Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Blue Mountains Christmas

I wasn't lying when I said we barely got home from our last trip to the Blue Mountains before booking another stay up there. I love the mountains and this time around was even better because we got to spend it with Katie.

Katie's here! 
If you didn't know, Katie is Spencer's sister. She came to Australia two days after us but was living in Perth being an au pair. Now she is finally over in Sydney. Yay! 

Some days were rainy and misty...

the trail from Govett's Leap Lookout to Evan's Lookout (We looked out at fog. Womp, womp.)
Some were sunny and bright...

on the Nature Trail in the Wentworth Falls area
And one day was Christmas! Double yay! We opened presents, made mulled wine, Skyped loved ones back home, ate huge amounts of chocolate and watched Elf. Christmas = success!!  

Our AirBnB host left us a tree and decorations! It was a great surprise.
We did a lot of hiking (of course) and saw some great waterfalls. The best hike we did was the hike to Wentworth Falls and then along the National Pass to Empress Falls. The views of the cliffs and forest were amazing and the waterfalls were stunning. It took about three hours and descended/ascended 210 meters. I highly recommend it! 

yes, we were walking on the side of the cliff! 
Wentworth Falls, upper falls
Wentworth Falls, upper and lower falls
half way along the National Pass
We passed lots of these little spray-like waterfalls.
part of Empress Falls
Another great time in the Blue Mountains! Maybe we should go somewhere else next....Melbourne? Cairns? We'll see!

I hope you all had a very happy holiday season!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Love Love Love

I love him more and more every day. I couldn't have dreamed up a better person to navigate this life and world with. Here we are in the countryside just north of Amsterdam in 2008.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hiking in the Blue Mountains

Every day we were in the Blue Mountains we would get up, eat breakfast, and go out walking for 4-5 hours. There are so many trails and we could walk to a lot of them from the cottage we rented. The weather was mostly sunny and cool, the perfect weather for walking.

We were staying in the small town of Katoomba which is where the famous rock formation the Three Sisters is. The first thing we did was go to Echo Point where you can look out at them and over a huge vista of forest.

Three Sisters and us

Over the next few days we walked as much as our legs could handle! We would walk all day and then go home and soak in the tub to ease our aching muscles.

Walking on the path towards Leura, things would change, transforming the dry woods into lush rainforest. It was fascinating to see the transformation over just a few bends of the path.

on the path southwest of Leura
We saw all kinds of animals but mostly birds and butterflies. Australia has some beautiful birds!

Eastern Yellow Robin

sulfur-crested cockatoo

Bell Miner (Bellbird)

Swordgrass Brown (tisiphone abeona)

Crimson Rosella

Pied Currawong

People have yet to flock back to the mountains after the big fires up there earlier this season but Katoomba and the surrounding areas were not affected by the fires. They are now, though, effected by the lack of tourists. It was nice for us to have trails with fewer people and the ability to enjoy vista points and attractions on our own.

We hiked down to the Pool of Siloam, where we had the place to ourselves.

making rock stacks at the Pool of Siloam
One of my favorite places we visited (we actually went twice!) was the Bridal Veil Falls Lookout. It was so beautiful to see the waterfall from up so high and the cliffs and forest all around was just epic. I could have stayed there all day watching the water fall and the bright white cockatoos fly over the trees.

view from Bridal Veil Falls Lookout
When Australians talk about anywhere in nature, it's called "the bush" and hiking is called "bushwalking." I don't know about you, but when I think about "the bush," I think scrub land, desert, or basically something barren or without trees, at least. Oh, how different this was and I'm so glad for it!

We were so happy with our trip that we barely got off the train back in Sydney without booking another stay!

Leura Cascades

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Things I Love, Blue Mountains Holiday House Edition

We finally escaped the big city for a long weekend in the Blue Mountains last weekend and it was divine. It was a pleasure to just sit in the woods and hear nothing but nature's sounds. The air was fresh, the sky was blue, and the cottage we rented was absolutely adorable. 

In the midst of all this vacationing, I wrote this list of things that I was really enjoying.

1. the mountains and walking around out in the woods

2. the colorful birds of Australia

3. sparking water

4. spring blooms

5. warm beds on crisp mornings

6. claw foot bathtubs

7. old school charm

in our cottage's kitchen

8. the quiet of the country

wild strawberries in the back garden

9. good chocolate

10. sun shining through stained glass windows 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Explore. Dream. Discover.

This is one of the first travel quotes that really resonated with me. I happened upon it while studying with Semester At Sea and so the sailing aspect was very relevant to my life. I still love it and thought it worked perfectly on this photo Spencer took during a three day sailing/camping adventure in Belize on our honeymoon. We camped on that little island!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Celebrate the Journey

Celebrate! <3 

Applying to the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is something I've wanted to do for a long time but things always came up so I waited. Now, there is no more waiting. Spencer and I have applied for the Peace Corps!

The application process is long and currently it's a lot of paperwork and a lot of waiting.

We submitted our applications online and a few weeks later a recruiter contacted us to set up an interview. Our interview was over 3 hours long(!), we did well and received a nomination from our recruiter. Yay!

A nomination basically means we passed the interview and our recruiter (who is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, herself) thinks we would be good volunteers. We filled out more paperwork, got fingerprinted, and are now waiting to hear from a Placement Officer who will (hopefully!) place us in a program somewhere in the world.

It's a very exciting time!! But it's also filled with weeks of no news and lots of waiting time but it's okay because we get to spend the meantime exploring Australia, which is an adventure in itself!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I'm a serious crafter. I love making things to a point where if feels like I need to make things. My mom is a serious crafter too, so I think it's in my blood (or at least in my upbringing).

In the past, I've refrained from posting about my craft projects on Destination Exploration because I wanted this space to be more about travel. However, I'm going to change that because half the time, I'm not traveling. I'm living. Yes, I'm living as an expatriate but I'm still living, not traveling. And when I live, I craft.

Here are some projects I've done since coming to Australia. The first is one of my favorites and it was so simple. I just plucked a long stick out of someone's garden, took it home, snapped it into four pieces, and tied it together. I originally wanted to tie a long string to the top and hang it but since we're renting, I decided against it. It's a fun way to show off instant camera photos. (BTW, instant cameras are super fun!)

I read this book from the library called The Secret Lives of the Impressionists and it inspired me to paint with oil paint. I experimented a little with oil paints in Korea but this was my first real go at it. Both pieces are painted from pictures I took while traveling in Burma/Myanmar. The red flower is from a fantastic tree that dotted the countryside. They were mesmerizing.

The second is of a dusty lane outside Mandalay where we stopped to visit a crumbling ancient temple. A place from back in time where people still use a horse and cart to get around.

I've recently been working on some digital crafting. I'm learning about graphic design and using InDesign and Illustrator by taking some free Skillshare classes and getting help from Spencer. It's fun to play with shapes and type. These are my very first two projects! Spencer helped me with the business card a lot. I did the robot on my own.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Whale Watching

Since I know I suffer from motion sickness, I took medication before boarding the boat. When you have a history of queasiness and the company writes about it on every correspondence, it's a must. Still, I felt the uneasy feeling in my stomach as I held on to the shiny silver railing of the boat. I focused on the horizon to try and trick my brain into thinking I wasn't rocking on a boat. It worked for a while until I couldn't take my eyes off of the ocean's creatures dipping in and out of the big blue bouncing sea.

I watched as the backs of three humpback whales appeared out of the water, one by one, as if they were taking turns. Then their tails poked out. I imagined them feeling the air with their bodies like we would go to the sea to feel the water on our toes. A little out of our element but loving it all the same.

We found the whales almost as soon as we left the harbor and stayed with them for a couple hours. They were moving slowly, which meant the boat was also moving slowly, which meant it was rocking. The crew kept talking about how flat it was, while my stomach mumbled something entirely different. "If this was flat, I never want to be out on a rough day!" I thought.

I took deep breaths and tried to keep on eye on the whales gliding around in the water. It was very cool to see the whales just doing their thing out in the wild but I was very happy when it was time to put my feet on the sturdy ground.

Monday, October 21, 2013


My first in-person lesson on Australian slang was on the plane ride here with the little girl sitting next to me. She told me she had "heaps of friends" at preschool. She was adorable. 

heaps of - basically, how I would use the word "hella"

How ya goin'? - How's it going?/How are you?

do a wee - go pee (this is what the boys I babysit say when they have to go pee, or to be more exact "I'm doin' a wee")

good on ya - good job, well done, good going you

CBD - stands for Central Business District, what we would call "downtown"

lollies - candy

bogan - redneck

bottle shop - liquor store

mackas - McDonalds

arvo - afternnoon, particularly in text messages we've noticed

prawn - shrimp (You would never actually hear someone say "throw some shrimp on the barbie" They don't say shrimp!)

no dramas - like "no worries"

mate - dude

full on - extreme/very much so/out of control For example: I was in a bar at 9:30pm and overheard two people talking about their friend. Girl: She's already vomited. Guy: Yeah, she's full on.

sweet as - like we would say, "yeah, it was sweet as f***!" Also have heard good as.

Australians like to shorten sayings, words, and most people's names. Nicknames are common among friends, which I find absolutely endearing.

Also, this list just scratches the surface! There are TONS of slang words and things they just call different names. Part of the fun is discovering them yourself, so get on down here and explore the English language!   

Saturday, October 19, 2013


My hands and feet were placed firmly on the grass, my butt was in the air, and my belly button was reaching for my spine. I rocked my weight from one foot to the next, alternately pushing down my heels to stretch my tightened calf muscles.

Running for the first time in eight months calls for some serious stretching. I was running outside in the perfect Sydney spring air and normally would have gone home to stretch. I usually get embarrassed by stretching in public but the air was so fresh I wanted to stay outside and breathe it all in. I ran under a huge gum tree for shade and started doing sun salutations.

This is something I would never do in my hometown. I would never just randomly start doing yoga by myself in a crowded park. But here in Sydney, I felt ok. I didn't feel embarrassed. I didn't feel awkward.

I realized even if people were judging me, I didn't care. Maybe it's because as I get older, I'm becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I'm finding out what I like and don't like and how to lead a balanced life. I'm figuring out what's really best for me and not relying on magazines or other people telling me what I should be doing. It's extremely gratifying and a process I'm sure will last my whole life. Making a conscious effort to be self aware makes me happier, more productive, and less guilty.

A big part of this process has been spending time in foreign countries where I can be anonymous enough to really, truly be myself. The cultural differences make me think in new perspectives about the same issues I had before leaving. The absence of a big support system of extended family and friends makes me feel empowered, accountable, and in control of my decisions.

I don't feel badly when I say no to an invitation to go out when I really need to just stay in and recharge. I feel more confident making life decisions, like where we're going to live after Australia. I'm less self conscious showing people art that I've made and I'm more confident in my writing. 

The power of being anonymous in a new place is strong. It's like starting fresh. You can be who you want to be. You can do what you want to do. And if you don't know who you want to be or what you want to do, it can help you find answers. It did for me. I still don't have all the answers (obviously) but I feel better about not having them when I don't and fulfilled when I do. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Kayaking in Sydney

Sydney rests on one of the greatest harbors in the world. There are heaps of little inlets, beaches, and cliffs all around the city. With all this gorgeous water around there is no doubt tons of ways to enjoy it. Last weekend we rented some kayaks to join in on the fun.

We rented from Sydney Harbour Kayaks in Mosman.  

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is full of beautiful scenery. There are tiny beaches, epic cliffs, an old seaside graveyard, and even lawn bowling. We did the walk in a few hours and took our time taking in sights and stopping to get lunch along the way. It was a nice way to spend a sunny spring afternoon. I hope you enjoy the photos! :)

Bondi Beach