Bucket List

The List

I am fully embracing my mid-life crisis by taking the opportunity to turn dreams into plans and tick off as many things as possible from my list. As such, I am going to use this page to list the things I want to do and cross off those achieved with some notes to have them for my memory bank. I am not going to be devastated if I don’t cross everything off, interests may change and the list may change, but at least it will give me a guide as to what to prioritize to maximize the amount we can do with the time we have left. Here goes!

Travel with kids

Before my little dudes leave the nest here are the places I would love to take them (top priorities):

  • Disneyworld and water parks
  • Legoland
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Acapulco
  • Puerto Morelos / Cancun
  • Boston
  • Phoenix
  • Washington DC
  • Atlanta
  • Asheville
  • Charleston
  • Universal Studios
  • Atlantis
  • California / Red Woods
  • Yosemite
  • Yellowstone
  • Ixtapa
  • Cabo
  • Merida
  • Oaxaca
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Quebec/ Montreal
  • Grand Canyon
  • Colonial Williamsburg
  • Revillagigedo Islands
  • Hawaii
  • NYC
  • Spain
  • Ireland
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Iceland
  • Galapagos
  • Japan
  • Patagonia
  • South Africa
  • Alaska

Experiences with kids:

  • All inclusive / beach
  • Disney Cruise
  • Camping
  • Sleep on RV
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Indoor rock climbing
  • Day hiking
  • Local lake cabin
  • Pin ball museum / game center!
  • Zip lining kids
  • Sleep on a tree house
  • Sleep on a yacht
  • Sleep on a dome
  • Sleep on a yurt
  • Sleep on a bell tent
  • Sleep on floating home
  • Aereal obstacle course
  • Dude Ranch stay
  • Water skiing
  • Snow skiing
  • Snow tubing
  • Ice skating
  • Cavern visit
  • Dog sledding
  • Get a rescue dog
  • Handgliding lessons
  • White water rafting
  • Helicopter ride
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Real rock climbing
  • Surfing lessons
  • Trough- hiking
  • Sailing lessons as a family
  • Biltmore Estate
  • Experience zero gravity
  • Horseback riding
  • Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis
  • Bioluminescent Bay
  • Skeet shooting
  • Scuba diving
  • Volunteer project

Travel with husband:

  • Great Smokey Mountains
  • Tulum
  • Tahiti (Bora Bora, Moorea and Huahine)
  • North India
  • Peru
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Paris
  • Switzerland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Bali
  • Thailand
  • Vancouver
  • Toronto
  • Greece
  • Prague
  • Morocco
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Colombia
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Uruguay
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Vietnam
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia (non Bali)
  • China
  • Nepal
  • Myanmar
  • Seychelles
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Italy
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Miami
  • Chicago
  • Portland
  • Washington State
  • New Orleans
  • Zion National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Acadia National Park
  • Olympic National Park

Experiences:

  • Steven Wright comedian
  • Sail boat and yacht trip
  • Ultra light flying
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Jet ski
  • Marathon(s)
  • Sounds of Silence, Uluru
  • Bridging in Peru (jump off bridge like bungee)
  • International First / Business class (miles)
  • Sydney Bridge Walk
  • Tongariro Crossing New Zealand
  • Sky diving
  • Cheap Micheline Star Restaurant
  • Caving
  • Snorkeling
  • Machu Picchu hiking
  • Santa Cruz Cordillera Blanca 4 day trek
  • Cenote swim
  • Obstacle course (high)
  • Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit in Yoho National Park, Canada
  • Hawkers Markets SE Asia (Malaysia and Singapore)
  • Comedy: Jim Gaffigan live
  • RENT play
  • A month as vegetarian
  • Not buying clothes for a year
  • Sleep on a Teepee
  • Hotel Campera, Ensenada
  • Chable Resort, Yucatan
  • New Play on Broadway
  • Cirque Du Soleil
  • Shooting Range
  • Scuba Diving
  • Michelin Rated Restaurant
  • Great Trail Canada
  • Grand Teton rock climbing trip
  • Appalachian Trail
  • Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail
  • Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
  • American Discovery Trail
  • Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand
  • El Camino de Santiago, Spain
  • Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon
  • Hawaii Volcano National Park
  • Kalalau Trail
  • Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy, and Switzerland
  • Caribou Tracks in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
  • Canyoning
  • Volcano hiking at sunrise
  • Silence retreat
  • Private Chef Dinner Course on own villa
  • Peacecorps project
  • Build multiple houses on a single large lot to sell (one project)
  • Nomadic life with almost no possessions
  • FIRE!

Stuff/ other:

  • Electric car – daily to own
  • Rental of dream car (weekends)
  • Tattoos

What is on your list? What has been hardest/ easiest to achieve?

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Peru: 15 Days/14 Nights

This trip was actually way before kids (August 2007 actually, so cheating a little! shhh don’t tell), but it was so fabulous and I so recommended as a getaway that I am adding here to the list.

I did my typical extensive (weeks of scandalously obsessive planning!) research at the time and I wanted to go with a local tour operator and yet remain independent in my travel (private vs group). I found the perfect combination by going with Inka Explorers. They were great!

Hotels

Again, this was a while back but I will give you the names of hotels we stayed and places we visited, as we thought the entire team was extremely well planned (but see what has happened in over a decade ;)!). We flew in and out of Lima, and stayed at:

The Details

The cost was around USD$1,700 per person in 2007 (we traveled with a friend for the first portion of it so had triple accommodations), plus generous tips, international flights and meals not included below.

Even though I am sharing the plan in detail, for Peru I still really highly recommend going with a travel company (as I said I loved the one we used but not sure how it is now) – I remember being slightly less expensive (or the same of booking on my own) and things were totally resolved for us AND they hired locals and just fantastic guides.The guides made a huge difference in the sites! (plus if something does not work out they figure it out for you).

The trip included  all accommodations including breakfast and first class transportation: Lima to Huaraz and return, Huaraz to Lima, private transport from Huaraz to camping/hiking start point Cashapampa and private transport return from Vaqueria to Huaraz. It also included all meals while on the treks (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and professional English speaking guides on all treks and tours (they were really top notch!).

The cost of the trip also included the entry fee to the Inca Trail and Machupicchu, visitors pass to all sites in Cusco and Sacred Valley, entry fee to Museum in Lima, upgrade Tourist train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and return to Cusco (Vistadome) and the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machupicchu and return down to Aguas Calientes.

For the Cordillera Blanca camping section of the trip, things were really first class including ample 4 season tents, tent for dining, tent for kitchen, latrine, thermo rest, oxygen (which I totally had to use the first day, along with the emergency horse to walk me a few miles lol, then it was totally fine!), first aid kit. They also brought treated water while on the hike.

On the hike we even had a cook and assistant all to ourselves (yuuum!), mules on the Santa Cruz Trek, horse – tender, and entry fees to Huaraz Park.  I mean hello fancy hiking!

The Itinerary

Day 1.  Met at the airport by a staff of Inca Explorers (this driver was so lovely, we miss him even today!) and transferred to our hotel in the lively district of Miraflores (Lima). We walked around the city a little bit, exchange money on the street (literally people on the street changing money, kind of fun and super convenient) and had some Pisco Sour in a hipsterish looking small bar near the hotel.

Day 2. We woke up early and had a lovely hotel breakfast  early morning flight to Cusco, the capital of the Incas. There we were met by a  staff of Inca Explorers and taken to our hotel where we were immediately offered taste a Coca tea (Andean leaf) while the guide filled us in on the travel itinerary and Cusco overall. Today we had a free day to walk around the city and explore. I tried llama meat for the first time (delicious, and almost no to zero cholesterol?!) but sadly the altitude sickness hit shortly thereaftear. After taking some pills and taking it easy a little bit, I was good to go and continued exploring. One of the things I loved the most about this city is the amazing modern restaurants mixed with such a charming old city. Small enough to walk around it on your own, absolutely lovely spot, but be warned of the altitude if that affects you! (though please do not let it stop you from going).

Day 3.   Today our tour guide took us to the Sacred Valley for a full day visiting Pisac,
a typical Indian market and the ruins above the town. Afterwards we traveled to the Incan Fortress of Ollantaytambo exploring the Inca site in town.

Day 4.  Inca Trail / Machupicchu: We had an early morning start from Cusco by train to Km 104 (2,200 mts), our starting point for (shorter hike version (you could do a longer walk, not sure if still available as space was limited) the Inca Trail. At Km 104 we started our trek along the Royal Path of the Incas, an ancient stone trail linked one time from the capital of the Inca empire, Cusco, to the fascinating sacred city of Machupicchu. On route we stopped at the Inca Site Wiñaywayna (forever Young) to then continue and reach the Sung Gate from where we had our first (and totally breathtaking) view of Machupicchu. We explored for a little bit then continued to Aguas Calientes town for dinner and sleep.

Day 5. After breakfast we took the first bus up to Machupicchu where we had about 6-7 hours to explore this remarkable archaeological site on our own. We decided to also hike climb Huaynapicchu for an unparalleled view of the lost city of the Incas, which we highly recommend. An alternatively it is possible to visit the hot baths of Aguas Calientes, but we chose to skip this and instead spend more time in Machupicchu. Sadly it was time to return, which we did by going back to Aguast calientes and taking the or 3:50 pm. train for Cusco, passing through the scenic Urubamba valley.

Day 6.  Today we had a free day to further explore Cusco and visit the nearby ruins at Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay, or try local cuisine. You must try the guinea pig while there.

As for places to eat, a definite highlight was the MAP Cafe for dinner, which is inside the Museo de Arte Precolombino courtyard that has as super modern glass box within it (virtual tour of the restaurant here) – I recommend the splurge here if you can! (another review here). Sadly I cannot remember the other places we ate but I am telling you, you will not worry about good options!

Day 7.  Today we basically just went back to the airport so that we could go back to Lima and  prepare for our trip to Huaraz. Again here I am so upset I cannot find the restaurant we visited near the hotel that was SO delicious and inexpensive…I wish I had started my blog back then because of my poor memory!

Day 8. Time to take the fancy bus towards to Huaraz.We watched some movies in our reclining seats, then spend that day at Huaraz to get acclimated for our longer hike. We had quite an adventurous day doing a smaller hike to get us used to the altitude, but then we found ourselves in some random minivan that stopped every few seconds and a person opened the door and popped out saying ‘vamoooos!’ (let’s go!), getting yet another local in for a few cents (there were like 16 of us haha, I was waiting for some chickens to join).  Within about 40 mins, we stopped and they told us ‘the bridge’ in front had collapsed (by bridge I mean like a wooden plank that was just a couple of meters long lol). Thankfully we were almost at the start of our hike so we just started our hike earlier which was great as we passed through a very small village and someone local (that knew our guide) showed us their house and invited us to have some guinea pig and potatoes baked on their home made oven. Now I speak Spanish but these people not so much, sorry no Quechua for me! The fun of traveling at its best, rubbing your belly and smiling is all the communication you need!

Day 9/13: We made an early start from Huaraz down the Callejon de Huaylas by bus to start our Santa Cruz hike at Cordillera Blanca the highest tropical mountain range in the world). The walk combined lots of glaciated scenery with high water meadows and Andean villages. The ascent is  gradual until the last 500 meters arriving at a pass of 4750 meters (yeah it is REALLY high so take your time!). The food they cook for you along the way is so good, you will totally feel like royalty all the time.

In this trip, our guides used pack mules on this trek (which simultaneously made me feel extremely grateful AND guilty). It is also possible to take horses, as an option (as I stated above I had to do this for a few miles until my sickness passed (altitude) but they gave me some oxygen and then good as new for the rest of the trip!).

Cashapampa the starting point for the popular Santa Cruz Trek, had incredible views of the glacial mountains, Alpamayo (5,947m), considered to be the most beautiful glaciated peak in the world (according to Peruvians at least :)) and Huascaran (6,768m), the highest mountain in Peru. We then climbed through three ecological zones; Quechua, Yunga and Puna with beautiful lakes. Our highest point on the trek was Punta Union Pass (4,750m) – felt so good to reach it!

  • Cashapampa – Met the lovely arrerios and mules and set off for an afternoon’s walk climbing the steep-sided valley, Quebrada Santa Cruz, because of the presence of Mt Santa Cruz on our left (6259m). As we reached our first campsite, Llama Corral (3760m), the terrain flattened out to a wide glacial valley with a flat bottom
  • Llama Corral – Taullipampa – This was a whole day of classic high Andean valley trekking. Moderate in grade, with fantastic vistas of snow and ice clad peaks around every corner. Our route took us past the famous Alpamayo (5947m), Caraz (6025m) and Quitataju (6036m); stopping for lunch by a confluence of glacial streams we arrived at out campsite, Taullipampa. Here we pitched camp at 4,250m nestled under the awe inspiring peaks and ice covered ridge of Taulliraju (5830m). Beautiful stars at night no one else around!
  • Taullipampa – Punta Union – Paria A hearty breakfast (giant pancakes never tasted so good!) provided fuel for the super stiff 500m ascent to the watershed shared with Quebrada Huaripampa. Punta Union is a small hole punched through the rock at 4750m (15,000 feet) which provides pictures with stunning backdrops in both directions (if you feel like you are dying, you are doing it right). The (glorious) descent was full of small glacial lakes and streams that gradually combined into rivers. We started heading away from the icy peaks, down into meandering rivers and wide ribbon-like floodplains, home to cattle. Our last campsite was at Paria (3,600m) among colorful vegetation, including “the Devil’s trees”.
  • Paria – Vaqueria – Llanganuco – Huaraz –  We were into high Andean village life as we passed through hamlets without running water or electricity, where people keep guinea pigs and rabbits on their bedroom verandahs. A short ascent from quebrada Huaripampa brought us to our waiting vehicle in Vaqueria. However, the highlights are not over as the pass through the mountains to Llanganuco reaches 4,600m. The road either side winds up and down near vertical slopes (and I do mean SLOPES in very narrow passages! (I had to remind myself that millions of people live here and they have survived so just focus on not looking down) amongst majestic views of more icy peaks, including Yanapaqcha (5347m) and Chopicalqui (6254). The view from the pass down to the lakes above Llanganuco is truly breathtaking. We finally then made it back to Huaraz first passing by Yungay, a town that was burried by a rock fall in the 1970s.

Day 14/15.  Full day bus trip back to Lima, a scenic ride through the countryside and mountains. Early next morning a quick visit the Gold Museum, which houses a great collection of pre-Columbian jewelry  with the largest collection of pre-Inca and Incan artifacts then off to the airport.

End of tour, time to go home. So sad.

Other Tips

  • If you want to do the Inka trail please check way ahead of time for regulation and limits on visits (and don’t forget your ID!).
  • Check extra fees for international and local travel at airport (like departure fees or random taxes (maybe one day I will share the story of how I had to sell clothes at an airport in South American to get out when I was like 16 years old lol)
  • Mountains are cold, dress appropriately (mmm we brought a light sweater only despite knowing this haha (what were we doing?) so we had to get jackets there for the hike in August).
  • Take it easy with the altitude, come prepared and drink lots of water starting on the plane. Try the coca tea.
  • Pack really lightly
  • Bring good solid hiking shoes
  • Careful with the water (I just bring stomach pills lol)
  • Bring your own toilet paper. Your welcome.

Hong Kong, Penang (Malaysia) & Singapore

Hong Kong, Penang (Malaysia), Singapore

March 2016. 15 days, under $3k. I purchased a little bit of money for each currency at my bank (as some places are cash only), then used credit cards for the rest.

The flights

I planned for this trip for over a year because I really, really, really, wanted to score some business class in Cathay Pacific and first class suites in Singapore Airlines. And we did!

We collected American Airline miles (Citi American Airlines card and the barclaycard version that no longer exists post US Airways merger) to get us to Hong Kong in Cathay, Business Class. What a difference flying with a bed makes in such long flights! Plus the lounges….yum food and free booze!

After a few days there we splurged using Singapore Airlines first class suites to Singapore (transferred Chase Sapphire points to Singapore Airlines and booked directly online – plenty availability). Be warned, you won’t feel like ever flying again on anything else after experiencing such luxury. Best flight EVER.

Sadly, we were back to our regular status on the next leg of our trip, where we took a budget airline to Malaysia for like $80 dollars for both of us round-trip from/to Singapore lol. Hey it was under 2 hours for that flight, totally acceptable!!

Before I start, just a note for our way of travel – we LOVE to walk. As in, we don’t mind putting up to 15 miles a day if needed, so adjust for your preferences and level of comfort.

We calculated that we walked/hiked 100 miles + on this trip!

Part 1: Hong Kong

I had forgotten how anal I was when planning this trip. I planned for weeks in painful detail, including ‘do not miss’ places to eat. I even made walking paths links for ourselves lol (I will share some below) – at least I hope my random obsession helps someone out there, saving them hours of work.

Also, this resource was really helpful to plan and learn more (once I knew what we wanted I plotted it here and followed the app while in HK, which worked perfectly with my US based Tmobile plan). The site also includes info on how to get an Octopus card for transportation (which I highly recommend), etc.

We stayed at the Park Hotel in Kowloon. The stay was around $850 total for 6 nights, which was a really good price for Hong Kong and an excellent location. I recommend it highly unless you are going on points with a popular chain or renting your own place. You could also try using hotels.com (every 10ths stay you get 1 free with average spent rate), or rocketmiles.com to get miles for staying at different hotels).

The itinerary

Day 1 (arrival day): Got our bags, purchased our Octopus cards, then went straight to the Cathay Pacific Arrival arrival lounge  (delicious food! here is a review (not mine) for an idea). Then we made our way to to our hotel via metro/bus combination (super easy to follow), checked in and got ready to do a little walk, following this little path.  The walk took us through the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, Avenue of the Stars and Clock Tower, plus we added a little extra walking around Nathan Road too (not on my map link) before heading back to the hotel and passing out early due to jet lag.

Day 2: Walk up super early so had buffet breakfast at the hotel, walked around Kowloon and discovered the lovely Kowloon park.  After that, we visited Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery (don’t miss this, incredible places the are literally next to each other!), Wong Tai Sin Temple, Walled City, Po Street Bird Garden, Flower Market, Goldfish market, Ladies Market. And here is what that looks like if you walked it all.

After lunch and a little rest,  we visited The Peak and went up the touristy Peak Tram, crossing to Hong Kong island via the Ferry. The route looks like this.  A happy dinner later and time to bed, but not before trying the amazing honeycombe waffle thingies (see list of food below, you will see) – YUM!

Day 3: Woke up early and the most respectable thing to do was to go get fresh pineapple buns across the street. Then we walked to Mong Kok for even more pineapple buns and found a little hipsterish looking coffee shop for my husband (I don’t do coffee). We took the metro to Lantau, boarded the crystal gondola to The Big (Tian Tan) Buddha where we walked around the Po Lin Monastery and other little hikes around. Here is the itinerary map  I used for context on distance.

We then took the metro back to Hong Kong Island, walked around downtown for a bit and tried a famous eggtart from the list (not a fan), took a gazillion pictures of street art along the way (very cool by the way, I was not expecting so much of it!) and made our way to the Avenue of Stars sculpture garden.  Dinner and bed.

Day 4: What is for breakfast? You guessed it, pineapple buns! We took the metro to explore the area around Hong Kong University (including exploring the University itself) and made our way back to central discovering fun little back streets and things along the way like the Zoo Park and Botanical Gardens, Hong Kong Park, and Victoria Park.

For lunch we made a line – like so many others, to eat at the super famous Tim Ho Wan (the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in the world at the time, which is allegedly opening in NYC) and did something that appeared to be inappropriate judged by the looks we got: we ordered 5x more food than what a normal couple should ever eat. Whatever, I really wanted to try those chicken feet!

Finally we took the metro back to Tsim Sha Shui, got some rest, showers, dinner at Mak’s noodles (on the list I attached), then walked this route to Temple Street Night market (I am pretty sure I found more of those eggshaped thingies) and it was sleepy time.

Day 5: Good morning. Pineapple Buns. Metro to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery area. Then we took the metro back to Hong Kong Island to eat Kau Kee beef. Walked around Lang Kwai Fong and then took the metro to the bus towards Dragon’s Back – considered one of the world’s best urban hikes.

At night we ventured into the somewhat scary but must do experience of eating visiting the Chungking Mansions.We ate at the Delhi Club which was meh at best but glad we experienced this place.

Day 6: After a much deserved couple of pineapple buns we walked to Mong Kok then took a bus to Sai Kung AND then a taxi to the Maclehose hiking trail. This is some spectacular hiking here where you go about 40 mins away from a ridiculously crowded city to a heaven for hiking that includes almost deserted beaches! If you love hiking do not miss this!

Back to the city (bus then metro), some more Tim Ho Wan to go, shower and…more food – one last go at Mak’s noodles and egg thingies.

Day 7: Double dose of pineapple buns, taxi to the airport and on to the royal treatment for our Singapore Airlines first class suite lounge. I had some of the best food of the entire trip here, and that is really saying something, because the next two legs of our trips were what I would consider food heaven. Arriving at Singapore (by the way – best airport I have ever been to) after the best flight of my life ever, our friend picked us up (luckily he loves us enough to let us stay in his house), we stopped to eat at a delicious Nasi Lemak Place and go to sleep early to get ready for our flight early next morning to Penang, which is Part II of this journey.

Food

I used this and  this list for our food guide since I kept finding the same places anyways no matter where else I would search. Food in Hong Kong was not my favorite, but the ones we tried here (most) were really good.  And we found a little shop a block away from our hotel that sold pineapple buns super early. They don’t look like much, but AMAZING.

General food tips: here it is all about efficiency, you are expected to sit down, eat as fast as possible, share tables and leave. Oh and I found very few places had napkins (obviously the more touristy or fancier the place, the less these things may apply, but be warned!).

And there you have it, part I of the journey completed. Excellent introduction to Asia for a Westerner if that overwhelms you.

Part II: Penang, Malaysia and Part III: Singapore…….

Parent Getaways – No Kids!

When my kids were under 4, I was that parent that would not leave her kids with anyone for more than a few hours. After a few years of that, husband and I started taking longer dates and eventually one day decided we were ready to leave them with the grandparents while we got some quality alone time doing one of the things we love the most. And so, we plotted our getaway.

At first I felt a little guilty using some of our limited vacation time and not take the kids or be with them, but when I realized the benefits and importance of reconnecting with your husband that guilt went away completely. In addition, these trips slowly started to bring me back from ‘being mom’ to ‘being me’ – I had forgotten how much I loved that freedom to travel and how I could still get a taste of that now. Besides, we looove hiking and we really, really, really like eating new things and explore new, often far away places, which are not necessarily the most compatible with kid travel. Husband and I have definitely  eaten a few things of questionable origin – don’t ask, don’t tell just try it out, I say!

In this blog I will keep a list of travel ideas that I have taken or planned so that you can see the specific places we stayed, itineraries, etc. even costs and what kind of miles or points I used to reduce costs.

Click here for North America travel ideas.

Clock here for Asia travel ideas.