5 things to do in Oahu, Hawaii

today I'm taking you on a bit of a flashback. I've decided to share a few photos from our 2010 honeymoon in Oahu Hawaii, along with a few of our favorite things we did there.

you see, today is my 4th wedding anniversary. but Husband and I are spending it on separate continents. so Husband, if you are reading this, you can open the card I left you :)

+ rent a mustang convertible +

first things first. we did not fly all the way to Hawaii to spend it packed in with everyone else in Honolulu. we decided to stay up on the North Shore, at Turtle Bay Resort [and yes that's the one where they filmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall.] but to get up there, and have the freedom to go everywhere else on the island, we decided to rent a car.

I suppose you don't have to rent a convertible, or even a mustang. but when in Rome on vacation...

+ visit the Dole Plantation +

somewhere on the middle of the island is the Dole Pineapple Plantation. there you can wander the world's largest maze, ride a train through the plantation, learn about growing pineapples, and of course sample various baked goods, drinks and desserts all made from... well, you know.

+ hike Diamond Head +

Diamond Head is an enormous crater formed by an eruption many many years ago. what is left today is a bowl-shaped depression, and you are able to hike up and along one edge of the ridge. the views of Honolulu and Waikiki are pretty phenominal. [and the $5 entrance fee is a lot cheaper than springing for a helicopter tour.]

+ eat in Haleiwa +

two of our favorite food discoveries on the island were Cholo's Homestyle Mexican and a Thai place called Haleiwa Eats... which is apparently now closed. there are several other Thai places in the same area, though I can't vouch for any of them. Cholo's, however, was so good that Husband bought a tshirt.

+ go snorkeling +

obviously, you are going to go to the beach in Hawaii. while we enjoyed plenty of sunsets [and sunrises thanks to a 6-hour time change] one of the coolest things we did was to go snorkeling. our hotel had free equipment for us to use, but many beaches had stands where you can rent [or you can bring or buy your own.] we also bought a disposable underwater camera which didn't take great pictures, but still let us capture some great memories.

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and now I'd like to intro duct this month's featured sponsor, who is soon moving to a place very much the opposite of Hawaii...

Van is the voice behind the travel blog On the Road Again. while most of us dream about tropical vacations in the islands, her goal is to live in the Arctic... and I think that's so incredibly awesome! 

Hej! I’m Van, a German girl with a passion for the North. I blog over at On the Road again and share my travels around Scandinavia and coming August 2014, my life as an expat in the Arctic of Norway. I will study Indigenous and Northern Studies at the northernmost university of the world but before that, I will go on a Scandinavian Road Trip, travelling from Oslo to Copenhagen. You can read about these, as well as other destinations in Scandinavia, Britain and the Baltics on my blog and I would be happy to welcome you there!

what is your favorite trip you've ever taken? I visited Tromso in Northern Norway for the first time last year and immediately fell in love with the city. It’s the gateway to the Arctic and its location at the Barents Sea, surrounded by mountains and fjords, makes this city unique and absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to move there in autumn and experience the midnight sun as well as the polar night. I’ve already experienced the Northern Lights when I was there and it was incredible. I can’t imagine yet what it must be like to see them regularly but I’m really excited to finally move to Tromso.

what is one thing you'd love to learn how to do? I love to learn foreign languages and did a few Swedish courses in the last few years. While being almost fluent in Swedish enables me to understand Norwegian pretty well, I can’t wait to expand my Norwegian skills though and become fluent in that language too.

where would your dream trip take you? My dream trip would take me from Montana to Calgary and Edmonton, then to Vancouver, Seattle and finally to Portland. I would love to see the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. This region seems to be even more beautiful than Scandinavia but maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Heartland and Grey’s Anatomy. However if I ever get the chance to visit the US and/or Canada, these are the areas I would want to visit first.

two of your favorite blog posts: Visiting the North Cape was just an amazing experience and although it’s not the real northernmost point of Europe, it’s a stunning place! Västeras is a small town near Stockholm and I visited the city in March this year. It was exactly like I always imagined Sweden when I was younger: lovely red houses, snow and a stunning landscape!

describe yourself in 3 words: Honest, Ambitious, Restless.

read more about Van on her blog: On the Road again

or follow along with:


hiking at Ludington State Park

this past week while I was in Ludington with my parents, we went out to the state park for a hike. I probably mentioned it last summer, but Ludington State park holds a lot of childhood memories for me. we used to go camping there in the summers with our family friends, and in fact we just watched some home video [from 20 years ago] where we are all sitting around the campfire talking about our day in the park.

having grown up in Michigan, and spending so much time outdoors as a child - camping, hiking, going to the lake - I am probably quite biased. but I really feel that the west coast of Michigan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. and, well, at this point I've been to quite a few places.

I admit it - I'm a detail person. especially when it comes to photographing nature. and a hike through the state park provides plenty of little treasures to discover: mushrooms of all varieties, woodpecker holes, moss, acorns, sunlit leaves, insects, and birch trees that have completely decomposed except for their bark.

our hike took us through parts of the Coast Guard and Lighthouse trails, through both forests and over sand dunes and even wading into Lake Michigan. today I've decided to share the "forest" portion of our hike - photos of the actual lighthouse and the lakeshore coming later this week!

I hope wherever you are in the world, you are able to enjoy some time outdoors this summer. pack a picnic lunch, your sunscreen + bugspray and just go.

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Samantha. she drinks her tea half sweet + half unsweet, and blogs about lifestyle + faith over at Elah Tree. go say hello!


don't be afraid of your own splash

making waves is something I spent a long time trying NOT to do.

all I wanted for most of my young life was to blend in. to fit in, to be the same. because to be different in ways good or bad, was to stand out. to stand out was to be noticed. to be noticed was to be judged. and being judged was my greatest fear.

don't rock the boat, baby. it could have been my motto.

I was one of those kids who knew the answer but didn't raise their hand often, for fear of sounding like a smart ass, or a nerd. I was one of those kids content to hang on the edges of social gatherings, letting others dance in the spotlight... because I was embarrassed of my own dance moves.

this continued even through much of college and my adult life. I was concerned with doing the "right thing" and keeping up appearances. I did what was asked of me, and then some. I was reliable and responsible, and more than competent. [unless I "failed" at something, then I silently mentally beat myself up for days.]

my relationships with colleagues, acquaintances, even friends and family, were good on the surface but I was stressed under it all. I never wanted to upset anybody by saying or doing something that wasn't what I thought they expected of me. I took great care to always be appropriate and act in what I felt was the least abrasive or confrontational manner.

it was exhausting, and it made me miserable. so many times, I let myself be pushed around and walked over. trampled on. all while I stayed smiling and polite and tried my best to please everyone all at once. I was the kid in the pool, silently treading water and trying to obey the "no splashing" rule while it seemed like all the other kids had fun.

I was scared to stand out, to do something wrong or [maybe worse] something right. I was scared to be myself and live my life with the volume turned up on who I really was.

I had been trying to break free, but moving to Taiwan is what really changed everything.

there is no way for a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, tan-skinned American woman to blend in to Asia. I'm unfamiliar with the culture and customs and don't always know when I may do something offensive. people stare at me wherever I go. some places more than others. sometimes people are just curious. sometimes they strike up a friendly conversation. sometimes they are downright rude or just point and laugh. I can't change it.

and the world I left behind? it sure got a few people wet when I declared I wasn't going to follow what seems to be the American dream... staying in my 9-5 [even if I didn't love it] and popping out a few kids [even if I wasn't ready] after buying a house [even if we couldn't afford to.] it's been an adjustment for me, but for those I left behind I think it was an even bigger shock.

you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. you can't swim without getting wet. and you certainly can't manage to stay afloat without making a few waves.

I'm making waves, whether I want to or not. so why not embrace it?

I've been slowly trying to change my life to be more of what I love, and give myself more freedom to be ME without worrying about what others think. life as an expat in Taiwan has given me the space to do this. to become comfortable with the idea of making a splash, and actually start making some waves on purpose.

I won't feel guilty about leaving my life to move across the world without a plan and take up a new career as housewife/writer/blogger. about nearing 3-0 and not yet being a mother and homeowner. because my life choices are still valid, even if someone else wouldn't choose them.

I will not wear long sleeves while running in 80 degree weather, or use a parasol to keep my skin from turning a toasted marshmallow golden brown. because I will never fit the Asian ideal of beauty, and that's completely ok as long as I do what makes me feel beautiful.

I will not force myself to eat gluten just so others won't feel awkward about my food sensitivities. if I asked for a medium well burger and you serve me something on the rare side... I will send it back. because my needs and comfort are just as valid as anyone else's.

I will write a book. I did write a book. it still terrifies me to think of it but it will be published, even if I do it myself. because my story is worth sharing.

I will stand up for myself. for my life choices, and for what I want. because I'm actually kind of an awesome person when I let myself be me, even if that person doesn't adhere to what society's [or even MY] expectations are.

I'm making waves, and I'm going to continue making them. but not simply by floundering around, trying to tread water and keep from splashing.

I'm going to do a cannonball. so bring your ponchos.

linking up with Jenn, Alicia, Erika, and Rachel for the #makewaves essay contest
and Nicole for treat yo self thursday.


I need a [blog] vacation.

the more I've thought about it the more I feel it's what I need to do.

the idea has been floating around my head for a while... trying to manage things while showing visitors around Taiwan and then traveling and trying to enjoy being back in Michigan. it's been difficult to manage. and distracting. and not what I want for this summer.

I want to be free to fully devote myself to the moment.

[because, let me tell you, there are some really great moments ahead of me this summer.]

I considered writing a bunch of posts ahead of time and scheduling them. I have plenty of material stocked up. but that amount of work requires a serious time devotion now. and I'm already in the thick of trying to spend time with family and friends while I can. and trying to devote the time I carve out away from that to work on editing my book.

this weekend I had a conversation with my friend Phyllis [or maybe it was India Banks, they sound the same to me over the phone] and as I was in the midst of telling her that it's ok to not be constantly present on her blog and that she has every right to keep her personal life private... my own words slapped me in the face.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

when I went out for a walk [to disconnect and think] instead of focusing on the gorgeous Lake Michigan sunset in front of me I kept thinking about what I was going to do with the blog, how I was going to manage it all, and realized that I need a vacation. in fact, I haven't gone longer than a week between posts since beginning this blog over 2 years ago.

I'm going to finish out the month of June, and then take July off from blogging. I've emailed my affected sponsors and come up with a plan to handle that end of things. I still have a few posts to share before July, including my entry for the Make Waves essay contest. [which you should check out because it's being hosted by a group of amazing women with great stories to tell.] and I signed up to post in Marielle's "hello world" series about cultural experiences around the world. [which will go live while I'm on break, but you should check out the series anyway because it's already getting good.]

you might find me commenting and you will most definitely see me hanging around twitter and instagram. I may go a few weeks and not be able to stay away. I'm not making any firm promises here because, one: I don't know what will happen and two: I don't actually have to justify this break to anyone.

but I love you, my readers, and dearly. so I felt you deserved some notice. I hope you have a lovely July and fill it with memories. get outside, grill something, drive with the top down, skinny dip, fall in love [with yourself, if no one else.]

linking up with Melyssa today for another edition of the creative collective.


writer's block: the meaning of home

home. oh, that word has become tricky for me over the past two years as an expat...

thankfully I have three fantastic women stepping in today to give you their take on what home means to them. they have lived in some very different places but all seem to agree on a few things about what makes home "home." please read their wonderful words and then hop over to their blogs to say hello!

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Hello, I'm Christina of Route Bliss. By day I write reports for a living while I simultaneously plan blog post ideas, daydream about my next trip, and wish I could edit all the photos I've taken and haven't gotten around to yet. While I've been blogging for over a decade now, Route Bliss itself has only been around since the Summer of 2013. RB (as I've dubbed it) is where I share my love of travel and photography as well as what I'm learning on my journey to healthier living (adapted recipes as well as running and fitness tips and grumblings!)

where is the place you currently call home?
Athens, Texas. My favorite thing is that my hometown is primarily known for two things -- its the home of the hamburger (Uncle Fletch debuted it at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904!) as well as the Black Eyed Pea Capital.

have you ever had to make a big move and leave your home behind? I haven't ran away from here yet although the mountains are constantly calling my name :) This is actually my second hometown, my family moved while I was in junior high to my current hometown. While I've gone to college in a nearby city and currently work there as well, I don't love that city enough to move there even after 16 years of spending a chunk of my week there!

when you travel, what do you miss most about home? My pets + my bed.

what makes home "home" to you? Family, of course, as well as close friends and my pets.

learn more about Christina on her blogs: Route Bliss + Christina McCall Photography

check out a few of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

Hi everyone, I'm Jenn!! I'm a newlywed who loves to travel and read. I write about pretty much everything on my blog from travel to books to living cruelty free (no animal tested products). I hope you'll stop by and say hi!
where is the place you currently call home? Bel Air, Maryland. It's where my family is. I'm very close to my Mom and moving away from her was the hardest part of going to college.

have you ever had to make a big move and leave your home behind? I left Maryland when I moved to college and actually never planned to come back. Funny how that worked out!

when you travel, what do you miss most about home? My family! Mostly my Mom.

what makes home "home" to you? Definitely people! Though I do really hope to leave MD one day soon and live somewhere new, I definitely have some great roots here! I have friends that I've had my whole life, and my family is close :)

learn more about Jenn on her blog: A Country Girl's World

check out a few of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

I'm Ech, wife to Will. We're currently stationed in Italy. There's no sugar coating it or trying to be humble about it...it's gorgeous here and we absolutely love it. On our blog we share our travels, military life, and my attempts at housewifing.

where is the place you currently call home? That's a tough question. I was born in Hawaii, grew up in Oregon. I consider them both my home. favorite thing about Oregon: My mom, a few aunts/uncles/cousins, and my closest friends live there. If I had to choose just one "home", this would be it.The people there make it special.

have you ever had to make a big move and leave your home behind? I moved from Hawaii when I was 10. I moved from Oregon when I was 18 for college and again when I was 24 to marry Will and to be with him.

when you travel, what do you miss most about home? Hawaii: My family. Oregon: My friends and my mom. Italy: The comforts of my house.

what makes home "home" to you? The people. When I'm in Hawaii or Oregon I can completely be myself because the family and friends there have known me long enough to see past all the bs and politeness.

learn more about Ech [and Will!] on their blog: Ech & Will

check out a few of their favorite posts:

or follow along with:

Hsinchu // Guquifeng + Putian Temple

the Guquifeng statue garden and Putian Temple is one of my favorite places to take visitors in Hsinchu. this place is part museum, part temple, part park and part statue graveyard. and you never know what you'll find while wandering its shaded pathways...

I've posted about this place before, but it seems like every time I visit I discover something new among the overgrown and seemingly abandoned grounds. there is rarely anyone else around the area outside the temple. the underground museum seems to draw a few visitors... but was closed the day Kelsey and I visited in May. [I think it's only open on weekends]

also newly discovered are these Lightroom presets from A Beautiful Mess that I've fallen in love with. I downloaded Lightroom 5 for my new Macbook since I had been operating on a much-outdated version of Photoshop Elements. Lightroom is definitely different and I'm still discovering how things work, but for $10 I couldn't pass up the presets.

Ava and Naomi seem to be my favorites of the set so far, or at least that's what I've mainly used [with a few small adjustments] for these shots. I'm not always a fan of photos looking "processed," but the dark and stormy moods seem to fit this mysterious place. I'm hoping that over time and with some practice I can wield the presets with a little more finesse. [and maybe create some of my own]

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Jenn. she drinks her coffee with Truvia + almond milk and blogs about lifestyle + home improvement over at Near and Far Montana.

linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Sammy, and Van for Travel Tuesday
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