August 11, 2014

I Would Wear There: Study Abroad in France

+ I once read an article about the secret to French style and it's pretty much the opposite of American style; buy very few things but invest in expensive, quality pieces. Classic silhouettes and high quality materials like leather will help you blend in like a local.

+ French style isn't fussy. Keep it sweet and simple with classic styles.

+ Shoes should be flat for running between classes on old cobbled roads. Heels are cute but you'll never wear them.

What would you wear for study abroad?

August 4, 2014

Turning 23 in a Shark Cage

When I was a child I loved going to the zoo. I'm pretty sure every child did. But as I got older zoos began seem a bit weird to me. This was solidified during my trip to the Wuhan Zoo when I saw the abysmal state the animals were housed in. Ever since I could never see zoos the same way.

As I've grown up and matured as a traveler, I now have learned there are other ways to see animals. Ways that don't make the animal endure any unhealthy stress but still teach the public about preservation.

I now choose to go to the animal in the wild. So when I drove up to the North Shore to see sharks, I decided I'd rather see them through a cage than in a cage.

As we loaded onto the boat and started heading out to sea I asked a crew member, "So where's the chum?"

"Oh, we don't need that. The sharks are already there. They're so used to fisherman going by and throwing scraps over board that the sound of the boat engine is enough to attract them."

This was good news for me as it meant I wouldn't be swimming in bloody fish water. It was also nice to know that the tour wasn't disrupting the daily patterns of the sharks but instead just playing on their natural inclinations. This was as anti-zoo as an animal encounter could get.

The boat pulled up to the cage and the crew fastened it to the side. Automatically, sharks came up and began to circle the boat, their dorsal fins just barely below the surface of the water.

"Ok, you first!" the captain said pointing at me.

With a boat full of eager tourists waiting behind me there was no time to hesitate. I grabbed my snorkel gear and jumped into the cage.

From here I could take in everything clearly; nothing but deep, blue ocean below and about ten Galapagos sharks swimming around me, some measuring over ten feet long.

While everyone else in the cage bounced around excitedly trying to film the sharks on their GoPros, I sat still at one spot in front of the plexiglass window and watched the sharks glide in and out of view.

"At this time of the day", a crew member had explained, "it is too hard to hunt. The sharks prefer darker lighting to take cover in. But sharks can't sleep or they'll drown. So right now they're just on 'autopilot' trying to conserve their energy until they can feed again."

Watching the sharks lazily drift through the water, you could almost forget what they were capable of doing. There were, however, moments when I would watch a shadowy figure start coming towards me from the hazy blue distance, becoming clearer and clearer as it approached. Inside of me I felt a primordial fear telling me to run away but then I remembered that I was secure in the cage.

At one point, a strange new shape caught my eye. I looked out and saw a large mahi mahi cruising off in the distance. In an instant, one of the sharks snapped out of his sleepy swim and darted for the fish. It was mind blowing how quickly he moved, covering meters in mere seconds. Everything happened so fast that my eyes didn't even have time to process what happened. A blink and it was over. The mahi mahi was gone and the shark was chomping down on something. It was stunning to experience and reminded me again how glad I was that I wasn't at some boring zoo. Here I was in the wild, watching sharks actually hunt and feed.

When our session was over I climbed back into the boat and gave a thumbs up to the captain.

"You know, you really picked a perfect day to do this." He said gesturing at the beautiful blue sky.

"I know," I replied, "It's my birthday!"

This North Shore Shark Cage Encounter was done with Discover Hawaii Tours.

August 1, 2014


This up and coming neighborhood is the center of urban island culture. Art and energy burst from every  seam of this hippest streets of Honolulu.

July 30, 2014

Learning to Surf in Waikiki

At the time of hitting publish on this post I will have been living in Hawaii for 8 months. I am ashamed to say that it was only 2 weeks ago that I finally went surfing.

I never meant to put it off this long. My roommate is a surfer, I live in the place where surfing was invented, and even my favorite magazine, Foam, is a surfing magazine. By all means I should have been hitting the waves long ago. Sadly, life and being an adult sometimes gets in the way of what we really want to be doing.

When my boyfriend came to visit, however, I found it harder to make excuses for why I wasn't in the ocean more. It was on his Hawaii bucket list and mine as well. It was time to cross it off.

Learning the basics with my instructor, Maui
I have a couple friends who surf but I didn't want to bog them down with two newbies so I decided to go to a surf school instead. There are several to pick from in the Waikiki region alone so I decided to go with the one with the best yelp deal: Big Wave Dace Surf Co.

The lesson was quick and to the point. "Here's the front, there's the back. Cup your hand and paddle like this to go left, do the opposite to go right. Do a push up when you want to go over a wave. Pop like this when you want to catch it." my instructor, Maui, explained.

I appreciated the direct manner of the lesson because, well, I'm 23 and don't need to be talked to like a child. Plus, I had 8+ years of snowboarding experience. It can't be too different right?

After 20 minutes on the ground doing basic lessons and working on some muscle memory we grabbed the boards and dragged them into the ocean.

My first thought as I began paddling out to the waves was "Damn, this is nothing like snowboarding!" My shoulders were killing me and I wanted nothing more than a ski lift that would simply transport me to the waves. Seriously, why has no one though of this yet? Not even a tow rope or something? My little arms were so exhausted by the time I finally reached the break.

So there I was, tired as hell already, when my instructor shouted "Turn around and catch this one!"

I mustered my energy to swivel my huge board around just in time to catch the waves momentum.

"Fuck, this is nothing like snowboarding!"

I went down quickly.

I think what surprised me was feeling the world moving below me. When you snowboard, you are in control. But with surfing, I was at the will of the ocean and I could feel it's energy swirling underneath me and dragging me forward. I freaked out and bailed off my board.

I popped up quickly, though, and paddled back out for more.

Catching my first wave
The ocean, maybe in an attempt to test us newbies, began bashing us with waves larger than when we originally went out. I held on to my board and took the waves head on, not realizing that the current was pulling me farther away from my instructor.

Eventually I had enough and turned my board back towards the beach. A wave came and grabbed hold of my board (without my permission!) and started hurtling me towards shore.

"Damn, this wave is too big but I'm already on it. Might as well stand up!"

So I did just that and started riding the wave that was way out of my league but somehow not dumping me. This time I embraced the energy of the ocean and just followed it.

When I finally regrouped my instructor look at me in surprise.

"Nice wave you caught there!"

"Thanks!" I said but I wasn't really listening to him. I was too busy paddling out to catch the next one.

Mahalo nui loa to Big Wave Dave's Surf Co for an awesome afternoon!

July 29, 2014

The Two Day Guide to Big Island

On the largest of the Hawaiian Islands you can encounter a world of extremes; the world's most active volcano, the southern most point of the USA, and some hella good coffee.

April 28, 2014

Snapshots of Big Island

I experienced such a tremendous amount of natural beauty on Big Island. Here are a couple of my favorite shots:

Steam vents or cracks in the earth where rain water boils and comes up as steam
Steam vents
Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs
Sea turtles at Punalu'u black sand beach
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Halemaumau crater is believed to be the home of Pele, goddess of volcanoes
The crater also holds Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world
The evening glow of lava
Holei Sea Arch
Pele's Hair, or tiny glass fibers caused by lava that's quickly spun by wind
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

April 26, 2014

Life Lessons from Big Island, Hawaii

I wish there was a manual to being a twenty-something. That's the sort of things I understand. Cold hard facts. A step-by-step guide that explained that what I'm going through right now is normal. 'Of course you're life won't look like a Pinterest board and no, you're not going to absolutely adore your job.'

Instead I'm out here on my own, learning every day what it means to be an adult. Hell, I'm still learning what it means to be Aryn.

Traveling, however, has always been the thing in my life that pushes me to learn more about myself and the world. This latest trip took me to Big Island, Hawaii where I was able to witness the beauty of Volcanoes National Park and learn some more life lessons:

big island, hawaii, volcano, kilauea, halemaumau crater

1// Life will go on
I'm a list maker. I also have a tendency to feel like the world will end if I don't get my list done "in time". I seem to have this apocalyptic fantasy that I will just die if I don't get everything completed. Staring out at the lava fields, I saw what it looks like when a real catastrophe happens. Stretches of land as far as you could see decimated by volcanic eruptions. And yet, among the lava rock, a small tree or bush would be sprouting up. Even when it seems like everything is destroyed, life will go on.

Even when I feel like I've fucked up everything beyond repair, I too will survive.

2// I am not the center of the world
Looking out at the vastness of the ocean or the extreme heights of the sea cliffs, you realize just how small and insignificant you are. Some might say 'what a terribly depressing thought!' I however find it quiet relieving. Every problem I encounter may feel enormous but that's only from my perspective. To the rest of the world, it doesn't matter that I reply to an email a bit late.

Realizing the insignificance of my own troubles has somehow brought a zen-like attitude to how I approach life.

3// Give into gravity
When standing at the most southern tip of the USA I looked forty feet down into the most brilliantly blue water I had ever seen. I closed my eyes and stepped off the edge. I was filled with fear as I fell for what felt like for ever but my fear didn't matter; at that point I just had to give in and let gravity run its course. There was absolutely nothing I could do until I hit the water so I might as well enjoy the fall.

After the jump I thought to myself 'Look at all the times you feared something and gave up before even trying! Look how amazing things can be when you stop trying to control everything and instead give into gravity.'

What life lessons have you learned from travel?

March 8, 2014

The Road to Hana and Discovering the Real Maui

Maui is not a place I ever imagined visiting.

I consider myself a budget traveler and this particular island always evoked the imagery of obnoxiously rich people lounging all day on the beach.

Not my style of travel at all and yet here I was, passing by sugar cane fields after just landing in the city of Kahului, Maui.

I reflected in my mind, how exactly had I imagined Maui again? As a small-town Ohio girl I formulated a strange, paradoxical mixture of tropical beaches with nothing around and yet, at the same time, high end hotels would be stretching up into the skies.

Heading out on the Road to Hana, a route built for sugar plantation workers commuting from one side of the island to the other that contains more than 600 curves, I could see that my assumptions were all wrong.

Here's what I discovered on Maui:

New Sand Colors

The island of Maui is one of the few places in the world where you can experience several different sand colors on beaches only minutes apart form each other. The brick red sand is a product of the iron rich soil and the black is, of course, pummeled lava.

A Cultural Art

Supplied with plumerias and orchids, I learned how to make leis! It was actually a simple procedure; simply string the flowers through their most sturdy point on the gigantic needle and voila! A very festive and fragrant bracelet.

A Reminder of Nature's Strength

It's easy to get lost in fantasies of tropical paradise while visiting Maui but this stop was a solemn reminder that island life also means island storms. A deadly storm hit the shores of Huelo, killing most of its inhabitants and this coral and cement Kaulanapueo Church was the only building to survive.

Sweet Treats

Several stops along the route featured the culinary delights of Maui,  including the Halfway to Hana road stand where we picked up fresh banana bread (which I consumed before I could photograph, sorry!) and the Tedeschi Winery where we sampled delicious pineapple wines. I've always been more of a red wine fan but these had me changing my mind.

My Hawaii Bucket List Became Shorter
The white spot  in the middle is a whale splashing about
As we pulled up to Ho'okipa lookout point I squinted and stared at the ocean where I had just seen a spout of water shoot up, "Is that a whale?"

I couldn't believe my own eyes as a humpback whale jumped full out of the water and then slammed back down. "It's a whale!"

There were several whales, in fact. I was unable to capture a jump on camera but they did playfully slap the water with their fins which was adorable and allowed me to cross 'whale watching' off my Hawaii Bucket List.

Sea Caves and Local Legends

It's no wonder that Maui was used as one of the sets for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The sea caves at Waianapanapa State Park, created by ancient lava tubes, are hauntingly beautiful and have an equally haunting tale to go along with them. Like many Hawaiian tales, it concerns a princess and her untimely demise.

Another World on the Backside

Our tour started on the western side of the island which had the typical, tropical jungle foliage. As we came around to the southern side of the island, however, the scenery bounced between African savannas and the highlands of Scotland. How could one tiny isle contain so much natural beauty?

In a single day, all my notions of Maui had drastically changed. Between the history, food, and natural beauty, I had come to finally understand the Valley Isle beyond the image of celebrity beach homes.

This Road to Hana Eco-Adventure Tour was done with Discover Hawaii Tours.

Have you ever visited a place that was completely different than how you imagined it?

March 1, 2014

A Foodie's Guide to Oahu

If I were to be embodied by a deadly sin, it would be gluttony. I absolutely love food and tasting everything. If you eat dinner with me, I'm going to have to get at least one bite of what you're having. On hikes I constantly look around wondering "Can I eat that?". If you offer me some weird, exotic food, I would not hesitate to try it. 

In my mind, foods are just another way to experience life. Much like how I want to see the world, I also want to taste the world. Luckily for me, the island of Hawaii has been a cornucopia of new foods to try. Besides my new found love for ahi poke (raw salmon with sesame oil) here are some other foods to try out on the island of Oahu.


The Rainbow Drive In embodies classic fare for the island and has been serving the people of Honolulu plate lunches for over 50 years. The dish you have to try: the loco moco.

Ok, I know this doesn't exactly look appetizing but trust me! This dish consists of a hamburger patty over rice with eggs and brown gravy poured over top. On the side is some classic Hawaiian mac salad. Absolutely delicious for when you want something greasy and dirty. 

Just down the street is another Honolulu staple; Leonard's Bakery. At this shop you can get typical baked goods but they are most famous for their malasadas. These Portuguese sweet breads are a bit like light donuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar. The perfect desert to follow a loco moco with!

Dole Plantation

In the center of the island you can find Dole Plantation. Once the backbone of the islands economy, the plantation is now more of a fun stop over for people driving around Oahu where you can learn about the history of the pineapple. Here you can do a tour of the gardens or get lost in the world's largest maze but I was here for a more serious matter: Dole pineapple whip.

This sweet confection was the texture of gelato and is flavored with extremely pungent pineapple. My taste buds piqued with all the flavor!


This small town on the north shore of Oahu is the epitome of Hawaii. Famous for the huge swells in the winter, this surf town is also a trove of good eats. 

First up were the shrimp trucks. I found a clearing with three shrimp trucks; one was pretty clean, one was kinda dirty, and one was absolutely grungy. I, of course, chose the latter. 

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck was honestly the best shrimp I've ever had in my life. They were smothered in garlic and butter (can't go wrong) and served with a side of rice. The shrimp themselves were large and hearty and were extremely fresh.

And to follow up, you have to go to Matsumoto's Grocery Store to get the original Hawaiian shaved ice. This method is different from your typical snow cone in that the shaving technique creates a different kind of ice crystal which holds flavoring better. I went for lilikoi flavor which is a fruit powder that Hawaiians put on sweets to bring out their flavor. I'll have to admit, the shaving technique really does work. I've never has such a flavorful snow cone before!

What's your favorite food you've tried while traveling?

February 17, 2014

Nirvana in Honolulu

Tucked away in the Palolo Valley is the epitome of hidden gems. A ten minute scooter ride from the bustling streets of Waikiki brings you to a typical neighborhood. Suddenly, between the houses, you'll see the bright colors of the Mu Ryang Sa Buddhist temple pop.