2.5 Days in Barcelona

Back in October, I flew out to Asia & Europe for 3 weeks. Along the way, I stopped in Barcelona for a few days to tour the city, make new friends, and to do some yoga. With the craziness of non-stop traveling since then + moving to a new state, I finally have some time to sit down and write about my travels!

Spain has been on my Bucket list for a while, and since 2016 was apparently the year to cross off half my bucket list as complete, I thought I’d stop by Barcelona on my way from Thailand to Ibiza. I had 2.5 days before heading to Ibiza for a week of yoga, so I booked my flight, a cheap hostel, and didn’t plan one thing (!). Normally, I plan most of my trips out with a little wiggle room for spontaneity… however, I was way too busy to even think about looking for things to do – I figured once I arrived, the hostel & people staying there would give me some good tips. And guess what – I don’t think I’ll ever plan anything to do on any trip ever again! I had an amazing time exploring the city by myself, getting lost, and meeting some really bad ass people along the way. Below is a recap of my first time in Barcelona – and definitely not my last!

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Day 1:

Arrive at Hostel One Ramblas
The hostel was a bit dingy, and it didn’t look like the pictures on their website AT ALL. However, the staff was really helpful and gave me a huge map of the city with recommendations of best places to go. They also do your laundry for a few euros – so I handed the staff a bag full of sweaty yoga clothes and left to explore the city around 10 am.

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First stop: La Boqueria, because FOOD! La Boqueria is a huge open market in Barcelona, and it is easily my favorite place ever.

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Just look at how amazing and delicious everything looks!

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Fresh fruit, fresh baked bread, meats, cheeses, chocolate… I wish I could take this market back to the US!

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I grabbed a cup of fresh fruit & walked around, then bought some lunch before I left – baked bread filled with meat, mashed potatoes, and rice. So. So. Good.

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After leaving the market, I wandered down La Rambla and explored different shops + people watched. It was so busy and so easy to get lost! In fact, I did get lost. However, that is the best way to figure out where you are in a new city, right??

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tourist guide groups were everywhere!

I walked through parks, learned that street names were on buildings (seriously, so confusing!), and eventually made it to the Arc De Triomf. There was a lot of construction going on around it, but it was gorgeous!

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Park de la Ciutadella was nearby, so I headed over there and people watched for a while. There were salsa dancers practicing, people blowing huge bubbles, and couples enjoying romantic boat rides on a pond nearby.

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Blowing bubbles, with the Cascada Fountain in the background

Another reason to visit Barcelona: Architecture. Gaudi is very well-loved in Spain, as his architecture is stunning and so unique. His work is everywhere around the city, and it was amazing to be able to see it all! **In the picture above, you can se the Cascada Fountain, which was built by Josep Fontseré, with Gaudi as his assistant.

After leaving the park, I got lost. Again. BUT – I’m glad I did, because I found something very, very important: The Chocolate Muesum.

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Made entirely from chocolate!

I learned about the history of chocolate, which is something I should know about since I eat so much of it! There were a lot of displays from movies, like minions, star wars, bambi, etc, all made completely of chocolate (see above)!

Since I had been walking around all afternoon, I decided to stop by a local tapas restaurant to grab another snack on my way back to the hostel. Everything was 1 Euro – a small glass of champagne, cheese, meats, etc. So, cheese & rose it was!

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After finally making it back to the hostel, I showered & got ready for the night walk. There is a morning and afternoon activity planned everyday, and that night we walked for about a half hour across the city & up a LOT of steps & hills to get to a look point over the city. (I walked 12+ miles this day!)

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We grabbed a bottle of wine & some snacks, and watched the sun set over Barcelona.

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This night was hands down my favorite part of Barcelona – it was relaxing, gorgeous, and the views were unbelievable! If I lived in Barcelona, I would come here almost every night.

Afterwards, we all went back to the hostel to get ready for the night. The hostel I stayed at cooked a “family dinner” every night, and you could eat a plate (or 2) if you donated some money to help pay for the food. Afterwards, we all help clean up, then begin drinking before going out. Unfortunately for me, I forgot that I had been up for almost 24 hours and there was a 6 hour difference between Thailand and Spain… so, I got ready, decided to take a quick nap, then fell asleep until the next morning… Oops! Fortunately, I had another day to explore 🙂

Day 2:

Day 2 was all about getting lost, trying to find the best views of the city, castles, gardens, yoga, and dancing!

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Placa Espanya – picture taken on top of a shopping mall!

I started my day off with with heading west to Plaça Espanya & finding the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya + water fountain that overlooked a part of the city.

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The Fountain is HUGE in person!

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View over the fountain!

I am not really a museum person (unless it is about chocolate!), so I didn’t actually go IN to the museum… but, the outside + views were absolutely amazing!

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Afterwards, I began to wander South to the Olympic museum & stadium(s) as well as through some gardens. Honestly, I was just trying to find my way to Montjuïc Castle Castell de Montjuïc, but I could not for the life of me figure out how the heck to get there. Fortunately, there are signs that point you there, and a LOT of hills that let you know that you are reaching a higher part of the city (where all the views are!).

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You can also take a cable car up to the castle, which will definitely save you some time and miles… However, I recommend walking, as it is great exercise and you can walk through different gardens on your way!

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I had to pay a small amount (I think 10-20 Euro) to get into the castle, which was really cool to explore. And the views were of course, amazing – you can look out over the city & the harbor – well worth it!

On my way back to the hostel, I got lost. Again. However, I did find a yoga studio, which I ended up going to later that night… this is why I love traveling!

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I stopped at a local tapas restaurant called Blai 9 (recommended by the hostel staff) for some food + a beer, because.. Spain! There needs to be more restaurants like this in the US… It’s like a buffet, but for appetizers – 1 Euro each!

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After walking around all day, I stopped by a local nail studio for a pedicure… 20 euro for a gel pedicure = best money spent the entire trip! The salon staff were hilarious, and they helped me learn a few more spanish words in the hour that I was there 🙂

After my pedicure, I finally made it back to the hostel for a quick nap… then, YOGA! The entire point of my international travels 🙂

I went to The Garage, a yoga studio transformed from an old garage from the 1940’s. It was an absolutely beautiful space, and I was lucky enough to take a class from the owner.

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The class was slow, calm, and entirely in spanish & sanskrit – so I knew what was going on half the time! Chanting & breathwork followed by a simple sequence was perfect following a day of walking 10+ miles around the city.


Following yoga, I went back to the hostel for a shower and dinner… then a night full of drinking & dancing! I couldn’t tell you the places we went, as we took a train across the city and went to 2-3 different places. However, it wasn’t the places that we went that were awesome – it was the people. I met some really amazing, beautiful people traveling – for fun, on a search for meaning in their life, coming from a pilgrimage on Camino de Santiago, students, working people in their 20’s and 30’s… It didn’t matter if I’d ever meet these people again – hearing their stories and learning from them are priceless, and it’s one of the main reasons I travel. Hearing about someone else’s experience can literally change the course of your life, your passion, where you live, where you travel… it’s amazing, and I think everyone should experience & meet other travelers at some point in their lives (whether it be in a hostel, across the world, across the US, in a bar, at an airport… location doesn’t matter!).

After leaving the first bar (where an entire bottle of liquor was given to pour as much as we wanted into a glass), we went to a club and danced… until 2:30 am! Hours literally passed by in minutes, I swear. So, I left with a few other people & headed back to the hostel. After we got back, I ended up walking to the pier and talking with another girl from Germany  until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was so quiet & peaceful, and it was the perfect ending to my stay in Barcelona!


Final Day:

The next morning, I decided to stop by La Boqueria again, because I wanted some chocolate/candy before grabbing a cab to the airport…

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and, of course, some gelato and a cappachino for breakfast. Who doesn’t love being an adult?? (I swear, I don’t eat this bad everyday!)

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All sugared up, I headed back to the hostel & said my goodbyes. Then, a quick cab ride to the airport, on schedule to fly out for a week in Ibiza (blog post coming soon)!

**Side note – I flew Ryan Air for the first time and learned the hard way that you need to print your ticket out ahead of time… Otherwise, you will have to wait in line for an hour + pay 20 extra euro just to get the ticket printed out.
Also – Spain & Ibiza is expensive. And the cost to take money out at the airport & ATMs are ridiculous – so try to take as much cash as you can before flying internationally, or you will be paying a lot of fees! I recommend stashing different amounts of cash in different areas of your luggage/carry on/clothes in the case that something gets stolen or lost.

Overall, Barcelona is amazing. I would go back and spend more time there, or even live there for a year or 2. The city is gorgeous, and there are so many things to do and explore!

Has anyone ever been to Barcelona? If so, what were your favorite parts??

Yoga Retreat in Thailand

Sometimes the world has a funny way of making your dreams come true. For the past 5+ years, I have been dreaming of traveling to Thailand. I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but I hung pictures on my wall & wrote down Thailand on my bucket list. Then, I forgot about it.

In my Elephant Trek post, I wrote about how it all came to pass:

Less than 1 year ago, I traveled to NYC for a Yoga workshop & met my now very good friend Heather, and we connected through instagram. We met up in March for my half marathon in NYC, and she invited me to Thailand for a yoga retreat in September.

I’m normally a solo traveler, planning my trips, staying in hostels, and being super adventurous… I would have never gone to a yoga retreat for pampering, relaxing, and laying by the pool. If I did go on a yoga retreat, it would most likely have been a training course to add on to my yoga training. With that being said, I DID learn from the instructors, and I was able to bring a lot back to teach in my own classes! The week ended up being so amazing – including an elephant trek, snorkeling, muy thai classes, 2 yoga classes a day, awesome instructors, thai massage, and becoming friends with so many amazing women from around the world!

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Flexi Lexi Thailand Yoga Retreat

The yoga retreat was hosted by Flexi Lexi Fitness, a yoga clothing store in Thailand. The retreat was 1 week long in Koh Lanta, Thailand, and cost $2100 for the week (with a roommate). This sounds extremely expensive, BUT —- there was a LOT included:

  • 1 Week stay in a 5-star resort
  • Buffet brunch & Dinner included (I think I only ordered food 1-2 times at lunch the entire week… the brunch filled me up!)
  • 2 yoga classes/day
  • Photographer (you could take pictures with him whenever & wherever… and we all got a USB drive with ALL pictures on it from the entire week!)
  • $100 of Flexi-Lexi Clothing
  • 1 all-day island excursion
  • 1.5 hour Thai massage
  • 1 free cooking class
  • Free workout classes & excursions (I took a 1-hour muy-thai class + a guided bike ride to a temple!)
  • Free transport to and from airport (1.5-3 hours from the airport, which included a car  + ferry/water taxi)
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First view upon arriving at Pimalai!

Every day started out with a 1.5 hour yoga class at 7:30 am. The instructors switched classes the entire week, and it was a mix between yin, heated/vinyasa, acro, and rocket yoga. The instructors – Robin Martin & Irene Pappas – were very different from each other, (a good thing!) and I learned a lot from both of them.

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That’s me with the cheetah butt 🙂

Following the morning yoga class, we had brunch from 9-10:30 am overlooking the infinity pool & ocean.

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Brunch view every morning!

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Then, the afternoon was free until our second class at 5 pm… I laid out by the pool a few days, went for a run one day, and did a few other fun things the other days:

  • Went on an all-day snorkeling adventure
  • Took a private muy-thai lesson (please note that my ankles/feet/shins were literally black and blue for 2 weeks following this!! Extremely painful, but an amazing workout & experience!)
  • Rode a bike past town to a Monestary, where we lit candles & gave our blessings
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Heather giving blessings

  • 1.5 hour Thai massage – I requested the deep, deep, DEEP tissue massage… please note that this isn’t a massage for the light-hearted. I have a high tolerance for pain and normally receive deep tissue massages, but this was really painful. The massage therapist used her elbows and really got into my back & neck (she climbed onto the table to really get in there!). She also got into my calves/shins and broke up a lot of scar tissue/build up, which felt amazing AFTER the massage. So if you are in Thailand… I would recommend getting a light-medium Thai massage, unless you really like pain 🙂
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Post-massage relaxation area with ginger tea

  • Went to Old Town Lanta to explore & shop – a few hours in this tiny town is all you need!

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Little Girl in a Tuk Tuk

  • All-day excursion to a small island (included lunch, snorkeling, Stand up paddle-boarding, kayak, etc)
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Boat ride to the island!

The all-day excursion was perfect… we hopped on a boat and relaxed for about 1.5-2 hours until we arrived at the island. I took a kayak in, and we took pictures with the photographer all day!

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Me & Serene

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Thailand Beach

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SUP Yoga!

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On a sinking paddle board!

On the final night, Pimalai put on a GORGEOUS closing ceremony dinner, including a beautiful table set-up that looked like it was for a wedding!

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There is a tradition in Thailand to send off Sky lanterns – It is considered good luck to release a sky lantern, and many Thais believe they are symbolic of problems and worries floating away (Wiki). However, we did something a little different – our photographer hand-made floating lanterns out of banana leaves to float on the infinity pool (How beautiful are they?!).

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handmade banana leaf lanterns

We all lit our lantern, made a wish/blessed others/asked worries to disappear, and sent our lantern into the pool.

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It was the perfect end to the week, and I am so incredibly happy I went! It would have never happened without my friend Heather – she is so amazingly thoughtful and such a ball of energy – I had so much fun with her the entire week!

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Me & Heather!

One of the greatest things about Thailand is the friendliness of people. Everywhere we went, everyone was so kind & accommodating. Also, everything is so inexpensive! The exchange rate was about 100 baht to $3.25 US dollars… so, basically everything was under 5-10$.

The time difference from Ohio is 11 hours, so it was a bit of an adjustment getting there… however, if you time your flight/sleep schedule correctly, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue. I also stopped in Spain for 1.5 weeks following Thailand, so I was able to progress slowly back to Ohio time by the time I returned.

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Final night, sunset on the ocean in Thailand

The entire week was such a whirlwind and went by so, so fast… I would like to return to explore more of Thailand, including Bangkok & Chiang Mai! Koh Lanta was amazing, but it is such a tiny part of Thailand, and our group didn’t wander too far from the resort the entire week. Also – I loved the retreat, but sometimes, a vacation just needs to be done alone! (or maybe I am just a serial solo traveler?!) While I love meeting people, there is nothing like going off on your own and doing things on your own schedule 🙂 There is so much more to do & explore, so I will definitely be back… just need to add Thailand back to my bucket list 😉

Has anyone else been to Thailand? If so, where have you been? I’d love to hear about your travels!

 

Snorkeling at Phi Phi Islands in Thailand

Mid-way through my trip to Thailand, I accompanied my friend Heather on a scuba diving trip to Phi Phi Islands. She organized the trip in advance, and I was able to tag along as a snorkeler for an extra $25!

We were staying at the Pimalai resort in Krabi, Thailand, and Scubalanta had a location within the resort… yes, the resort was that big!! We hopped in a truck that took us to a small fisherman’s boat, along with a few other people who were going scuba diving/snorkeling.

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10 minutes later, and we all climbed into a bigger boat, taking a 1.5 hour boat ride to Phi Phi Islands. During the ride, we had breakfast, and we were given medicine for sea sickness (much needed!). The guides came over to each person explaining the different fish near the islands, including the route around the island we would swim around.

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After arriving at the islands, we put on our gear, and jumped in! Divers went first, then snorkelers. The waters were incredibly blue and clear, and the weather was the perfect temperature for snorkeling!

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Nerd-alert, pre-jumping into the water!

We went snorkeling for 45 minutes, then came back to the boat to relax and eat lunch. After a little bit, we went out for a second time, and we were able to see a shark at the other island we were at! However, my favorite part was all of the starfish – there were so many, and they were all just chillin out at the bottom of the ocean.

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There was an option to go for a 3rd dive, but the overall vote was to head back – we were all tired and ready to go home! The entire day trip, from pick up to drop off, was 8-9 hours. The weather was perfect, and Scubalanta was so accommodating! The staff was great, and they were extremely helpful – I highly recommend booking a tour through them if you are ever traveling in Thailand!

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Me and heather, pre-dive/snorkel

Also – there is a photographer that dives with everyone, and you have the option to buy pictures at the end of the trip!  The photographer will go through the images and show them to you before you make a decision to buy. You can buy 1,2, or 3 pictures at a set price… or, you can buy ALL pictures, including special deep-dive shots from the photographer & islands.

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I’ve been snorkeling in Belize before, and while Phi Phi Islands were beautiful, I think Belize was more amazing (I swam with sharks there, so a little more adventurous!). With that being said, the weather was perfect, staff great, and the dive/snorkel experience amazing. Next time: Getting Dive-Certified & coming back to Thailand 😉

Where is your favorite place to snorkel/dive? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experience(s)!

Riding Elephants in Thailand

3 years ago, I created a bucket list. And on that bucket list, I wrote “Ride on an elephant in Thailand.” I also cut a picture out of a magazine and stuck it to my wall as a constant reminder that I would make it happen – and guess what. It. Actually. Happened! I had no idea HOW it would happen, but the universe works in funny ways.

Less than 1 year ago, I traveled to NYC for a Yoga workshop & met my now- very good friend Heather, and we connected through instagram. We met up in March for my half marathon in NYC, and she invited me to Thailand for a yoga retreat in September. 5 months later, we were on our way – she researched & planned an elephant trek during our week in Thailand, and is literally the reason why my dream has manifested… I am forever grateful for her!!

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Upon landing in Thailand, we dropped our bags off at the airport with the staff from Pimalai Resort (where the yoga retreat was being held), and we hailed a cab to grab some food before being picked up for the elephant trek.

First Stop: a small town called Ao Nang for some really, really, REALLY amazing green curry from Ton Ma Yom. Spicy, sweet, perfect.

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We headed off to the town to explore a little bit – beautiful blue skies on a very hot day, and washing machines on the street. Yes, washing machines. Apparently its a thing in Thailand to do your laundry on the streets…

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Around 2 pm, we were picked up by Your Krabi for an Elephant Trekking & Waterfall Tour (Total Cost = 900 Baht, or $25 US!). There was a total of 6 of us – 2 friends from Turkey on holiday from school, and a couple from the UK who quit their jobs to travel for a while. 45 minutes later, and we arrived at the foot of Phanom Bencha mountain, ready to hang with some Elephants 🙂

My friend & I climbed a set of stairs into a tree house, which was necessary since the elephants were so big! We removed our flip flops so they wouldn’t fall off, and then mounted our elephant. There was a 2-seater chair on top of the elephant, which had several blankets layered underneath so nothing was digging into his skin.

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Unfortunately, it started to rain, so we were cold, wet, and in dire need of some hot chocolate. However, the actual trek was so, so amazingly beautiful, which completely made up for the weather! Our elephant was the oldest of the bunch – over 60 years old – and he liked to stop and eat every 3 minutes. He only ate 1 type of plant, so we had to stop every time he saw it… even if it was really high up. When the food was really high up, our elephant would get up on his hind legs, and we had to realllly hang on to our seat so we wouldn’t fall off!

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The trek lasted less than an hour, and we were guided through a river with mini waterfalls.. absolutely beautiful! Since it was raining, I didn’t get many shots while riding the elephant… buuuuut, many were taken of the baby elephant later on!

After the adult elephant ride, we fed them some bananas and sent them on their way. Next up: bathing a baby elephant. First, our 6 year old baby elephant came out and performed a few tricks for us – playing the harmonica, basketball, and even putting a hat on our heads… he was adorable!

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Just look at his little fuzzy head of hair!!!

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Elephant Kisses

Then came the fun part… actually getting in the water with the baby elephant! We were given brushes to brush the elephant, and he loved it! Elephants make this weird purring noise, and it is totally adorable!

 

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The baby elephant was so playful, and he loved being in the water! After a little bit, he sunk lower in the water and let me climb on his back, then kept trying to reach his trunk up to touch me!

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An elephant’s skin is pretty rough/course, and they have these wiry-feeling hairs on the top of their heads, about 1-2″ apart from each other. I couldn’t stop petting the baby elephants head, it felt so weird!

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When everyone was done playing in the water with the elephant, we rinsed off & had some fruit to eat before heading back. My Krabi tours was amazing and very accommodating for everyone on the tour – and for $25, you got a lot! Pickup and drop off, a snack, water, 45 minute trek on an elephant, and playing with a baby elephant for another 45 mins.

**Please note – a lot of people are against riding elephants in Thailand, for various valid reasons. My friend researched the company, and My Krabi is one of the very few places that actually treats their elephants really well. A lot of elephants will have purple marks all over them from being hit with a hook, and the ones we rode & played with were mark-free. They were gentle, calm, and seemed very happy! There were a few places along the side of the road in Thailand that showcased riding elephants, and they looked really run down and unhealthy… so make sure to look into the company before riding elephants, because there are a lot of touristy places that don’t treat the animals very well. There are also alternatives to riding elephants, so it just depends on your own beliefs on what you prefer to do.

Overall, I would do this again in a heartbeat! It was a highlight of my time in Thailand, and I my only regret is not being able to stay longer than a week.

Has anyone ever ridden an elephant or wanted to do it? What was your experience? And if you’ve been to Thailand, what was your favorite excursion/part of the country?

Learning how to Trapeze in NYC

While I spent the last weekend in NYC cramming 12 back-to-back fitness classes in 3 days, I decided to stay an extra day to actually enjoy the city. Which means, planning MORE things to do, because that’s what I do 🙂

I’ve been wanting to try a trapeze class for the past year or so, but unfortunately, there isn’t anything in Ohio that is remotely close to it. I googled “New York City Trapeze Class,” and I found the most amazing place to learn how to trapeze. Outside. Along the Hudson River. On a rooftop. What could possibly be more cooler than that?!

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So, I convinced my friend to go with me, and we spent 2 hours on a Monday morning/afternoon learning how to fly. Since I have an irrational fear of heights, I thought this would be a lot scarier than it was. However, as I clipped myself into the rigging & walked up the ladder to jump off the Trapeze platform, I told myself nothing could be more scarier than bungee jumping. Besides, you are strapped in, and if your hands slip while swinging, you fall into a bouncy net. Pretty impossible to get hurt or die!

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Ready to Trapeze!

To start off, we signed in, and the instructor strapped a belt around us with 2 hooks on each side. There was someone on the ground instructing us when to jump, hook our legs, swing, etc… and was also holding onto a chord that would slow us down/catch us from even hitting the net if we did fall! I’m telling you, this was a really great, super safe to practice. The staff was so energizing & so helpful, and I highly recommend going to this location specifically to learn from them! (Mario, Annie, and Travis)

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After explaining to the group (there was about 10 of us) what to do, we went up for 2 rounds to get the hang of it.

For the 3rd & 4th round, we could add a backflip as a dismount (see the video below!). This as a lot of fun, just like dismounting off bars in gymnastics 🙂

The 5th & 6th round, we were instructed on how to catch someone swinging on another trapeze! This looks WAY more complicated than it was… The timing had to be perfect, but it was so easy because you were queued exactly when to jump and let go! Almost everyone did it right the first time they tried.

Overall, it was a ton of fun, and I recommend everyone to try it! Only $60 for 2 hours, and you get to go up & swing 6 times. (also, don’t forget sunscreen – I got a little burnt that afternoon!) The more you go, the more skills you can learn. There is also an indoor facility in the case that you don’t want to be outside. However, I recommend the rooftop, as the views are amazing!

Have you ever taken a trapeze lesson? What other fun things are there to do in NYC that i missed?

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