Travel Talk with Hilary: An Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid

I’m back with a new installment in my Travel Talk interview series! This time, I spoke to Hilary Leslie of Oregonian Overseas, who is currently in her second year of teaching English in Madrid, Spain as an auxiliar de conversación (language and culture assistant). I participated in the same program from 2011 to 2013, so I was curious to hear about her experiences and travel plans.

Visiting Acadia National Park, Maine

Hilary visiting Acadia National Park, Maine

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Vietnam Beyond the Bustle: Mai Chau Valley

Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon… Most travelers to Vietnam know these city’s names well and are sure to include them in their itinerary. But Vietnam is a massive country (far bigger than I imagined!) with a wealth of remarkable places to visit. One of the best? Mai Chau Valley, several hours from Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

Mai Chau Valley, Vietnam

Vietnam’s Mai Chau Valley

Knowing very little about the region, Mai Chau hadn’t been on my Southeast Asia bucket list prior to my travels, but a friend had strongly recommended Vietnam Backpacker Hostels’ Mai Chau Valley trip, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Vietnam beyond its hectic cities by paying a visit to the valley’s peaceful villages and rice paddies. Continue reading  

16 Reasons 2016 Was the Best Year Ever

I’ve seen it all over friend’s Facebook posts, the media, and in conversations with friends: 2016 is the worst. Can it just be over already? Between terrorist attacks, disquieting politics, natural disasters, deaths of public figures, and just about every other nightmare you can imagine, public sentiment toward 2016 is not exactly the fondest.

Grand Canyon

A monumental year. At the Grand Canyon in December

For me personally, it’s been an insane year. I rang in midnight stranded outside a dark Havana, Cuba bus station after our ride failed to pick us up in time to join New Year’s festivities. This seemed to become a microcosm for the rest of the year: things never went according to plan, and 2016 proved extremely frustrating at times, but it was always, always an intriguing adventure. Continue reading  

Indonesia off the Beaten Path: Spotlight on Cianjur Regency

Many visitors to Indonesia’s choose Bali as their destination, and, as I found out this March, it’s a remarkable place, well-deserving of its status as Indonesia’s most popular island. However, Indonesia consists of up to 18,306 islands stretching across 3,181 miles/5,120 kilometers, so there is no shortage of idyllic destinations to explore. Looking to explore an alternative Indonesian location away from the throngs of tourists that places like Bali experience year-round? Consider Cianjur.

Puncak Pass Resort, Cianjur, Indonesia

The view from Puncak Pass Resort, near Cianjur (photo credit)

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Wining and Dining in Luxury at the Sherwood Taipei

Traveling through Asia, when it came to accommodations, I was no stranger to variety. One night, I’d be in a bustling backpacker hostel, the next a $3 per night shack with no electricity, and the next a luxurious five-star hotel. Reflecting on the trip now, I can safely say that getting a taste of all types of travel was one of my favorite aspects of the journey.

Yi Yuan Chinese Restaurant, Sherwood Taipei, Taiwan

Dining at the Sherwood Taipei’s Yi Yuan Chinese Restaurant

Needless to say, however, the “treat yo self” nights stood out quite a bit. And, of those nights, the Sherwood Taipei was particularly unforgettable. I recently wrote about my experience at the five-star hotel in Taiwan’s capital, but the wining and dining there was so memorable it deserved a post of its own. Continue reading