Peru, Peru, Peru. I am not sure how I’m going to explain this trip. Sure, I can write out the details: the places we went, the things I saw, so on, so forth. But how do I begin to explain what it meant to me? I’ve decided to break this trip up to several parts- trying to cram it all into one post would get extremely lengthy and we would all lose focus halfway through. Somehow I’ll try to fit into words how awing this time was for me. And if in the scenario I do not fulfill that duty then I hope my photos will.

As flight attendants we normally stay in pretty okay hotels. Everything is clean, wake-ups are made, its relatively quiet (for the most part). So when Analeise and I decided to backpack I wanted nothing else than to stay in hostels with other backpackers. Honestly, for me, I needed to remember why it was that I started traveling in the first place. It wasn’t for timed layovers and having to feel rushed all the time when I’m somewhere new. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a flight attendant. I’m constantly seeing something different. However, in this job, as much as everyone knows the airline world is a chaotic mess, on layovers there is no room for error. So with eight days to explore, we made a general list of things we wanted to see, but no concrete plans so that in any unexpected scenario occurred we could just say, “No prob-llama!”

Backpacks fully packed and tickets in hand, we headed off at 11:50PM to Bogota and then on to Cusco.

Day One: Exploring Cusco, Peru

After dropping off our packs at the hostel, we made our way to the city center to begin our wandering. It is true what they say that the altitude will certainly affect everyone differently. Although I didn’t notice a difference besides a bit more heavy breathing, Analeise did feel light headed as we walked around. Later on we discovered that it is best to eat before you are hungry to combat any lightheaded feelings that may occur due to the high elevation. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the delicious and decently sized empanadas that we ate for lunch. I wish I had though, I would certainly go back for another one.

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We stayed at Pariwana Hostel for the first two nights of our trip. I was originally planning on taking photos of the entire place, but we quickly became occupied with the activities taking place in the evening. I would highly recommend this hostel to any traveler that wants to meet people. It hosts different activities every night and the staff is remarkably friendly and good at getting people involved! We ended up playing some sort of soccer-volleyball game with this great British couple, Phoebe and George. Little did we know we would end up hanging out with them a lot and running into them in another hostel in AguasCalientes later that week! After a ridiculous game (which we lost), we went up to the bar for dinner and after a beer-pong tournament (sorry, Mom!).

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The room we stayed in was an 8 female dorm. Each bed had a shelf on the wall, a light, and a locker with outlets inside (though you had to bring your own lock). Pariwana really did have it all: a yummy restaurant, activities, a movie room, a kitchen, etc. The only problem we ran into was an extremely drunk roommate that decided to have a little too much fun with someone in the shared bathroom. Though, I guess this only allows me to now have an interesting hostel travel story.

Day Two: Humantay Lake

Originally we had planned on taking it easy on the first full day in Cusco. This idea quickly disappeared as we saw that the excursion desk had a trip the next day to hike to Humantay Lake. I’m truly thankful that Analeise had heard of it before and really wanted to see it. If not then I don’t think I would have experienced the breathtaking (because that altitude really does take it out of you!) views on this day.

The Humantay Lake was originally part of the starting point of the Salkantay Hike which finishes in Machu Picchu. Up to recent only those participating in the hike would have seen it. Thankfully for those of us that aren’t able to do a multi-day hike there are excursions that now make it possible. The process begins with a 4:30AM showtime, a 2-3 hour bus ride, breakfast in a small town, and then a couple more hours of driving up extremely bumpy, slightly dangerous, winding dirt roads up to Soraypampa. Here is where it gets really fun. The hour and a half trek proved a lot harder than I would have originally thought. At first I was confident…then every few steps became a bit more challenging… Still, with views like these (photos below), it was easy to become mesmerized as the ice-capped mountain became closer and closer.

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The Vilcabamba mountain range that surround Humantay Lake were  sacred to the Incas. According to our guide, sacrifices of a young child, who was considered the most pure, would be made when grand natural disasters would occur that, at the time, could not be explained. As we sat in a circle and listened to our guide, he directed us to take three cocoa leaves and place them within the rocks that were piled high as offerings and make one heartfelt wish. Of course I can’t say what I wished for, but I sure hope someone heard me.

I cannot really describe how majestic the environment was to witness. However, I need to explain the unfortunate reality of such a beautiful landscape. Picture this remarkable lake even grander and the mountains even more snow-capped. 60% of the ice has disappeared and it only continues to vanish every year. The lake once greatly surpassed where I stood to take these photos. It is receding every single year. Climate change is real. These landscapes, ecosystems, key landmarks of cultural significance are all disappearing. It is finally time for everyone to open their eyes. I don’t know about you, but I desperately wish my grandchildren (and so on) to witness the amazing sights I’ve gotten the chance to, but that won’t happen at the rate things are going. Protect Mother Earth, y’all.

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The hike down from the lake was not as challenging, except for the cold drizzle that fell upon us. Once all the way back to where we started, we hopped on the bus, and all fell asleep until we arrived back in the same small town for a delicious small buffet of hot soup, pasta, and other much needed filling food.

I would highly recommend anyone visiting Peru to complete the hike to Humantay Lake. Take a waterproof jacket, gloves, and of course layers that you can easy strip off with the ever changing weather. The guide insisted on walking sticks and I am so glad that he did. They really did help navigate our way over the loose terrain.

Most importantly, be ready to be amazed because it truly is a miraculous, significant, and serene place. Trust me, it is worth the huffing and puffing.

Until next time, friends!

Mary AnnaIMG_4692

(IPhone)

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Peru (1)

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Travel

Malaysia!

Hello, all!

As I am preparing for my backpacking trip that officially begins tonight (!!!!), I decided to finally post the photos from my surprising layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Another stamp in the passport (two more pages until its full!)! This layover left me with renewed invigoration, refocused determination to explore this world further, and a whole ton of money photos on my IPhone.

The crew and I, of course, visited the Batu Caves. The world’s tallest statue of Murugan was phenomenal to witness on the journey up the stairs (which honestly winded me) to the entrance of the caves. However, honestly, the interior was a bit disappointing as there was quite  a bit of construction going on. I understand all about making a tourist destination more tourist-friendly (and profit-making), but I am concerned about the impact it will all have on the limestone and bats that live among it. I suppose, as with many things, time will tell.

Next we ventured out to the waterfalls, which I unfortunately cannot remember the name off currently. Little did I know that the entire park was overrun by monkeys! And when I state overrun, I mean, truly overrun. They were everywhere. My favorite part was watching them sneak snacks out of unobservant tourist’s backpacks and then scurrying off with them. I even witnessed one steal a orange fanta type of soda out of someone’s purse and proceed to punch a hole on the bottom and begin drinking it! Impressive!

I took a ton of photos- of monkeys specifically- on my film camera so as soon as I get back from this trip I’m about to embark on I need to find somewhere to develop them! I can’t wait to show y’all if any of them turn out decent

Until next time!

Let the backpacking journey begin!

Mary Anna

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Personal, Writing

A Personal Post

I have always aimed to be a truthful writer. For the most part, I’m a pretty open book in general. So lately I have been forced to face some hard, true facts about myself and where I am in life currently. As much as I enjoy this blog being focused on travel and my adventures, (un)fortunately that isn’t all my life is. So below is probably one of the most personal posts I have ever written. I have opened up my heart to you, including my fears and including the heartache.

Mainly, I have finally opened up my heart to myself again- it was about time.

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My mother has always said that I am too trusting for my own good.

-Hell yes, I’ll do that spontaneous thing with you even though I don’t know you well (or at all).

-I would love to visit you, even though we only met briefly that one time.

-Why, yes, let me tell you my life story because I trust you already.

I still proudly claim to be as (smartly) trusting of others because I want to believe in the good of the world so incredibly badly. So then why is it that suddenly I assume the worst out of others before I see the good?

It is an overly-used, still truthful, thing to say that you “have trust issues now” because of that one thing, or that thing, or all those things accumulated over years of learning, being disappointed, and then relearning. It only takes one moment for doubt to take hold of your nerves secretly, like a hidden bomb waiting to ignite. Then suddenly, it happens. In your car, at your home, or even among a crowd- anytime, anyplace. It hits you with the force of a bullet train that you could not have seen coming.

For me, it happened after watching the newest Spider-man (seriously, another one?!) by myself as I came home to an empty apartment. I never believed in baggage until I was left alone to carry it. Why, suddenly, was every single bad experience streaming into my head? Why now? I had just been fine an hour ago. But like I said, that bullet train charges ahead on its own time out of nowhere.

So what do you do?

You face it head on, of course.

I had a vision in my head for over a year. It was a magnificent, attainable vision of how I pictured my life to be one day. Then it became only a dream. Then it disappeared with the speed of that train that just hit me.

Breakups aren’t easy- we all know that. And as I became consumed with work travels, a constant flood of questions from co-workers, and the process of moving on, that secret time bomb was still awaiting me- I just didn’t know it.

So it was in the process of moving on that I was forced to face my most recent truth: that I am still hurt and because of that I am wholly afraid of someone else hurting me. So my biggest fear right now is this: I am afraid of you disappearing on me. I am afraid of feeling dispensable again. I am afraid of someone coming into my life, filling my world with beauty, and then disappearing without any word or trace. People use the term “ghosting” nowadays. I call it disappearing.

So I have admitted my biggest fear and insecurity to the world. Because as I’ve said, at the root of it, I am a trusting person. I want to see the good in the world again, in you, in me. On top of that, I am a full-pledged romantic. I want to go in a hot air balloon with the love of my life. I want to see the northern lights under those globe hotels in Finland. Travel and romance are a package deal for me.

None of that is possible until I conquer today’s struggle. Trusting again. Until I do, that ugly doubt that hides behind my heart will always control me. Because suddenly, this world is not as vivid as it used to be when my heart was whole and my trust was intact. I am afraid of you hurting me more than my heart can take.

I write this, partly selfishly, as a way to finally get these emotions I have been hiding out. Though as easily as I could have posted this privately, for you dear reader, not to see, another reason is because I have come to a realization I wanted to address. That realization is that we need to be kind to one another. I’m speaking to myself especially. Heartache has made me unkind- bitter towards the world’s beauty and your own. I have not seen you for the kind person I know that you are but as someone that I am afraid you can be. So as we meet that person that seems to have their life in order, or see another “perfect” Instagram profile, remember, there is a lot more that we are not witnessing. We don’t see if there is doubt in their chest or fear in their heart. So I wanted to share that with you because it’s the truth and it is real. Finally, the last partial reasoning behind writing this is because I know others may be struggling, too, and I want them to know that it is okay to speak (or write) about it, whenever they are ready.

As I face another work trip ahead of me and as I work on having a (kind of) normal life, I wanted to admit to myself my biggest current weakness because once you admit it to yourself, no one can use it against you. Once you admit it to yourself, you can only choose to grow from it, or let it consume you. So I am choosing growth. I know the process of growing trust back is not an easy one. It starts within myself. I will have to relearn how to trust the person I am and want to be, trust that the universe knows what it is doing, and finally trust that these moments that cause heartache are only moments that lead to growth, too.

The one thing I can say, however, is that through these self-igniting moments is when you truly discover what you will accept and what you won’t. I know now what I want and what I refuse to accept out of others and life. There is an enlightening power in finally discovering that.

So what happens now?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

I will work on relearning how to live courageously and wholeheartedly again. And then, I guess we’ll see.

Until next time.

-Mary Anna

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Travel

Taormina, Italy

Hello, all!

When fellow flight attendant and friend Mary-Kate told me I was going to need water shoes to get into the water I thought she was kidding. Alas, I quickly became thankful that I purchased a pair of awesome see-through booties (check them out at the bottom of this post!) when I witnessed how extremely rocky the beach is in Taormina. If you are planning on visiting soon, heads up! Still, I am content with every beach I get to touch down on. There was a moment when I was floating on my back led by the rhythm of the waves as I watched birds fly high above me. It was serene and everything I needed it to be. Below are tons of photos of this quick layover destination! I’m excited to continue exploring Italy’s coasts. This day was remarkable, from the perfectly sunny weather to snagging beach recliners right in front of the water, I wouldn’t change a thing about it!

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(IPhone photos)

Anyone have any other recommendations on places to visit?

Cheers, all! Until next time!

-Mary Reyes

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Personal, Travel

Relearning How to Live: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

A calm, artistic haven that put me on a new, old path.

I wrote on Instagram that this wasn’t just another trip away from work for me. I could have written this right after arriving home from Tulum, but for me, it was necessary to reflect on the entirety of the adventure instead of just choosing select moments to highlight.

Before booking this trip with my dear roommate Analeise, my relationship fell apart. It was a very, very frustrating, confusing time (as many breakups are). How can you go from planning a life with someone one second to suddenly being forced to reinvent yourself as a single person? That was the overall problem I discovered about myself in Tulum.

I spent roughly a year and a half of working for my relationship. Commuting back and forth to Tampa, fighting to communicate through different, always changing, time zones, and learning how to be flexible with not only my flying schedule but his military one. It was worth it. Until it wasn’t anymore (it still was for me though). My point of all this is, there was my problem. I claimed to know who I was while bending myself over backwards being a partner for someone that needed much more than I could provide that I believe I lost myself in the process. I wasn’t enjoying the process of travel like I used to. I craved stability because I was in love with someone stable. Don’t get me wrong, I do know I love being a partner to someone. I like being the supportive, loving girlfriend and best friend. Do I love it more than I do a wandering life? Do I have to choose one or the other? (I’m writing something on these questions specifically right now.) Tulum introduced (and reintroduced) me to the path that will help me discover the answers I was and am searching for.

Months of constant, honestly sickening worry, anxiety, and fear washed away as I said, “¡Si, vamos!” to a tan man holding a sign for a snorkel excursion after lunch on the beach after biking to the Mayan ruins after sleeping in a bungalow with a big net and no air conditioning (hello, glamping!). The moment I jumped in I was greeted by the most beautiful sea turtle I could have ever imagined (and my first to see free out in the ocean)! The universe listened to my prayer! It was showing me what I needed to see- what I needed to hear. This is where you are supposed to be. In the water, snorkel suctioned onto my face, I witnessed sting rays circling below me. I laughed wildly with our guide that would push me, pull me, grunt and squeal as he pointed to another magnificent creature and to another and another.

That was my reintroduction into this path I am currently living. Whatever the universe brings, be it a new destination, a new love, a new passion, Tulum brought me the joy of embracing it.

“¡Si, vamos!” DCIM100GOPROG0351371.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So now the highlights:

Glamping at Joy Tulum

It was definitely a little bit of a walk in extremely heat to get to the hostel from the bus station. On our return trip we splurged (a full couple of dollars) on a taxi (much more preferable). The hostel itself is made up of several rows of individual bungalows with colorful chairs outside and a simple interior with one fan, a small bench, side tables, and mosquito nets around the beds. As worried as we were about the bus I didn’t find them bad at all. Actually, I have been bit more recently in Texas more than I was in Mexico. There were separate women’s and men’s bathroom areas that were always clean and a breakfast of cereal, cheeses, and hams in the common area. If you can bear the heat (although we were never really in our bungalows during the day) it is a wonderful place to stay- just remember the bug spray!

39ce2721-6daa-447b-ae0c-e98144c5dfe0Processed with VSCO with m5 presetSnorkeling the Grand Cenotes 

It’s true what they say, make sure you get there early! When we arrived it wasn’t extremely full. We went snorkeling for awhile and watched the bats flutter above us and by the time we were satisfied with our swimming the cenote had become quite congested with other tourists. Still, it was remarkable swimming in the clear, freezing water.c7dc5900-58c5-406e-8d2a-d02e4fbcf6d8

 

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A beach day, of course!

Mayan Ruins

This certainly gets absolutely packed during the early afternoon! I would suggest either going as soon as it opens or being the last ones to enter and exit. Wear your swimsuit so you can take a dip in the ocean in front of the ruins. If you head to the public beach you can take a boat out to see the ruins from a great distance.

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Having Cenote Escondido to ourselves (no, really!) 

I’m actually not lying about this. We used the free bikes from Joy Tulum and rode to the cenote in the morning to find that we were the only ones there! There are two rope swings to play on, too. 10/10 would do again!

 

 

I’m relearning how to live courageously and wholeheartedly after a devastating blow to my heart and soul. I’m going to be okay. In fact, just as Tulum showed me, I’m going to be more than okay. Trust me on that.

-Mary Anna

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Writing

Writings I’ve Never Posted 

Howdy all!

Another view from up above. Despite my neighbors bare feet in my peripheral, I feel more connected to the Heavens today. Maybe it’s an omen of something beautiful that is about to occur. Maybe it’s because I have spent a lot of time thinking about the Universe and trying to truly understand it. Maybe it is due to major life changes that have occurred, with and without my decision. All I know is that today is the first day in a long time that I am particularly hopeful. I just wanted to share that with you.

As well as I am finally confident enough to share with you some writings I’ve had in my notes for a very long time. Obviously being in the sky makes me feel a certain way.

How does it make you feel? Let me know!

-Mary A.

***

I watch a transparent, hazy sheet of thin clouds slowly cover itself over the sleeping town below. They can’t see us, as we are momentarily masked by the darkness of night and solitude. Suddenly our divider is lifted just enough, the evening sky hazy but able to form a contact. I wonder if anyone is looking up, laying perfectly still in silence, on a trampoline in the front yard as I did growing up, watching the stars shift and the sky change as the universe and its people collide. I see the entire town, lit up brilliantly, lights shimmering here and there, from the window of a 747. They can see us again, if only they look up at our blinking wings of souls and living, breathing beings. We are simultaneously moving, always connected, with the sky and its people below.

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Where the stars guide me

I am minuscule and important as I look out to the stars from 30,000 ft in the air. If I focus I can almost see the enormity of the galaxy. I can picture every ball of gas burning brightly as they make this one whole, brilliant moment. The light lit towns below me are partially covered in a thin veil of clouds. I can almost feel the mist on my skin. And in the areas where it is a deep darkness and I question how below this metal tube in the sky it really is, I can sense the solitude and fulfillment of being covered by the mass of question and of life.

I am both minuscule and important in this world. I feel it all so strongly as the night sky moves with me. As the North Star guided the explorers, I am directed past lively cities, sleepy towns, and everything in between. I am just a small girl but up here, I am everything the stars and galaxies want me to be.

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I was watching the scarlet sun burn its way over the horizon, turning the distant sky layers of peach and gold over the ivory shimmering water. I couldn’t help but think to myself that in this world, if ever it came to dust, if all mankind had stolen life from another and the earth was barren of civilization as we knew it, the dust would settle and the horizon would still burn strongly and brilliantly, fiercely making its way towards a new day and a new dawn. We just wouldn’t be around to see it, but we know, it would still be beautiful.

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Travel

Year 23

Howdy, all!

Another year of my life has come and gone and I am officially 24 years and one day old. As difficult as these past couple of months have been, the overall year has been an amazing one. My second year of being an international flight attendant, I checked off several bucket list items, and I am closer to realizing what I want to do in my life. 24 will be the year of personal growth, career maturity, and creative direction. I am committed to putting my health first, to continue writing, and to remember why I started traveling in the first place. So below is my list of some year 23 highlights. As monumental as these moments are, there were many more that were not photographed: reunited family hugs, cozy days with Luca, and uplifting afternoons with dear friends to name a few (plus an awesome cat cafe in Tokyo). And as with every year of life that I am fortunate enough to have, I remember my sweet Grandma, who I was lucky to share a birthday with. She would have been 84 years and one day old and I won’t ever stop missing her.img_5109

Cheers to another year of breathing in life and soaking in sunshine. To growth. To living courageously and wholeheartedly always. Continue reading

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