Journey with Purpose: Visit Thailand & Help End Child Sex Trafficking with ECPAT International


Hello fellow travelers!

I’m teaming up with ECPAT International with the mission of helping to end child sex trafficking in the travel industry. Today I’m coming to you all with an exciting new travel/volunteering opportunity for those of you looking to learn more about this issue and participate in a program that will not only allow you to visit one of my favorite countries in the world, but also provides great insights into the nature of child sex trafficking and support for the organizations looking to abolish it.

Thailand has always been one of my favorite destinations, but I’ve always been particularly bothered by the level of human trafficking, sex work and child sex work that I’ve encountered during my travels through Thailand and Southeast Asia in general. This is a huge part of the reason I’ve become involved with ECPAT International, whose core mission is predicated around ending child sex trafficking globally. I’m particularly excited to help ECPAT with their journey for good initiative, which combines two of my great passions: travel and providing meaningful, valuable opportunities for children and women around the world.

Read below for more information about this trip, and please click around! If you know of anyone who might be interested I highly encourage you to share this information with them; this is an amazing opportunity and a portion of the trip cost goes directly to benefit the organizations working to end child sex trafficking around the world.

 

Travel with a Philanthropic Twist
Explore the world and be a part of advocating against child trafficking and exploitation by signing up now for our next tour of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai!  ECPAT-USA has partnered with socially responsible tour operator AltruVistas to give travelers the trip of a lifetime. This is just the ticket for those who want a more meaningful travel experience while making the world a better place.
Check out a few highlights and the itinerary of our upcoming ECPAT Advocacy Journey (11/27-12/7) which is now open for registration. The 11-day journey is focused on giving participants a glimpse at how modern day travel is combating modern day slavery. We witnessed how emotionally powerful these tours can be, and it is a life-changing experience. You will have the opportunity to:
  • Visit Child Life, an NGO led by Kru Nam that provides direct intervention for children at risk in Maesai, Northern Thailand at the border with Myanmar. We’ll learn about intervention and prevention strategies being used in local communities to keep children safe.
  • Spend the day with the Mirror Foundation, an NGO run by Thai hill tribe staff that works to protect ethnic minorities. We’ll learn about the group’s anti-trafficking efforts and enjoy dinner and cultural dancing together.
  • Enjoy a meal at Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant, a social enterprise that promotes acceptance of family planning. We’ll get to talk to representatives from the International Labor Organization and to learn more about the overlap of labor trafficking and sexual exploitation involving children in Thailand.
  • Experience a variety of cultural excursions, such as visiting an elephant conservation center and touring the Grand Palace, temples, and local markets.
Are you ready to pack your bags for a life-altering journey to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai!? Sign up today and join us as we make this world a better place.
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One more way to get involved!
SOLD, starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette, is a story of a girl who is trafficked from her village in Nepal to a brothel in Kolkata, India. Through the service TUGG, you can set up a showing of SOLD at your local theater, and turn it into a benefit for ECPAT-USA! Screening SOLD is a great way to raise awareness about the issue of trafficking and talk about what we can do to end it.  To get started and request a screening guide, email  Karli@ecpatusa.org 
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Please help create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex. Your commitment enables us to give children freedom. Press the donate button on our home page www.ecpatusa.org Thank you for your support.

 

 

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Stockholm Bucket List II: Skansen, Vasa Museum and the Best Dinner Ever


After a gorgeously sunny and warm arrival in Stockholm we woke up to a very rainy Stockholm on our second day. Undeterred, we took advantage of the poor weather to tackle a few of the indoor activities we wanted to explore (and one outdoor activity that we couldn’t resist)!

We started our day slowly trying to work up the courage to venture out in the rain, with a specific rainy day plan in mind. Yesterday we stumbled upon a great little tea shop just as it closed and, as you all probably know, I love tea, so we put it at the top of the list for today.

True to our word, Chaikhana was our first stop today and boy, was it a good one! We ordered a cup of tea each (I got the Bai Mu Dan, a very delicate white peony tea) and I ordered the Indian Omelette, which came with a side of gluten free toast. The service was admittedly a little slow and would have been preferable later in the afternoon, when our day was coming to an end and we didn’t feel pressured to get moving. Still, the food and tea were worth the wait (the omelette was to die for) and I topped it off with an amazing gluten and dairy free cake.

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Chaikhana is located directly across from the German Church, so we popped in there quickly and took a peek around. The church itself is small but beautiful, and we snapped a few pictures before we had our fill and continued on to what we thought would be the primary activity for the day–the Vasa Museum. Due to a slight lack of prior research on my part, the Vasa Museum was not exactly what I thought it would be, but it was very interesting all the same. We learned about the history of this 17th century would-be warship, which ended up sinking approximately 1000 meters into its voyage and killing 30 people. We learned about the reclamation and restoration process and about the lives of passengers that had died during the journey, which I thought was the most interesting part. Life in Sweden during the 1600s is an area of history I’m admittedly clueless about, so it was interesting to get a better understanding of what that was like.

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We left the Vasa Museum around 4:30 and made the impulsive decision to visit Skansen, an open-air museum and zoo. Although I typically have reservations about zoos and their treatment of animals, Skansen actually surpassed my expectations tenfold and I was disappointed I didn’t get to spend more time there. We paid the entry fee of 180 SEK and went straight to the aquarium, which confusingly houses not only fish and reptiles but also open-air monkey exhibits, including lemurs (my personal favorite). There was an extra fee of 120 SEK, but it was well worth it.

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Photo credit: Photos by Ena

The rest of the museum was huge and we were stressed about the fact that it closed at 6:00 PM, but that was an unnecessary worry. Sweden is apparently an incredibly trusting country and Skansen, at least, seems to operate on the honesty policy. We walked at our leisure and weren’t kicked out promptly at 6:00, and saw others who continued to explore  until 6:30 at least. We felt compelled to leave at closing time, being the rule abiders that we are, but no one seemed too bothered that we spent a couple extra minutes looking at the Lynx exhibit or playing peek-a-boo with a cheeky seal.

Our exhausting day ended at a little local tapas-style restaurant called Matkonsulatet, where we had some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had. The restaurant itself was pricey by my broke millennial standards, but well worth every single krona! We sat at the bar and ordered a wine while we chit-chatted with the server–I started off with a rose champagne and informed him that I’m gluten free and not hugely fond of fish. The menu was in Swedish only but the staff spoke perfect English, so we asked him to just pick 5 of his favorite dishes for us (and were so hungry we ended up getting a sixth).

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Elise and I shared all of the dishes, starting with patatas bravas, a strawberry salad with balsamic and sheep’s milk cheese (amazing), pork belly with anchovy sauce (not as amazing), a cured beef dish, hangar steak and a pork side with parsnip chips and a parsnip puree (my personal favorite dish). We both topped off with a dessert–I got the chocolate mousse/fudge with olive oil and Elise got the vanilla/toffee version. We liked it so much that we went back again on our last day! I’ll be writing a blog post specifically about Matkonsulatet in the near future (and will link back here), so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Bucket list review:

Vasa Museum:

Activity Type: History & Culture, Museum

Price: 130 SEK for adults (~USD$15), 100 SEK students (~USD$11.75, we got in on student prices)

Value for Money: Moderate. The museum was very well thought out and interesting and worth a see, but like everything in Sweden  it’s fairly expensive. Best for history/naval buffs.

Suitable for: Everyone! Parts of this museum were definitely made with children in mind, and it made for a good rainy day activity.

Recommend: This wasn’t my favorite thing to do in Stockholm, but I definitely tend to lean in towards experiences instead of museums (i.e animal encounters, skydiving, etc), but for museum buffs this would be a nice activity. 

Skansen Open Air Museum:

Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Zoo, Outdoor Adventure

Price: SEK 180 (~USD$21.22), Aquarium SEK 120 (USD$14 extra)

Value for Money: Moderate to high. I loved this museum and wished I’d made an entire day of it. That said, entry prices were steep and paying more to see the aquarium felt a little unfair, even if it was a very enjoyable exhibit. I’d pay it again, but I could see some people not enjoying it as much as I did.

Recommend: 100%! I really enjoyed this museum and love getting to spend time outdoors. Exhibits were large and animals looked mostly happy (even in the miserable rain), which is unusual for zoos. The history of Sweden was also explained in many interactive, open air exhibits, which was very interesting. 

Want to know more about Stockholm? 

Click here to read about eating, drinking and exploring Old Town Stockholm! 

 

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Stockholm Bucket List I: Eating, Drinking & Exploring in Old Town


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Greetings from Stockholm! Our first day got off to a bit of a late start; our 9:10 flight from the UK had us getting into Sweden around 1:00 in the afternoon, which meant we didn’t get to our hotel until about 2:30/3:00. Public transportation in Sweden is actually incredibly easy and efficient; from the airport we took the Arlanda Express into the city center, which was a quick and comfy 20 minute ride. From there we hopped onto the subway and then connected to a tram, which brought us directly in front of our hotel. We checked in at the fabulous Motel L and were given access to our room immediately and were pleasantly surprised to see that it was cute, comfortable and fashionable.

I can’t recommend Motel L highly enough–the staff were very accommodating for a relatively budget hotel, the rooms were stylish, clean and very quiet. It was a little bit out of the city center, but public transportation made it an easy connection to get just about anywhere. Breakfast wasn’t included in our stay, but we could pay 90 SEK (about $9, typical in Stockholm) to get essentially an all-you-can-eat deal, which was well worth the money every time. I didn’t expect much from the breakfast based on the Tripadvisor reviews but personally found it to be exceptional; I was able to get gluten free bread and mini-pastries in abundance (the standard serving came with two rolls and either two slices of bread or two pastries depending on the day), which was more than enough to feed me (and probably a few other people, too).

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They also had a huge array of meats, a few cheeses, a selection of yogurts, granolas and cereals, fresh fruit and lots of different milk items, including oat milk (unexpectedly amazing), soymilk, lactose free milk and normal milk. There weren’t really any hot items, but I don’t see why you’d need a hot breakfast with choice like that!

We obviously didn’t arrive in time for breakfast on the first day, so we sought out a few local bites after freshening up and then headed to Old Town. It was a gloriously sunny day and we decided we’d spend it getting comfortably lost and wandering the streets. I was worried that Old Town would be insanely touristy, and in a lot of places it was–there was no lack of kitschy tourist shops selling standard tacky souvenirs– but we were shocked by how un-crowded it was.

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There were tons and tons of hidden gems in Old Town, including a few fantastic Swedish design shops (my personal favorite was Designfirman, pictured below), gorgeous old buildings and cobbled streets, a handful of trendy but moderately expensive gastropubs and restaurants and a few points of interest, including the German Church and the Riddarholmen Church, which is the oldest surviving building in Stockholm.

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13,000 steps later we were growing peckish and ready to sit down, but we were too early for the dinner reservation we’d tentatively made at the Flying Elk restaurant. We stopped into a cute, rustic looking spot called the Corner Club and were greeted by Oskar, a friendly barman who sat down with us and walked us through their cocktail menu. We ended up ordering three different types of cocktails between the two of us–the Milkman, Oh Canada, and Honey Dew You Know (all very cleverly named). The first drink we had was the Milkman, which was incredibly strong but had a very pleasant aftertaste.

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We decided to get some food in the pub instead of at the restaurant and were pleased to find that they actually shared a kitchen. I ordered the cheeseburger and fries and was excited to learn that it could be made with a gluten free bun even though it wasn’t noted on the menu. It was hands down the best burger I’ve ever eaten, even if it did come in at 204 SEK (about $20). Food in Stockholm is generally expensive (even by New York City standards), but every single expensive meal that we had was totally worth the price. I was worried about how well I’d be able to eat in the city with dietary restrictions, but I can happily report that there was no need to worry: the Swedish are very accommodating and gluten free substitutions usually come at no additional charge.

One of the other bartenders noted that she was also gluten free, so we shamelessly asked her for a list of restaurants she’d recommend that had gluten free options. Between herself and Oskar we were given a list of probably 10 places, including our definitive favorite restaurant in Sweden, Matkonsulatet, which I’ll write about in detail in my upcoming gluten free guide to eats and sleeps in Stockholm and also in my post about our day 2 adventures (link coming soon). We ended up not leaving Matkonsulatet until about 10:45 PM and were exhausted after our early morning flight and extensive wanderings, so we headed back to the hotel and cozied down into bed for an early-ish night.

Come back soon to:

Check out what we did on day 2 of our Stockholm adventure! Spoiler alert: it involves lemurs!

Coming soon: Can’t get enough of Stockholm? Click here to read about our day trip to the fabulous Drottningholm Palace!

Coming soon: Dietary restrictions? Take a look at my cohesive guide to gluten free eats and sleeps in Stockholm! (You won’t regret it!)

 

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The British Bucket List: High Tea at The Savoy


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Going back to the U.K. has always felt a little bit like going home to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to live here a few years ago, and have since returned on an annual basis to visit friends and continue to build and reinforce my network of people in the area. Even though I find the U.K. incredibly comfortable, I always try and push myself to see or do one new thing that I haven’t done in the past.

This year’s trip saw me booking high tea at the very luxurious Savoy hotel with a good friend. High tea costs approximately £50-£53 per person without alcohol, and boy was it worth it! We arrived to London from Canterbury by train and got in a good deal earlier than our reservation, which was set for 1:15 PM. This gave us plenty of time to explore the beautiful Victoria Embankment Gardens while we waited, basking in the (rare) British summer sun.

When it came time for our reservation we entered the lavishly decorated building, which was incredibly ornately decorated. Fresh flowers, attentive staff and impeccable interior design completed the image of sophistication, and it was an immediately calming atmosphere. We were able to really sit down and enjoy ourselves, mulling over the tea menu (boasting more than 30 flavors of tea) while deciding on whether we preferred a savory service to a pastry service. Our waiter was attentive but reserved, which was the perfect combination.

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Photo Credit: Kiwi Collection

When booking the tea I’d requested a gluten free tea service, and was informed upon arrival that my food had been prepared in advance and would be ready whenever I wanted it. I believe that those who didn’t request a gluten free service can still get one, but that the gluten free option will typically take longer to come out than the standard option if it hasn’t been pre-ordered.

I ordered the rose and peony white tea before choosing the Afternoon Tea option, which included finger sandwiches, fresh scones, a course of pastries and then a dessert option. Emily ordered the alternative menu, which substituted pastries for an asparagus, crayfish and egg dish. Our first course came out quickly and Emily, being my guide for all things British for the day, politely informed me that it was customary to taste each sandwich so as to avoid being rude. I was only too happy to oblige, and eagerly enjoyed the ham and cheese, the coronation chicken, the egg and mayonnaise and the tomato sandwich. Apprehensively I tried the smoked salmon–I’ve never been big on fish–but it was absolutely lovely as well, and I ended up eating the whole thing.

The courses rolled out as we requested them and each one was better than the last. By the time we were finished we were uncomfortably full but incredibly satisfied, and spent a pleasant half hour chit-chatting in the beautifully adorned tea room. We settled the check promptly before venturing out to explore the little shop just outside the tea room, where Emily purchased a packet of the tea that she’d enjoyed during our meal. Taking our afternoon tea at the Savoy was an absolute treat, and one I’d recommend for anyone looking for a taste of British culture and refinement at it’s very best.

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Photo Credit: Visit London

Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Food & Beverage

Price: $50-53 without alcohol

Value for Money: Variable/high: I personally felt like this was incredibly worthwhile, but for people who are less interested in food/beverage and prefer something a little more active and a little less refined it may be less enjoyable. 

Suitable for: Everyone! May not be great for young kids.

Recommend: 100%! I loved the tea service here and it was a great experience. I’d love to come back for another special occasion.

Extras: Photography is mildly frowned upon, so most of my photos came from a stock source.

 

 

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Northern Europe!


Hi guys!

After a long hiatus involving a move to NYC and a bit of an adjustment period after, I finally have a new trip coming up! I’ll be crossing more items off my bucket list in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland, and I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it. I’ll be expanding some of my content into the territory of restaurant reviews and will hopefully be getting a few new city guides together, so be on the lookout for those! I can’t wait to tell (and show!) you guys all about it!

-Natalie

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Bucket List Adventure: Stand-up Paddle Boarding in Colorado!


Last month I turned 24, and in the spirit of trying new things every year, I decided I wanted to do something exciting that I’ve never done before. I had tons of adventures in my 23rd year of life–skydiving, hiking, zorbing, exploring movie sets, playing with tigers, communing with elephants, volunteering in Thailand and getting an up-close and personal introduction to Australian wildlife–and while I know that this year is going to be a little less exotic, I still want to do things that push me as a person, mentally and physically. Just because I’m not actively traveling at the moment doesn’t mean that my life can’t still be exciting and full of new adventures, and I’m determined to keep finding activities that will challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone.

It didn’t take long for me to decide what my first adventure as a 24 year old would be: stand-up paddle boarding or SUP, for short. As a birthday present to myself, I bought a GoPro and decided to christen it on the day trip to Bear Creek Lake Park, which is about 35 minutes outside of Denver.  My friend Erica was visiting from Massachusetts, so we headed out to the park in the early afternoon. Paddle board rentals are a little bit steeply priced there–$20 per hour–but the surroundings were gorgeous and our wait time wasn’t outrageously long. It was a Saturday, so it was slightly more crowded than it would probably be on a weekday, but the lake didn’t feel like it was absolutely overrun with people, which was a definite bonus!

Actually finding the little lake where you rent the paddle boards can be a little bit tricky, but we figured it out after a few minutes and then went to the boat rental building and put our names in. The wait was about 20 minutes, which was slightly inconvenient but did give us time to reapply sunscreen and let it soak in before we headed out into the extra-strong Colorado sunshine! When we finally got the boards we were a little bit nervous about actually using them; loads of people around us were taking lessons, but we hadn’t bothered with that and were just winging it.

To my surprise, stand-up paddle boarding is crazy easy! It takes a little while to figure out what strokes will push you in which direction, but the learning curve is pretty gentle and before long we were able to get ourselves moving, turning around, etc. We had tons of fun exploring the little lake and I think that this activity would be SUPER fun to do on a lazy river, especially while traveling. I’m definitely going to be seeking out SUP when I’m traveling in the future–I’d love to do it in Southeast Asia or in Hawaii! If you’re interested in trying SUP around the world, I’m going to include a few links to articles below that will give you a little bit more information on key destinations. If you’re not sure you want to try it on vacation, I highly recommend trying to find places near your house to do it–state parks often also offer it, so be sure to do a quick google search for SUP locations near you!

The Travel Channel: World’s Best Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Spots

Outside Magazine: North America’s 10 Best Beginner SUP Spots

The Clymb: The World’s Best Places to Stand-Up Paddle Board

Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Adventure

Price: $20/hr

Value for Money: Average. There are other places where you can rent boards for $12 an hour instead of $20, and I’d say thats a much better value. 

Suitable for: Everyone! It doesn’t require much skill, and if you’re really nervous you can always take a lesson.

Recommend: 100%! Its so much fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Extras: All photos in this article taken with a GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition.

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Custom Travel Itineraries


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Good morning readers! I’m very excited to announce that I’m going to start planning custom travel itineraries for people for a nominal fee. My goal is to create reasonably priced, customized, personalized travel itineraries, tailored specifically to your interests and needs and to your likes and dislikes. Like a guidebook, only written especially for you!

I can help plan trips of any length, and charge depending on the length of trip I’m commissioned to plan. The pay scale runs according to length of trip and level of detail desired for the itinerary. Here’s a brief rundown of what is and is not included:

Whats included:

  • A personalized day-by-day travel itinerary that’s tailored to meet your needs an interests.
  • Information on all applicable transportation and transfers needs.
  • Tips for how to get the best deal on a flight or the cheapest/most comfortable/fastest way to get from one destination to another!
  • Potential day trips from your immediate area.
  • Hotel and restaurant suggestions based on your budget, your interests and your expressed preferences.
  • Suggestions or cultural things you should be aware of, if any are relevant to your destination.
  • Alternate ideas and mainstream activities that are worth a look, no matter what your interests are.

Whats not included:

  • Bookings—itineraries only provide suggestions, its up to you to select and book your favorites!
  • Reserving activities—again, this is up to you! Most international activities can be reserved via email.

What I’ll need from you:

  • After a brief e-mail correspondence indicating the length and destination of your trip, I’ll send you a survey to get a better idea of your needs, wants, interests and budget, in addition to number of people anticipated to attend and any other personal information that I’ll need—whether or not you have food allergies, children, are a handicapped vacationer, whether you have strong fears or phobias, etc. On the flip side, its great to know what you’re not hugely interested in doing—if you’re more of a hiker than a museum-goer, please write this on your survey, too! This will give me the opportunity to learn more about what you specifically might find interesting (or awful), and to plan accordingly! The more detailed you are about your wants and needs, the better job I can do planning for you, so feel free to give me as much information as you want!

If you’re interested, please visit my PAGE (CLICK HERE) for more information, or e-mail nsteinberg13@gmail.com if you’d like to request a sample itinerary. I’ll be giving away fifteen custom itineraries for free, and all I ask is that, if you like my work, you give me a positive review on Etsy. Currently, I still have 15/15 free itineraries to give, so e-mail if you’d like to receive one!

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Hiking Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado


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Its been raining for almost a month (yes, a whole f****** month) here in Denver, but we FINALLY got a reprieve last weekend! After checking the weather report and seeing that thunderstorms weren’t on the horizon until about 2 pm, I asked my high school bestie Andie to come out early on Sunday morning so that we could get a nice hike and lunch in before the rain came back. We decided the night before that we’d go to Table Mountain, which boasts easy-to-advanced hikes and stunning views. It’s only about 30 minutes from Denver and dog-friendly, which was a must, as my little buddy Willie was desperate for a nice, long walkie!

Our original plan was to hike for about two hours, maybe a little bit less, but straight up and down. We parked, unadvisedly, near the neighborhood access on an nondescript side-road. We learned later that there’s an actual parking lot with amenities like port-o-potties and the like, which is 100% where we will park next time! Its a long drive from Denver and not having a bathroom at the beginning of the trail was basically torture.

Anyway, at our jumpoff point there was only a small posting about trails and whatnot, without any real marking as to where we were or what paths went where. This was exceptionally confusing when it came to deciding which direction we were meant to go in to start our hike, which we thought would be about three miles. Ultimately we made the wrong choice and ended up on the North Table Loop, which is said to be 5.9 miles long, but in actuality ended up being about 8 miles. In spite of not being the trail we’d anticipated doing, the hike was scenic and beautiful, and was a great workout to boot! We really felt like we earned our lunch!

The beginning of our hike was pretty easy and almost entirely flat. Occasionally we’d run into another hiker or a small cluster of people, and at one point we were overtaken by horses, but other than that it was peaceful and quiet. Midway through the hike things became increasingly difficult, and there was a marginal but steady uphill stretch that lasted for about a mile, which fully wiped Andie and me out, but the little dog was having a grand old time! Eventually we found the entrance to the park, and pushed on reinvigorated to the last quarter of our hike. By this point we’d been hiking way longer than intended and could see a thunderstorm approaching over the opposite set of mountains, inconveniently as we were passing a field of giant, metal electric towers. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it definitely put a hustle in our steps!

When we finished we loaded back up in the car–very muddy dog included–and headed into town for some lunch. We got to Sherpa House at 2pm, only 30 minutes before they closed, but were SO excited to find out that they still had their lunch buffet on, for $9.99 all you can eat! I ordered a chai in addition to the food I picked out–some memorable favorites included the Chicken Tikka Masala, a tasty spinach dish, some Onion Bajhi (onions battered with chickpea flour and deep fried–I probably ate 6+ of them, they were out-of-this-world delicious!) and potatoes that were covered in what appeared to be a yogurt sauce. I’m gluten free, so Naan was out of the question, but the Onion Bajhi totally covered my craving for carbs!

Very full and already sore, we got back into the car and hustled back to Denver, where I proceeded to get a 90-minute massage for $12.50 (yes, you read that right!) at the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado with my sister. All in all it was an amazing day, in spite of the threatening weather and the unexpected ruggedness of the hike, and the massage after the hike was exactly what I needed to recover!

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Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Adventure–hiking!

Price: Free + Cost of lunch and gas. 

Value for Money: A++

Suitable for: Everyone! There are easier hikes you could do with kids. Probably not a great activity for mobility-disabled people.

Recommend: Absolutely! Hiking in Golden is great and I’d go back just to get lunch at Sherpa House!

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Bucket List Idea: Taking a Class at Canvas and Cocktails!


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Sometimes, when I’m not traveling, I start to feel like my day to day life is really, really boring. I tend to fall into a routine, either with work or school, and maybe going out for food or drinks, usually to the same places. Recently, though, I’ve been wanting to branch out more and to try and make my home life a little bit more like my life abroad! Colorado has a ton of great activities, most of which are pretty affordably priced, and I think its high time I started taking advantage of them.

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Last Christmas, my sister gave my mom and I tickets to Canvas and Cocktails, which has various installments around the country (Painting and Sipping, Canvas and Corkscrews are a few others, to name a few! Doing a quick google search is probably the easiest and fastest way to find a similar venue near you). I was a little bit nervous about it at first–I have the artistic ability of a rock, when it comes to things like painting and drawing–and didn’t think I was going to have what it took to paint some of these paintings. A lot of them looked pretty complex, even though the one that we chose was relatively simple.

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We were able to look online at a calendar of classes, which included the painting that was going to be recreated during that session. The piece that we chose was multi-media, a painting of an umbrella, a lamppost and rain on a backdrop of books pages, which we got to choose for ourselves. When we arrived at the studio we were greeted and checked in by the lovely ladies at the desk, who were all very friendly and chatty. We paid and were shown to our easels, given a brief tour of what we’d need to get started (paints, aprons, complimentary drink).

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I picked up my gear and grabbed a mimosa, then took a few glamour shots to get prepared for the class! Our studio has a super-cool raffle drawing for a free class, which you get entries for by checking in or sharing photos on various forms of social media. I checked in on Facebook (with a photo), checked in/tagged myself on Instagram and shared my Instagram check-in to Twitter, and got 4 entries for the raffle!

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We began by picking out the book pages for the background of our painting, and I choose all dictionary pages, particularly ones with animals on them. Our super-friendly instructor taught us how to apply them to the canvas, then turned us loose for about 15 minutes so we could work independently. After 15-20 minutes we began to mix our other colors and worked on our paintings, and were given breaks every once in a while to let the paint dry and to keep us from over-fixating on the paintings. The instruction was basic but effective, and our leader made sure to come around and check everyone’s work individually and correct things if they were going way off-base.

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When our painting were nearing completion our instructor drew names for the raffle, and I ended up winning, which is SO exciting! I never win anything, like seriously never win anything ever, so it was doubly exciting for that. I finished up painting and perused the store, coming out with a scarf and a super cute necklace, both of which were 20% off. We were allowed to finish at our own pace and check out the store, which is great for slower painters. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something fun and different to do, and I cannot wait to go again with my free class!

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Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Class, art.

Price: $35, includes a free drink. 

Value for Money: Above average! The whole experience is super fun and you’ll have a pretty piece of art to bring home at the end of the day. Totally worth it.  

Suitable for: Everyone! I have exactly zero talent when it comes to art, and even I managed to produce something pretty. I also saw kids there, and families–no alcohol if you’re under 21 or don’t have an I.D, but you can definitely still join the fun!

Recommend: Absolutely! I cant wait to do it again. 

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Topping the Bucket List: Doing the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London!


Hey, everyone! My apologies in advance–this post is going to be super photo-heavy, so get ready! The photos were all taken on my Iphone, so they’re a little less high quality than normal, but they’re good enough! In spite of having spent an entire year living in the UK, somehow I never managed to find the time to do two things that I’ve been absolutely dying to do: see Stonehenge and take the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. I still haven’t managed to see Stonehenge, but I have finally got to take the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which was even more amazing than I ever could have imagined.

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The tour is about £30 (roughly $45 USD) for an adult ticket, not including food or drink while you’re there. Getting to the tour is the tricky part, though; from London, you have to take a train to Watford Junction, some of which are far less direct than others. There’s one train that takes approximately 15 minutes (definitely the train you’ll want to take), which lists Watford Junction as a waypoint rather than a destination. I made the mistake of taking the train that ends in Watford Junction, which takes closer to an hour–not great when you’re trying to make your allotted tour time on your ticket!

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A bus runs from Watford Junction Train Station to the tour approximately every 20 minutes, but thankfully I had my friend and favorite travel buddy Cheyenne to come pick me up at the train station. We got onto the last tour of the day, which gave us plenty of time to explore the exhibits on our own.

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We were first guided into a small room by one of the tour leaders, who then explained how the tour was going to work. The tour is self-guided, and though I believe audioguides are available, I found it fun enough to simply wander around on my own and admire the sets. The second stop on the tour is a theatre, which provides a brief video with cameos from actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, after which we’re led into the great hall. At this point we still have a guide with us, who told us more about the sets and then let us wander off to take our ten thousand selfies.

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After that we were left to explore the sets at our leisure, which included the boy’s dormitory, the potions room, the Ministry of Magic, the Weasley’s house, and Professor Umbridge’s office. Halfway through, we got our first taste of Butterbeer (which I loved, Cheyenne not so much–its kind of like a cream soda float, if you’re American!), then got to go explore some of the outdoor built sets, including the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the Hogwarts Bridge (I’m sure that has a more official name, I just don’t remember what it is),  and Hagrid’s Motorcycle.

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My personal favorite part of the tour came next (after Butterbeer tasting, of course)– getting to see Diagon Alley. Diagon Alley was incredibly elaborate, and it was super fun to explore! We probably spent way longer than we should have looking into all the shops and searching for the perfect photo op, but that’s half the fun of the tour–getting to really get to know the set and pretend you’ve finally gotten your letter of acceptance to Hogwarts. 

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The concluding parts of the tour included a walk-through of some of the artistry and photography that went into the making of the films, and finally into the to-scale model of Hogwarts, which was huge, even in its small-scale size! After that we were ushered into the gift shop, and tempted as I was to get a chocolate frog, I just wasn’t all that ready to cough up £7 ($11USD) for one, so I took a pass and remained content with the memory of my Butterbeer. All in all it was an absolutely amazing evening, and I’d probably even do it again if I got the chance!

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Bucket List Traveler Info:

Activity Type: Self-guided tour.

Price: £30 ($45 USD). 

Value for Money: Above average! The tour lasts about three hours and is full of things to do, so I didn’t feel ripped off. 

Suitable for: Everyone! This would be super fun to do with kids or friends, as a couple or as a family, as long as your into Harry Potter or filmography.

Recommend: Absolutely, if you’re into Harry Potter. I loved it an had a great time. 

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