Choose seven photos, they say.

Your best seven shots.

This .. could take awhile.

Nominated by my dear Cat Gaa of Sunshine & Siestas, I’m happy to catapult my seven shots out in the world. In case you are thirsty for more, be sure to visit Kaley’s collection (of Kaley y Mas).

7. a photo that takes my breath away: Greece, 2011
Greece is a place with deeply rooted history, both true and mythical – so it is no surprise that the country held many breathtaking moments for me. Here, in Epidaurus, sits an ancient ampitheater, largely intact and nestled into a mountainside. What you can’t see is the coin that was dropped by the girl standing in the middle of theater. She is barely the size of an ant from our viewpoint at the top, but I could hear that coin as though she dropped it on the stone next to me. Given perfect acoustics and mathematical genius, any noise made in that exact spot, will echo all the way up to the nosebleed seats. It was a perfectly isolated moment, when the tourist noise died down, and the soul of the place rose to the occasion.


hear a pin drop

6. a photo that makes me smile: New Jersey, USA, 2007
This may not have the views of the land we flew over, or the sunset vistas, but this makes me smile. I took my mom for a hot air balloon ride as a belated mother’s day gift. Have Balloon Will Travel let us assist in the prep and take down of this glorious contraption, and led us over the rolling hills of New Jersey on a summer evening. I don’t know about you, but when my mom smiles, I smile.

Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon ride

5. a photo that makes me dream: A Coruña, Spain, 2011
One of the best sounds in the world is water. The grandest of these, the ocean. Maybe it’s the tides and the moon and the awesomeness of nature – whatever it is, I like it. On this day in the far north of Spain, Natalie and I watched the ocean for almost an hour. With a storm approaching, the waves were irregular and gigantic. Every strike on the rocks was dramatic, and I took over 200 photos as Mother Nature roared for us. There are also photos of us “conducting” the waves .. if that’s not dreaming, I don’t know what is.


Dramatic Pacific

4. a photo that makes me think: Granada, Nicaragua, 2012
Leading a group of 8 students to Nicaragua may sound like a vacation, but it was not all beaches and palm trees. My students and I stayed with generous host families in the city of Granada, and both new and seasoned travelers were dazzled by the differences. One afternoon we went to a local after school project in a rural neighborhood, bringing school supplies and snacks. It was a brief visit but a powerful one. My group was swarmed by students, chattering in high pitched Spanish and throwing their arms around us for hugs. Students between the ages of 5 and 15 crowded the small space and stared at us openly – smiling, laughing, talking. I caught this quiet girl as we were leaving. I called her beautiful and for this, I am awarded a smile. This photo makes me think because I’m wondering: where will she go from here?


late afternoon smile

3. a photo that makes my mouth water: Philadelphia, PA, USA, 2010
I take a lot of food photographs. So many that you were probably waiting for this question. I have a love affair with food, it’s true. I recently saw the descriptor “people who travel to eat” and that is exactly what I’m into. So why the photo of an empty plate? The empty plate photo is a stamp of satisfaction – my compliments to the chef, as I demolished the dish set before me. In this case, epic brunch at Continental, Midtown in Philly.

empty plate

plate-lickin' good

2. a photo that tells a story: Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, 2009
On our last morning in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, it’s already hot at 6 a.m., and I can hear the monkeys hooting to each other in the canopy below. I walk out across the deck on bare feet, and place my hands on the already warm railing. Looking over the edge several flights down, I see the bright aqua of the pool, and the surrounding white chaise lounges. And monkeys. There are 4 or 5 white-faced monkeys chasing each other around the pool like something out of a cartoon. I streak back into the room, bark at Thao to wake up, grab my Nikon and rush back outside. The group takes to the trees and a lone monkey takes purposeful strides up the bark of a palm tree like he owns it. He swings toward a lower level balcony just beneath us, and continues to climb – directly toward Thao and I. I lean over to risk this shot, and back up (still shooting) as he levels with us. Without a second glance, he reaches upward and swings out of sight, leaving us wide awake and all giggles at our simian encounter.


monkeying around

1. a photo that I am proud of: Segovia, Spain, 2004
Difficult category. This is one of my favorite photos, taken from the top of the Alcazar in Segovia. Millions of tourists like have the same one. I was learning a lot about photography and composition and captured some really great photos that year. This is one of them.


bird's eye view

And now for my nominees ..

Natalie (my ocean side companion) of Crumb Castle

Jeanne of Nomadic Chick, currently roosting in China

Liz en España, representing la patria

Rebecca of Fresh Era, holding it down in France



Revisiting: Costa Rica

map credit: Lonely Planet

Where: Costa Rica (Arenal, La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Quepos,  San José)

When: late August – early September 2009

How: direct flight from Newark to / from San José * see Thanks to for note on in-country transport. + There is a $26USD outgoing tax at the Pavas airport in San José.

Duration: 11 glorious days

breakfast companion

Gran Hotel / San José
Montaña de Fuego / Arenal
Costa Verde / Manuel Antonio
** Planning your visit to Costa Rica? For a price break, try the rainy season, also known as the “green season” in tourism lingo. Over 11 days we experienced brief sun showers and some clouds, but otherwise: clear skies. Worth it!

Language: Spanish

Currency: – Costa Rican colón

photo credit: Thao Dang

Tourist facts: In the front cover of my journal I wrote the following: Hemos encontrado el paraiso, se llama Costa Rica. Pura vida! Translation? We’ve found paradise, and it’s name is Costa Rica. The term pura vidais widely used throughout the country to mean everything from hello, great weather, have a nice day, and most literally – This is the pure life. And it is! Costa Rica has its priorities straight – recycling, sustainable living and protecting what’s theirs. As ecotourism continues to gain popularity, Costa Rica’s rainforests and beaches truly fit the bill.

If you’re into:

  • SURFING — check out this post from Marco at 25dollartravel on catching waves in CR here.
  • WATER SPORTS — if you like rock climbing and white water rafting, why not try canyoning? We took our trip with PureTrek, and it was absolutely unforgettable.
  • NATURE — this country protects over 10% of its land, rainforests included. Take a horseback ride, a hike or a tour across the Hanging Bridges. But for the love of travel, please pack some heavy duty bug spray!

Frommers.com Links I recommend during trip planning — I used Fodor‘s Costa Rica 2009 edition, hard copy. That’s right: hard copy! Take a look at Frommer’s “When to Go” to better understand the seasons and what to expect.

My absolutes — rainforest, volcano, spa, something sporty (not zip-lining) and, you guessed it: eat!

Arenal: CR's most active volcano

What I saw — After a post-flight siesta, Thao pulled open the blinds at our cabin and what was previously covered by clouds was revealed: Costa Rica’s most active volcano, just outside our hotel in Arenal. We hiked in the rainforest nearby and later rode horses through the farmland at it’s base. My jaw dropped the first time I heard it rumble, and it is still one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced. We saw glass wing butterflies, hummingbirds, marching ants heralding oncoming rain, a toucan (!). And let’s not forget: monkeys. Part of the early morning sunrise in Manuel Antonio meant birdsong, waves crashing on the shore .. and the myriad hooting and hollering of our simian friends.

Canyoning with PureTrek

What I did – Once you read about a few of my trips with Thao, you’ll understand that we like a packed itinerary. Costa Rica being no different, we maxed out. Canyoning, horseback riding, hiking in the rainforest. Make no mistake, we know how to take breaks, too! Time for the spa, the hot springs and the beach were also in the mix. It should be noted we chose EcoTermales hot springs – there are three major contenders in northern CR.

What I ate – traditional Costa Rican breakfast that is To Die For: gallo pinto (rice/beans), fried plantains, eggs, magic. And pizza! I’m not kidding. Pizzeria Vagabundo, keep up the good work. Other delicious dishes include spicy chocolate cake from Agua Azul, crêpes del bosque and high test coffee from Cafe Milagro.

If (when) I return I will – visit some other regions in the country like the Osa Peninsula; tour a coffee plantation.

Sorry I missed – a chance to see the Arenal volcano at night. Late night lava flow is rumored to occur with great frequency, and I’m going back to see it!

Thanks to*: NatureAir for their wonderful air transportation while we were making our way around the country. NatureAir is a carbon-neutral airline that provides 74 daily flights to 17 destinations within Costa Rica. We had three flights between our destinations, and found the prices fair and the experience memorable. Rather than renting a car or riding a bus, we chose this airline – the views alone are worth the ticket! Read more about their efforts for sustainable tourism here.

Now, you: Are you a surfer? A honeymoon planner? A photographer? What brings you to Costa Rica? What keeps you coming back for more?

Revisiting: A Travel Series

photo credit: Matt Turtell

While sticking my latest pushpin into the world map in my bedroom, I sat back and thought about all of the amazing places I’ve been. The furthest east? Israel. The furthest west? Arizona. My favorite? Yeah, right!

My constant travel companion over the past few years has been my Nikon D60. I’ve captured people, moments, and feelings through the lens and relied on images in the following days to serve as a reminder. I am a chronic journal-er and have recently turned to blogging as an outlet and a means of sharing my stories. After traveling excessively this past year, I decided to take some time and revisit the place I’ve seen and loved.

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • Turkey
  • Costa Rica
  • Aruba
  • Israel
  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Morocco
  • The Netherlands
  • Hungary
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • .. and of course, Spain.

I hope to include links to articles that helped me in my planning, as well as highlight some people and programs who gave me the best look at the city or country in question. You can expect an entry every few days or so.

I want to hear about it if you’ve been to these places. Did you love it? Was it terrible? How did you choose your destination? Furthermore .. where should I go next?!

Yours from Pennsylvania,

travel hungry

Point Pleasant, NJ 

Point Pleasant, NJ

I’m having an excellent time making plans for my trip to Costa Rica in August 2009. I’ll be going with one of my best friends and my most favorite travel mate, Thao. We met while studying abroad in 2004 and have been indulging in our traveling dreams since. One day we’ll hit the lottery, buy ourselves a plane and do a lot more of this. Since we’ve been home, most of our travel has been domestic.. Chicago, Austin, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, the Jersey shore, etc. As an anniversary trip, we decided to go international again, and chose Costa Rica.

Once we decided on a location, I promptly sat myself down on the floor in Barnes & Noble to peruse the travel guides. The winner, by and large, was Fodor’s. Both the hard copy guide and the online website have helped us in leaps and bounds, and we haven’t even left the United States yet!

The following pieces have been most helpful:

  • maps. There are maps for each region of the country, and major airports and attractions are highlighted. There are also several itineraries in the beginning that trace a 6 or 8 days route through the country, on separate maps so you can orient yourself with the area.
  • honest tips. As a traveler, I really appreciate tips like “the hotel’s intimacy is compromised by its scale and its popularity with day-trippers, although a reservations system for day passes is limiting the intrusion and improving the situation …” These are further assisted by the online website, which allows for customer reviews.
  • security tips. Who knew that there were cars masquerading as taxis in Costa Rica? There are several blatantly honest notes about how to watch your step (and your pockets, your luggage and your belongings).
  • options. There are many different options in each region – each with it’s own paragraph with tips and facts. Restaurants, activities, shopping, travel logistics – everything is spelled out so that even the most pedestrian traveler can see the highlights. 
  • logical progression. Everything has a place! A well organized index points to all major topics, and each chapter is organized by region. As a organization geek, this appeals to me greatly.
  • feedback. I hope to be able to utilize this function when I come home / while traveling. Fodor’s invites commentary from traveler’s to legitimize their claims to this restaurant or that hotel. If they’re bogus, you can tell them. If they’re right on, they want to hear it. 

Is it August yet? I’m ready!