

Franz Josef, Haast and Wanaka

Stops from Franz Josef to Haast – We began the next day exploring in Franz Josef we hiked about halfway to Franz Josef Glacier which was about half an hour. We wanted to see the glacier up close but ended up not having enough time. The hike up to the glacier is about an hour and a half round trip and involves walking in a river bed the second half of the way so it can be uneven but would be worth it if you have the time. There is also the option of taking a helicopter up and walking on either Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier (just south of Franz Josef) which would be a great experience if you have the time and money to do so. After Franz Josef, we continued along to Lake Matheson.

Lake Matheson is another stop that is worth the detour it is a beautiful view of the lake with Mount Cook just behind it and if you are lucky on a calm day you can see the mountain reflected in the lake. There is also a small cafe and gift shop there if you want to stop for a quick bite to eat or a souvenir. The next stop on our way to Wanaka was Bruce Bay. Bruce Bay is a beautiful beach between Lake Matheson and Haast that is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. There didn’t seem to be a ton to do there but it’s worth a quick stop. After Bruce Bay, we stopped for lunch at The Salmon Farm Cafe & Shop in Paringa. This was a delicious stop with many fresh salmon options. The run-out towards the end of the day so trying to get there early is best. We stopped at two salmon farms on our trip and this was our favorite. Our final stop before Haast was Knights PT Lookout. Knights Lookout was a great way to see the west coast from above with its rock formations and beautiful blue water I would recommend stopping there for a quick photo before going on your way.

Haast – Haast is a great town but probably the last you will see on the West Coast unless you continue down to Jackson Bay. It is worth a stop even overnight if you want to split up the drive since doing this all in one day is a lot!

Stops from Haast to Wanaka – Continuing from Haast to Wanaka you are following the Haast River and through the Haast Pass which is beautiful but quite windy so be careful if driving. On the way to Wanaka, you pass by three waterfalls which are 100% worth stopping at. We didn’t know where they were along the route we just kept our eyes peeled for signs about stops and stopped at each one. Most of the waterfalls are a short walk right off the highway. The last long stop we made on the way to Wanaka after the waterfalls were the Blue Pools Walk & Devils Bath. The Blue Pools are about a 15-minute walk from the road but be careful not to stop at the overflow parking by mistake that is what we did and it ended up being about an hour round trip which was long after the day we had. The Blue Pools are another beautiful stop. There is a swing bridge that leads you over to the pools which you can walk over with another more sturdy, suspension bridge which people were jumping off of when we were there which I wish I had done. There are also longer hiking trails that you can take to explore more of the area. 

Panorama of Lake Hawea

Lake Wanaka and Hawea – the last portion of the drive to Wanaka was by far my favorite. The entire time we bordered Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea around sunset which was both breathtaking and at that time were the most beautiful thing I had seen in New Zealand. Pictures don’t do either of the lakes justice they were both stunningly beautiful with mountains bordering them on all sides and at golden hour it was even better. There were a lot of stops for lookouts along the way and they were 100% worth stopping at.

Wanaka and Queenstown

Wanaka – Wanaka was by far my town in New Zealand. It was the perfect small town with beautiful views all around you. The town on the banks of Lake Wanaka was full of beautiful shops and amazing lake views. There were a lot of activities that you could do on the lake such as paddle boarding, boat riding, and kayaking but be warned the water is COLD. We ended up walking around for the majority of the morning having brunch, looking at the shops, buying a few things here and there and dipping our toes in the water before heading to Queenstown. We ended up eating at the restaurant Kai Whaka Pai for all three meals we had in the town it was so good and had so many vegan options that we didn’t want to go anywhere else.

Stops from Wanaka to Queenstown – We only made three stops on our drive from Wanaka to Queenstown but they were all worth the stop! Our first stop was at a farm stand in Cromwell we passed a huge number along the road and finally just picked one. The raspberries and cherries were unparalleled we ended up eating them along most of our long drives as a healthy snack. Our second stop was at Mount Difficulty which is a winery at the top of a hill near Cromwell. It has beautiful views of the entire area and for only $5 you can do a wine tasting which they will reimburse you if you buy two bottles of wine after the tasting. The wine was great but the view was even better. The day we stopped there happened to be my birthday and it was amazing. The final stop we made was at the Kawarau Suspension Bridge which is the site of the first commercial bungee jump. You can stop there and watch from a platform as people jump from the bridge and as some people zip line next to the river.

Queenstown – We arrived in Queenstown in the afternoon we went to dinner at a restaurant called the Fat Lamb and then got ice cream from Patagonia and watched the sunset. We finished the night with a glass of the Pinot Noir we bought at the winery earlier that day. It was the perfect end to my 23rd birthday.

Milford Sound

One of the days we were in Queenstown we took a trip to Milford Sound. I had seen so many pictures of Milford Sound and it was even more amazing in person. It is about a four-hour drive from Queenstown so if I was going to do it again I would go with a company that allows you to fly there, take a cruise and fly back. This way it wouldn’t consume a whole day of our trip driving there and back. Milford Sound was definitely worth the time though it is amazing seeing towering mountains over the fjord and the waterfalls. We took a two-hour cruise and it was great! We would for sure go back there if we go to New Zealand again. If you end up driving make sure to leave plenty of time and to go early enough to make some stops on the way back. Places like The Chasm and Eglinton Valley are great places to stop along the way for some amazing views.


Activities in Queenstown – If you have an extra day in Queenstown it is worth it to take a day to relax and take in the town. It is full of great shops and restaurants and of course many extreme sports to partake in. If you want to go bungee jumping, sky diving, white water rafting, jet boating or just want to relax, eat and shop you can do it all in Queenstown. I chose to partake in a more relaxed sport of paddleboarding which turned out to be less relaxing than I thought since there was somewhat of a wake on the water every time a speed boat went past and I would have to brace myself to keep my balance on the board.

Restaurants – We went to some really great restaurants while we were in Queenstown which all were very good about accommodating my allergy. Our highlights were: Miss Lucy’s Pizza, Yonder (Brunch) and Public Kitchen & Bar (Dinner).

Skyline Gondola – If you are looking for a panorama views of the town and the mountains and lake surrounding it you should definitely take a trip up the gondola to the top of the mountain. There is a gift shop, observation deck, bungee jumping platform, luge and restaurant. My mom and I got a drink at the top overlooking at the breathtaking view.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Pukaki

The Drive – On the drive to Lake Tekapo we only made one stop at Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki was amazing it gave us a view of Mount Cook. It was worth the view scenic stops we made along the lake to get out stretch our legs and take some pictures. We soon got to Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo – There is not a ton to do in Lake Tekapo during the day. You can walk over the pedestrian bridge to see the church in the center of town or visit the shops. We did just that and then we went grabbed a burger at Our Dog Friday which was good. The real highlight of Lake Tekapo, however, comes out when the sun goes down. THE STARS! There is very little light pollution in Lake Tekapo so the stars shine brighter than I’ve ever seen them. There are various activities you can do involving the stars from taking a trip up a mountain to soaking in the thermal baths while looking at the stars. We opted for just finding some benches in the area and lying back so we could get a good view and watching the stars for a while. If I was able to do it over again I would opt for the soak and star gaze, make sure you are prepared to stay up late though I would recommend taking a nap so that you don’t fall asleep during the gazing part.

Things I would Change if I did it Again

Length of the days – Our days were super long. We would start every day at around 9am and would barely make check in at our hotels around 9pm. If we were to do it again we would’ve added a night in Greymouth and a night in Haast to break up the long days. With the extra days we would probably travel further south down to Jackson Bay and further north to Westport to see more of the coast.

Dunedin – If we had an extra day or two on the South Island we probably would have traveled more on the east coast of the island to places such as Dunedin and then traveled up the coast in order to get back to Christchurch instead of going inland to Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo was nice but seeing more of the coast would have been great.

Next Up: Knoxville, TN, US

Wouldn’t Underestimate the Windy Roads – The roads along out trip were crazy windy. We definitely underestimated how touch driving ourselves would be. We ended up being fine but there were a lot of times where it felt like there wasn’t much space on the road for our car. I would recommend taking a bus if you are an uncomfortable driver.

Disclaimer: I do not in any way claim to be an expert on the cities I am traveling to or the countries that they are in. I would love to hear if you have other recommendations that differ from mine. Please be kind, I am new to blogging and sharing all of my life online.

How to Travel with Food Restrictions

I have had a very serious intolerance to milk for about 10 years now. It is on the level that if I got milk in my food I would become very sick to the point that hospitalization might be required. This has been one of the main stresses that I have faced when traveling especially to a country that doesn’t speak English. Will they take my allergy seriously? How will I communicate with them what I’m allergic to? How do I find a way to avoid restaurants when I am traveling? Well along my travels I have come up with a few answers and I want to share them with you now.

Eating at Restaurants

A lot of times when I am traveling alone I really try to avoid eating at restaurants. I get nervous that it is too risky and I will somehow get milk which will affect the rest of my trip. Sometimes, however, when traveling with friends or family this is unavoidable and I have found a simple-ish way to cope with it. A company called SelectWisely makes allergy alert cards in 36 languages which can be extremely helpful when traveling somewhere like Germany where they speak English but you want to make sure they really understand. The cards say “I have a life-threatening allergy to milk and all milk products (butter, yogurt, cheese, cream). If I eat this food or any food that has been cooked with it or touched it, I will need immediate medical attention. Does this food contain milk or milk products?” They make these cards for multiple allergies including nuts, gluten, shellfish, etc. They are really helpful at communicating the severity to the server and the kitchen so that they really understand not to put anything in your food. There has only been one time where the card hasn’t worked but I was luckily able to spot that there was cream in my food and refused to eat it. I was made aware of these cards by a man I met when traveling who has celiacs disease he used the cards and said they were a lifesaver so the second I got home I ordered them for myself.

Picking Restaurants

A lot of times while I am traveling I try to look for vegan or partly vegan restaurants. I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone who is trying to avoid an allergy but I find that if a restaurant marks one allergen (usually gluten) they are understanding and throw when it comes to others. Below I will feature a list by location of all of the vegan places I have tried in different countries for those who are looking. If no vegan restaurants are in the area I usually pick a restaurant that has a lot of options because at least one of them has to be dairy-free. A prefixed menu a lot of times is not an easy route to go.

Cooking your own food

A lot of the time when I am traveling alone I decide to cook my own food. This is an easy and cheap way to navigate your allergies in another country. I typically book a hostel with a kitchen so that I can easily cook something. Then I go to the nearest grocery store and buy something simple like pasta and tomato sauce. When it comes to reading ingredients in other languages the google translate app has a feature where you can take a picture and it translates all of the words to English. This makes for a fast way to find out what is in the food rather than having to translate every single word. I always feel confident when I make the food that it is completely dairy-free and I have very little risk of getting sick.

Allergy Friendly Restaurants

  • New Zealand
    • Wanaka – Kai Whaka Pai (Great Breakfast and Pizza)
    • Queenstown – Yonder (Good Brunch)
    • Queenstown – Miss Lucys (Pizza)
    • Queenstown – Public Kitchen & Bar (Dinner)
  • Spain
    • Barcelona – The Surf House (Brunch & Dinner)
  • USA
    • Portland, OR – Virtuous Pizza – Entirely vegan
    • Knoxville, TN – Tomato Head
  • Germany
    • Munich – Max Pett (Dinner) – Entirely vegan
  • List to be continued….

Disclaimer: I do not in any way claim to be an expert on the cities I am traveling to or the countries that they are in. I would love to hear if you have other recommendations that differ from mine. Please be kind, I am new to blogging and sharing all of my life online.