The Time I Flashed Fijian Chiefs

“If you need to get up and pass by the tanoa, you must pass on the left side. Make sure you crawl, kneel, or bow down as you pass the bowl. It’s a sign of respect to the service going on around you. Also, make sure you touch the bowl and say, Tulo, Tulo (pronounced chi-loh), as you go by. That means excuse me in Fijian. And it’s very important you respect the tanoa and its contents. They are thought to be mystical and powerful. You don’t want to abuse it.” Caroline smiled at me with her eyes and then tapped my notebook with her finger. “Write that down.”

I scribbled away in my tiny spiral notebook and gave a nod of thanks to the relative of Ro Mereani. She and the other women surrounding me laughed as I did this. This had become our bit. We’d sit at the back of the kava party (the customary place for women) and I’d ask elementary questions about the traditions I was witnessing and they would happily indulge me. They found my naiveté amusing and I guess I couldn’t blame them. My presence was very unusual for such a deeply ingrained tradition. Continue reading

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Hostile Hostel Roommates: How to Deal

Yes, I know. I don’t normally post twice a week but I have been receiving lots of e-mails from you adventurers out there wanting advice. Looks like cheap travel is in the air and we’ve got a lot of adventurers preparing to embark on their first hostel experience. Whoohoo!

And I get it; there’s a lot of fear to be had about sharing space with strangers. “What if I get crappy roommates?” “Will it be like the movie? I don’t want to die!” “I’m traveling alone. What am I going to need?”

So by popular demand I am releasing this blog early (I can’t leave my homies hanging). No worries mate; just read so you can breathe easy about your upcoming adventure. =)

Continue reading

The Vegas Unicorn

“No but seriously, Hilary, are you really from Vegas? I mean, I’ve heard of people going there to visit but who would’ve thought people actually live there?” Laughter exploded throughout the group.

I chuckled and took a sip of Merlot before replying, “Yes, my dear John, I am in fact from Sin City. As hard as that may be to believe.” He shook his head in disbelief and poured himself more wine.

Dahlia leaned over the platter of cheese and touched my arm. “But do you actually live in houses? I mean, like, are there schools and things?” The others nodded and murmured in wonder, waiting expectantly for an answer.

I looked around at my new group of friends dismayed. How had I gone from She-Who-Cries-in-Dorm-Room to being the center of poolside discussion? It was a little unbelievable. I had been convinced I would spend the remainder of my time in Cairns lying in that bunk bed willing the seconds to pass sooner. And now here I was, enjoying one of my last remaining nights in this coastal town with friends from every corner of the globe. Continue reading

Things Travelers Never Tell You: When Travel Bites

I heard someone splash into the pool outside. Laughter, 90’s music, and the smell of pot drifted in through the windowpane. I could hear the giggles of twenty-something girls as they flirted with the single studs in sunglasses. Friends bonded over beers and talk of their daily adventures. The humidity and light rain made my loose curls stick to my forehead. This was Cairns.

It was dark in the room but I liked it that way. Direct sunlight was unfitting of my mood. I shifted the ice pack on my ankle, trying to balance my leg on the ladder of the bunk bed. I looked at my phone hoping a text would magically appear.

I stared at it, willing a connection to someone, anyone, who could tell me things were going to be okay. I put it down and covered my face with a pillow, trying to stifle what had been obvious to me for the past few hours: Sometimes solo travel SUCKS. Continue reading

10 Tricks for Getting That Memorable Photo

I’ve been in Sydney for a few days now and still cannot get over the view of The Opera House from the hostel. This world is full of unforgettable moments and places. I feel so blessed to be able to experience this and can’t wait to post more pictures to share (many thanks to Anika for this one)!

But marveling at the view got me thinking… As awesome as it is to be able to experience such a visual, it’s even more awesome to be able to share the moment later on with friends and family. And in order to do that, you need a good photo. And as easy as it is to point and click, grabbing that unforgettable moment is much easier said than done. I’ve seen more poorly constructed photos than I care to remember.

So how can you be sure that you walk away from your once-in-a-lifetime experiences with photos worth framing? I mean, most of us aren’t professional photographers, so how would we know anything about objectives, exposures, or distances? No worries mate; I’ve compiled the following steps to help you capture that memorable moment before it’s gone. Follow these tips and your friends will be begging you to take all their photos for them! Continue reading

Tuning up: The Airplane Travel Playlist

Thirty seconds after arriving at the McCarran International Airport, this realization I keep compartmentalizing hit me again. It burned its way into my consciousness like the jet fuel smell was doing to my nostrils. I couldn’t push it away anymore and this annoyed me, but there it was: I hated flying.

It’s not that I’m afraid of flying, it’s just that the whole process kind of makes me uncomfortable. Between the security check point strip down, the looming armrest battles, and funny airplane smell, it’s hard to find your zen. But quite possibly the worst flying battle to try and overcome is a bad luck of the draw with seat assignments. Every time you buckle up for your next destination, you’re playing a risky game of social roulette. If you’re lucky, you get the cute newlywed couple or the mom and pop type who think you are, “A very well behaved young woman.” But I’m from Vegas. I know the odds of winning. The statistics were not in my favor. Continue reading

Before You Go: Australia/Fiji Need-to-Knows

I have been preparing for my Aussie excursion for months. Not only had I developed a close relationship with Marvin at Qantas airlines, but I’d read up on the latest attractions, e-mailed locals for tips, and practiced my Aussie slang. I had diligently watched Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee II, and Finding Nemo. I had reread Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan and only used Aussie hair products for the past month. I had some roo in my do and was ready to schlep the 8,000 miles Down Under.

Or so I thought… Continue reading

The Ask All Tell All’s of Nomadic Life: Financing Your Fun

Are you interested in pursuing a gypsy lifestyle? Traveling the world professionally? Constantly making new friends and exploring new places? Welcome to the club!

Don’t know where to start or how it can be done? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, I am constantly receiving e-mails and comments from people asking how they too can pick up and go.

Often times, I feel like its difficult for people to fathom how I lead my life. It’s like I’m constantly trying to act out the season finale of Lost. No-one gets me.

This is partly my fault. I just kind of started this journey and continued to blab about it without much regard for others looking to travel. Sorry about that.

So this is the beginning of a series of blogs elucidating the best kept secret of full-time travelers: how they manage to make it happen. You’ve asked for it, and now I’m giving it to you, starting with the foundation: finances. You can send me a thank-you card later. =) Continue reading

My Top 5 Parisian Hangouts- Unusual places I love in the City of Love

Trust me, I was more stoked than anyone to check out the national landmarks strewn throughout Paris. Need proof? See my enthusiasm captured below.

And while I feel like seeing the most popular tourist attractions is a right of passage, I found I preferred to spend time in off-the-map locations. The more I travel, the more I find this is the case; some of the coolest locations to experience aren’t frequented by tourists. You have to find them on your own. In a way, that’s part of the magic of travel. However, I am aware that time is often a factor and not everyone can afford to get lost in cities for days on end.

This being said, I have been receiving e-mail inquiries asking me to share some of my favorite hangout spots and secret loves in the countries I’ve visited. And since I’m all about enhancing the travel experience for everyone, I present you with…

Hilary’s Top Five Atypical Parisian Attractions Continue reading

How to not piss off Parisians (in five simple steps)

Since returning from Europe, I’ve heard countless horror stories and anecdotal recounts of what I’m dubbing the “Cold-shouldered Parisian Encounters.” I am simultaneously puzzled and fascinated by the emotional scarring my friends have received while visiting this romantic city (it is the city of love, after all). For a city so filled with sweet delights and romantic music, the reviews on the hospitality of its people have not been as positive as I would have imagined.

I have been contacted by many fellow travelers asking why I didn’t receive the snubs, snide comments, and snobbish ‘tudes that they did while in France. Maybe I simply lucked out on my journey, but after comparing notes I think I’ve determined a few key differences that put me in favor with the locals (leave it to me to analyze the psychology of the situation). Continue reading