One of my new favorite places in the U.S. is Miami, FL. Though my trip there was a quick one, I found it to be the perfect place for a girls weekend or an SOS from the cold weather up north. Me and one of my besties were able to take in the history, culture, and nightlife in just over 24 hours, though I could have stayed for weeks. What I like the most about Miami is the beach life, the walkability, and the culture.
The beach life // I love a place that has that perfect mix of city and nature. And in Miami's case, nature means miles of warm and welcoming beaches. We stayed in South Beach, which I highly recommend for the classic Miami experience. There are quiet sections of the beach if you just want to kick back and relax, but there's always a party going on somewhere in Miami if that's what you're looking for. The beaches make for the perfect tropical getaway just steps from normal life.
The walkability // One of the ways I love to learn a new place is by walking on foot. In Miami we stayed at the Chesterfield hotel (pictured above), which was on Collins Avenue, one of three main streets that run parallel to each other in South Beach: Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue, and Ocean Drive. I recommend staying on one of these streets to be close to the beach, the Art Deco District, and an array of shops, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. There was still so much that we didn't get to see during our short stay in Miami, but we were thankful to be situated in a prime location to see and do as much as we could. We shopped, we window shopped, we ate, we played, and we even had time to relax. Another great place for walking in Miami is Lincoln Road - also full of shops, restaurants, and opportunities to take in the culture of Miami.
The culture // Ah, Miami culture. It's a beautiful thing! I can really break it down into a few main elements: Hispanic influences, nightlife, and the Art Deco movement. During the 1930's Miami became a canvas for the Art Deco movement, and much of this style can still be seen today throughout South Beach. The geometric lines and color combinations are beautiful to see, and hard to find elsewhere in such capacity. Art continues to play an important role in the identity of Miami. Miami is also characterized by its Hispanic influences. Virtually everyone in Miami speaks Spanish to some extent, and the exceptional Cuban food and exciting Latin music speak for themselves. Spending time in Miami will feel unlike any other city in the U.S. - it's a wonderful mix of different cultures and people. Another aspect of Miami culture is the nightlife. Because South Beach is a tourist spot, there will always be a party no matter the night of the week. Our main destination was Mango's Tropical Cafe - a well-known bar and restaurant that delivers a unique Latin and Caribbean entertainment experience.
Still not convinced? Miami is also full of museums, sports, and other great attractions. And it's a major cruise terminal, which is what originally brought me to Miami. Whether you only have a few hours or a few days, live la vida Miami.
*And in case this song isn't stuck in your head yet...enjoy!
Happy 2016! The beginning of a new year is such an exciting time. We're filled with feelings of potential, and the world seems to be full of opportunity. This time of the year is also marked by resolutions. I think sometimes we make resolutions because we feel like we should - it's like an unspoken social pressure that then hurts even more when we don't actually keep them!
The other day someone told me that I seem, "free." It's one of the most unique and meaningful compliments I've ever received. And it got me thinking - when do I feel the most free? I'm probably like many of you - always busy, always working, a people-pleaser. But I feel the most free when I'm traveling. When I'm disconnected yet totally plugged in. When I'm in a no wifi zone and it's just me and a map, and however far my feet will take me. When my senses are keen and every sight, sound, and smell is foreign yet comforting. When I'm filled with feelings of potential and the world seems to be full of opportunity.
I didn't make a New Year's resolution this year, but I have been reflecting on a few travel lessons I've learned along the way, and how to maintain these ideas in 2016. Maybe one of them will be your perfect New Year's resolution!
Don't be afraid to get lost // We all talk about how much we rely on technology these days, but it's actually amazing to me how much we rely on technology to navigate our lives, physically. Just think - in a new town or city, how would you know what to do? You might Google activities and famous places to visit, and then use Google Maps to get there. But what if you couldn't connect? And what are you missing?
If you're planning on visiting a new place, make a resolution to get lost. Trust me, I'm a planner, but once I get to my destination, it's so exciting to just explore. Wander a little bit - it might seem scary, but as long as you're paying attention to your path and the signs/landmarks around you, you'll be just fine. Use an old-fashioned paper map. Be curious. Don't be afraid to ask locals for help, either. You never know what you might discover when you're not trying to find something else.
Be mindful // Getting caught up in a space and in a moment is absolutely wonderful - but it's important to be mindful while traveling. Always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings - both for your safety and for your overall experience. Barcelona is one of my favorite places in the world, but it's also a major city for pickpocketing. Being mindful helps me to be cognizant of how the people around me are behaving and how my belongings may or may not be vulnerable. I always recommend that if you carry a purse, use a cross-body bag and keep your hand over top of it, however is most comfortable for you. Your positioning and body language can give cues that you are aware. If you just carry a wallet, stick it in a front pocket so that you can monitor it more easily.
It's also important to be mindful to enhance your overall experience. Being as receptive as possible to every stimulant around you can really help you take it all in!
Pay attention to the little things // Sure, you saw the Statue of Liberty, the Great Wall of China, or the Eiffel Tower - but what were the people like? What were they wearing? How did they get around? Interact with each other? Interact with the things around them?
If the only thing you remember about a trip is the monument or famous thing that you saw, did you really experience all that the city/town/country had to offer? Culture is so important to the way people live and operate. Make a point to take in the culture, not just the sights. It will make your memories of that travel experience so much more meaningful. You don't have to totally agree with the culture - but understanding and recognizing it is important. It gives you a new perspective and can help you to appreciate things differently. Sometimes it really is the little things that make the biggest impact!
Not being afraid to get lost, being mindful, and paying attention to the little things are 3 lessons I've learned throughout my travel experiences in the past. These lessons have helped me to experience travel in a new way, and I think that's why I love it so much. I hope that these lessons could become resolutions for you in 2016, whether you're traveling or just trying to experience your hometown differently. Embrace the possibilities and opportunities of this new year, and be free.