3 tips for a zen vacation
so… i’m leaving for cuba tomorrow… CUBA. i literally never dreamed this day would come… that i, as an american citizen, would EVER be able to visit cuba… so i’m pretty damn excited to say the least! i’m desperately in need of a vacation, so in keeping with the theme of the moment, i thought a travel-related post was necessary. let’s get right to it.
the term “vacation” has lost a lot of its meaning in 2017 america. i’m always reading about how many people don’t use their vacation days, how few vacation days many employers even offer in the first place, and how even when we do take vacation, we have a hard time actually vacationing…
you know… we check our email, we take work calls, we text with our bosses… some people will actually sit in their hotel room and work remotely because they feel so strongly that they can’t get away or everything will fall apart.
thankfully, i’ve never been one of these people. i love travelling, understand the importance of taking a break from things to reset and recharge, and just generally love being able to live life for a week or so a few times a year as if i have no real responsibilities.
so, if you’ve ever found yourself doing any of the above… or even if you’ve actually taken your vacation days, decided to check out, and had crippling anxiety over not knowing what was going on back home to the point that you couldn’t even enjoy your vacation… you’ve come to the right place.
here are my 3 tips for a zen vacation:
1. pack a journal. journaling can be really therapeutic. putting pen to paper and just writing, not even about anything in particular, can do wonders for a racing, anxiety-ridden mind. i always pack a journal when i go on vacation, and it serves a few purposes. first, i love being able to write down all of the amazing experiences i’m having, so that i can look back on everything in detail years later. sure, pictures will help keep the memories alive, but those little details can easily be forgotten. second, it’s a great way to pause, take a step back, and really start to process and get clear on things that might be going on in your life… ya know like your feelings, emotions, where you want to go with your life, if you should or shouldn’t break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, if you should make a big, risky career move… whatever. i also love the practice of using a gratitude journal to put things into perspective and remind myself how great my life is, even when things aren’t going my way.
2. swap out your daily coffee for tea. as a society, we seriously rely on coffee to get us through the day. when you’re on vacation, you should be relaxing. sleeping in and going with the flow. sure, you might have tours or dinner reservations at specific times, but other than that, vacation is about taking it easy. instead of running to the closest starbucks to get your daily fix, pack some herbal teas instead**… especially those of the calming variety [think chamomile, lavender, ashwaganda]. it’ll help to ease the mind and reduce all of the stress you have about not being at work… which will help you be more present in the end.
[**of course, if you’re going someplace like columbia, italy or bali, where coffee is a huge part of the culture/cuisine… DRINK ALL THE COFFEE YOU WANT.]
3. get off your effing phone. i get it. we all want to be connected to our friends and family. we want to share all of the cool pictures we’re taking at all of the amazing places we’re visiting. [#doitforthegram] but, if you truly want to enjoy your vacation, if you really want to experience the culture of this new, exciting place you’re visiting… get off your effing phone. you don’t even have to go totally off the grid… [i know, scary thought, right?] even just limiting yourself to only checking social media in the evening when you’re back at your hotel can make all the difference… i mean… do you really wanna find yourself standing in front of the taj mahal or at the top of the eiffel tower scrolling through effing facebook or answering a work email? i don’t think so.
i’m planning on going 100% dark in cuba… my phone is going into airplane mode from the moment i step on the flight to havana, and staying that way until i land in LA next week. i’m really craving a little disconnection, and since wifi is hard to come by in cuba, this is the perfect opportunity to just go for it.
what are your favorite ways to check out and really keep it zen when you’re on vacation? do you have any cuba recommendations?! leave them in the comments below… and i’ll see you on the otherside… adios!
what i ate wednesday: london, baby!
if you follow me on instagram and snapchat [which you should be, duh!] you’re probably well aware that i spent the first 2 weeks of july in the u.k. and ireland with my family. it was a [much needed] vacation that exceeded my expectations in just about every way imaginable… the food being one of them.
it comes as no surprise that i. love. food. like… i really love food. i consider myself to be a “foodie” and aside from my pescatarian diet, will try juuuuusssstttttt about anything. so, when i started to hear that the food in the places we were going kinda sucked… i was… disappointed… but ultimately decided to brush off the haters and go in with a completely open mind.
and it turns out… those people didn’t know what the eff they were talking about. need proof? look no further! here’s another edition of what i ate wednesday… featuring london, baby!
full english breakfast at muriel’s kitchen:
traveling from l.a. to london involved being in airport/on a plane for nearly 24 hours, so by the time we arrived i was ready for some real food. since we landed in the late morning, brunch it was! i found muriel’s on instagram, and when i saw that they served traditional english breakfast [aka full english] i knew this would be a great first stop… a real “welcome to the u.k.” kinda meal, ya feel me?
a truly traditional full english involves bacon and/or sausage, but luckily for me, muriel’s served a vegetarian version, swapping out the meat for bubble and squeak, another traditional english dish made from potatoes and cabbage. i [obviously] added a mimosa because #vacation… perfect way to kick off the trip!
fish + chips [+ beer!] at the fish house:
naturally, our first dinner in england could have only been one thing… fish + chips! i’m honestly happier than i should be that i had never in my life experienced fish + chips until this moment… i feel like it made it that much better… and i instantly became obsessed [and proceeded to eat way more fried fish over the next 2 weeks than anyone should… so sue me].
the fish house was my favorite of them all… the breading was crispy, the fish literally melted in my mouth, and the chips [aka fries] were just how i like ’em… i normally cannot stand mayo… but in europe served with fries? bring it on.
high tea at the wolseley:
on day 2 in london, my mom, my aunt, and i sent the boys off on their own so we could enjoy afternoon tea at the wolseley, which was recommended to me by a dear friend who grew up between london and new york… oh. my. god. i don’t even know where to begin here.
the scones with jam and clotted cream: insane. the finger sandwiches [egg salad, cucumer, smoked salmon with cream cheese] were made with the softest bread of all time. the desserts, the jasmine tea, the champagne?! this is a meal… no, an experience… that i will remember for the rest of my life. speechless.
indian fare at thali:
ever since i went to india in 2014, indian food has just never been the same. luckily, london is known for having incredible indian cuisine all over the city, and we certainly had plenty of options. i had never tried thali before, but it was a perfect way to have a little bit of everything considering that everything on the menu sounded incredible.
thali is essentially a giant round sampler platter, served with basmati rice in the center and naan on the side… and then gulab jamun for dessert. my thali consisted of saag paneer, spicy red lentils, tandoori potatoes, fried okra with onions and tomatoes, and a yogurt dip. still didn’t live up to indian food in india… but it came pretty damn close… and the naan? i could have had about 4 more servings. so. damn. good.
ice cream at marshfield farm:
on our day trip from london to stonehenge, we stopped in bath for a few hours, and our tour guide insisted that we go to marshfield farm for ice cream. that soft serve on the top there? clotted. cream. ice cream. need i say more?
so, in conclusion… london was pretty spectacular, food-wise. the verdict:
must eat: high tea at the wolseley
must drink: a beer literally everywhere you go
honorable mention: fish + chips at the fish house
next time, for what i ate wednesday, i’ll dive into the food in the isle of man, belfast, and dublin… london really just needed its own post because of how effing good everything was.
where are your favorite london spots?! comment below… i’ll be making it back to this city one of these days!
vacation mode: ACTIVATED
today is a good day. it’s friday. it’s a half day at the office [for most of us] thanks to the 4th of july falling on a monday, but most importantly, for me, today marks the beginning of my first real vacation in almost a year…
… and i’ll be off to the u.k. in a few short hours!
if you’re a regular over here at bananas + bellinis, you already know how i feel about traveling… and if you’re new to these parts, i’ll keep it quick… i’m obsessed with it and nothing makes me happier.
this vacation is big for a few reasons. first, it’s the only extended vacation [two whole weeks!] that i’ve taken since moving to l.a. and starting my job at snacknation [it’s been almost a year ago now… woah]… needless to say, i’m effing ready for a break.
second, all of the places we’re visiting are places i’ve never been. i’ve been lucky enough to have done quite a bit of traveling around europe in the past, but the u.k. is untouched territory for me, and i can’t wait to check some new countries off my list.
finally, this trip is special because i’m traveling with my parents, my little brother, and my aunt and her husband… and we’ll be celebrating my dad’s 64th birthday in liverpool [you know… like the beatles song “when i’m 64″… get it?!]. needless to say, this is going to be an amazing couple of weeks and i’m jumping out of my skin with excitement right now and couldn’t focus on anything if you paid me.
as always, i’ll be active on instagram, facebook, twitter, and snapchat [username kelsey1988] so you can follow along with my adventures in real time… and expect recaps from each city and of all of the food in the weeks following my return.
if any of you guys have recommendations for things to do, places to see, or things to stuff my face with in london, liverpool, isle of man, belfast or dublin… leave them in the comments below or tweet me [@bananasbellinis]… i think the best way to see a new place is to balance the touristy stuff with a more “local” experience, so i’m open to all suggestions! balance can really apply to all aspects of your life, you know?
on that note, i’m signing off! have some loose ends to tie up and a carry-on to pack before i head to the airport this evening. enjoy the long holiday weekend, stay safe, stay balanced, and i’ll see you on the other side… first stop… london, baby!
oz recap part 6: sydney
well. i’ve put it off for long enough … but it’s time to do the final recap from my trip to australia … and this is one of those cases where i definitely saved the best for last!
sydney was hands down my favorite australian city [broome was a very close second because of how beautiful and secluded it was, but sydney offered a completely different vibe]. i was on my own in sydney, as i was in brisbane, and i rented a cute little studio apartment on airbnb in bondi beach … best decision ever.
this was the final leg of my trip … so by the time i arrived in sydney i had been on many planes, traveled prettttyyyyyy far, and seen and done a lot, so as much as i wanted to explore the city and experience it for everything that it was, i was also in need of some relaxation.
day 1: it was raining and cold when my flight landed at 7am [remember, june is winter in australia] and i was beat. i took advantage of the bad weather and used it as the perfect excuse to go to sleep immediately upon arrival. i hadn’t napped that hard in months and it felt so. freakin. good. that evening, i found a yoga studio down the street from my apartment and it became my sanctuary for the next few days. if you’re ever in sydney, go to yogatime! it was so cute, the prices were reasonable and the instructors were awesome.
day 2: i was so happy to wake up to see that the weather had done a total 180 and it was sunny out. i was about 5 miles from the city center, and because i love exploring on foot so much and was alone [aka: could do whatever the eff i wanted], i decided to walk from bondi beach into sydney proper. it took me about 2 hours, but there were so many shops and cool things to look at along the way that i didn’t mind at all!
when i got to the city center, i stumbled across hyde park where i saw the archibald fountain and st. mary’s cathedral, and also caught a nice view of the sydney tower eye.
[archibald fountain, hyde park]
[st. mary’s cathedral]
[sydney tower eye as seen from hyde park]
next, i walked over to the royal botanic gardens, which run along the sydney harbour. even though it was “winter” the plants, trees and flowers were still so beautiful!
[royal botanic gardens]
from here, the views of the sydney harbour bridge and the opera house were amazing … selfies happened [again, #solotravelproblems].
[sydney harbour selfie!]
from this point, i basically ran over to the opera house because i was so effing excited to be at this iconic landmark … and it’s just as stunning as you would imagine it to be in person. on the opposite side of the harbour in the rocks district, i [naturally] walked right into a foodie market, where i grabbed lunch before stopping for some more photo ops.
finally, i walked across the sydney harbour bridge. and … again, views. for. days.
[sydney harbour … perfection]
after walking around 15 miles total that day, i met up with brian and laura, u.s. expats living and working in sydney who are friends of friends from college for a little night out … and they were the best hosts! we had an amazing italian dinner in surry hills, complete with pizza and wine … and more wine. it was so nice to be welcomed by two total strangers with such open arms [and isn’t it always a good thing to have friends in fun places?]. after finishing off a bottle of wine, i headed back to my cozy bondi beach apartment and crashed.
day 3: i took an early morning yoga class and then a nap [vacation, doe] and then had the best breakfast of the trip at bondi wholefoods. that same morning, i also found the most perfect farmer’s market [i’m starting to think i have a sixth sense for this type of sh*t] where i enjoyed a fresh kombucha on tap and some people watching.
on this day i wrote in my journal:
“bondi beach is literally the venice beach of australia … only cleaner … and better because it’s not in america. it has the coolest vibe … great shops, restaurants, and hot surfers. this is officially the part of australia i could stay in forever.”
i’ll let the pictures do the talking.
[the famous icebergs club]
need i say more? after a bit more wandering, i did the coastal cliff walk from bondi beach to coogee beach, which was about 4 miles, and some of the most scenic coastline i have ever seen. the ocean, the waves, the cliffs, the sky, everything was just un. real. if you do the entire walk, you hit bronte beach, tamarama and gordon’s bay before ending in coogee. this is a MUST DO if you ever visit sydney.
day 4: sigh. my last day in australia slash paradise slash heaven. i made it to one last yoga class, stocked up on tim tam’s and spent the day laying on the beach in bondi, people watching and reading. i really wanted my last day of vacation to be all about rest and rejuvenation and. it. was.
in the evening, i returned to the city center to have farewell drinks with brian and laura at opera bar, which as you might have guessed, sits right next to the opera house. no better way to spend my final hours in australia than looking directly at one of the most famous landmarks in the place, amiright?!
[best send off ever!]
and … that’s all she wrote … looking back, i honestly can’t believe i was so lucky to have been able to spend two weeks in the land down under. it was a whirlwind … as with just about any place you travel to, there is more to see and do in australia than a lifetime will allow … but, i’m pretty confident i’ll make it back one day!
for a full recap on everything i ate [my favorite kind of recap] on this trip [and trust me, it’s worth looking into] check out this post, and the recaps of the other places i visited can be found below!
… so … where to next?!
oz recap part 5: brisbane
we’re nearing the end of my trip to australia [can’t believe it’s been almost four months since i was there] and i’m really excited to share some pictures and a little bit about my experience in brisbane with you guys!
this wasn’t a city that got raving reviews from many people, but ended up on my itinerary anyway [long story], and i have to say, i’m so glad it did … i actually really loved this city. by the time i reached brisbane, i was traveling solo, which i had never done before, so i was really able to just do me.
after plans with a distant relative fell through [see: “long story” above] i ended up reserving an airbnb in the new farm area super last minute. it was truly a “basic” room in a small apartment, but was right by the river and had some cute restaurants and shops nearby, so it was all good.
because i don’t mind walking, i committed to exploring brisbane on foot … i think one day i walked close to 10 miles total, which was awesome. when i’m traveling with other people, they always want to take cabs or public transportation for anything farther than a 10-minute walk away, which bugs the sh*t out of me. the weather was awesome, there was so much to see and i wasn’t on a schedule … so i walked my ass off and love, love, loved every minute of it.
day 1: after dropping my things off at my airbnb, i immediately headed to the west end … on foot, of course. the brisbane river weaves through the city, which requires there to be a lot of bridges, including many that are pedestrian only. the weather was perfect [again, winter temperatures in the 60s and low 70s] and the city was just beautiful … saw lots of amazing architecture along the way.
[st. john’s cathedral … this felt very game of thrones to me!]
[king john’s square]
the main reason i wanted to check out the west end was because i was told it’s essentially the brooklyn of brisbane … and those reports were accurate. i wandered in and out of some awesome, funky shops and through a farmer’s market on boundary st. [one of the main drags in the west end] and had lunch [and a beer] at lock ‘n’ load bistro [all of my culinary adventure in australia can be found here]. there was a lot of cool street art in the west end also, which i think was my favorite thing about this neighborhood.
[grafitti in the west end]
after lunch, i walked over to the south bank along the water and through an amazing park, the rainforest green, before making my way into the queensland gallery of modern art, which was totally free to go into!
[flower arches along the river in the south bank]
i ended my day with a walk through city center and over to chinatown where i had an amazing thai dinner [huge asian influence in australia] before heading in for the night and catching an awesome view of the story bridge all lit up on the way.
[story bridge + brisbane skyline by night]
day 2: i started my second day in brisbane off with a run across the story bridge and along the water [the view was insane], ate lunch at the little larder in new farm, right around the corner from where i was staying and then, once again, started walking.
[morning run along the brisbane river]
i walked all along the river from new farm to the brisbane city botanical gardens, then across the goodwill bridge to kangaroo point, where you get an awesome view of the city and all of the cliffs lining the river, and finally, headed to the south bank again to check out the street beach and eat some ice cream for dinner … #vacation.
[brisbane botanical gardens]
[cliffs along kangaroo point]
[selfies are a necessary part of solo travel … at kangaroo point.]
day 3: my last day in brisbane was definitely legendary. i woke up super early so that i could eat two breakfasts [donut time + cocobliss … again #vacation … and also #balance]. after breakfasts, i boarded the mirimar ii for a river cruise headed to lone pine koala sanctuary, which a friend had recommended to me.
[view of the city from the mirimar ii]
the cruise was about an hour long, and there were some seriously envy worthy homes along the way. when we docked at lone pine, i was so effing excited i could barely control myself … we were given two and a half hours to explore … and i was on a mission. lone pine is one of the world’s most famous “zoos” … but it’s truly more of an animal sanctuary with an amazing history than a zoo.
[docked at lone pine koala sanctuary]
first thing was first: purchase kangaroo snacks and head to the kangaroo enclosure to play with some kangaroos. the kangaroos live in a huge open area [with some other animals, including emus, which kinda freaked me out] that you can just wander into … no cages, nothing! the kangaroos are so friendly, you can walk up to them, hold some food out and they’ll come right up and eat directly from the palm of your hand. i had way too much fun … and obviously had to take a few kangaroo selfies because , you know, when in rome.
[literally, in love with these guys.]
after some serious quality time with the kangaroos, i got in line for the moment i had been waiting for literally my whole life … holding a koala. i think the picture sums it up. his name was arinokoo [ari for short] and he was heavy, but so soft and sweet!
[top 3 moments of life? probably.]
i walked around the sanctuary and saw more koalas [once they get to a certain age they are retired and no longer able to be held by visitors], wombats, tazmanian devils and dingos. it was such a cool experience and for someone who hates zoos, this place was truly magical. you can see the care that goes into the animals and they aren’t cooped up in cages, it’s mostly open air enclosures and large fenced off areas, which was so nice to see. the koalas are also on strict schedules for the photo ops to make sure they never get worn out!
[wombat … how cute?!]
[tasmanian devils, just livin’ the life]
finally, i had a really nice surprise for my last night in brisbane … the bride and groom whose wedding i was in australia for in the first place got stuck in brisbane for a few days en route to their honeymoon … so i was able to grab dinner and a few drinks with them … seriously, best surprise ever, considering i left broome not knowing when i would see my soul sister again. all the feels.
[honeymoon crashing snapchat selfies…SO MUCH LOVE.]
overall, i think brisbane is pretty underrated … so don’t listen to the haters. if you make it down under, add it to your itinerary. even if it’s just for a day trip to lone pine!
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