Big Sur Guide, on a budget (as per usual)

This week we took a super last minute trip to Big Sur. Stephan has been wanting to photograph the Milky Way there and last time we tried it was a fail. The fog was thick every single day we were there and we saw no sunrise, sunset or night sky. But Sunday night he looked up the weather and this week it was gonna be perfect conditions for seeing the Milky Way, so at midnight we booked a hotel and left the next day after work.

  • Accommodation

Since any hotel in Big Sur is very expensive and even camping isn’t too much on budget, both times we decided to stay in Monterey, at a hotel called Pacific Inn and I super recommend it! It’s not fancy, of course, but it’s super clean and the room is very nice. It had a microwave, coffee machine and a fridge, which for us was a must. Because it’s not located right in the water or downtown Monterey it’s cheaper than other hotels and still so close to everything.

  • Food

Stephan and I have traveled quite a bit, and we figured that the easiest way of saving money is not eating out so frequently (unless you’re in South East Asia). In Eastern Europe, we would only book Airbnb’s with kitchens so we could cook. Here in California, we try to plan our meals ahead of time, go to the grocery store before a trip and pack our food along with us. For this Big Sur trip, we got yogurt, granola, bananas, and blueberries for breakfast, had peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch and for dinner we would eat Trader Joe’s salads or wraps. I spent a total of $41 on all of our food for 3 and a half days. We ran out of food the last day and decided to eat lunch in Carmel, at the most affordable and chill place I found. On that one meal, we spent $30. It’s fine to do it once in a while and to have an experience at a certain restaurant, but if you eat out for every single meal, do the math. It adds up.

  • Things to Do

Good news here, most of the activities in this area are free! You basically will only be spending money in gas for all the driving. Here’s a list of my favorite spots for hiking and taking pictures!

  1. Garrapata Beach

    The parking lot that leads to this trail is just a bigpull out on the side of the main road. The trail goes along the water and it’s huge! We didn’t even do the whole thing and had amazing views, photo opportunities and tired legs from all the walking!

2. Bixby Bridge

It’s famous for a reason. Watching sunset there is magical. It can be pretty crowded during the day, but it isn’t so bad closer to sunset, especially during summer, when the sunset is at 8:15 PM, lots of people don’t stay that late.

Photo by Stephan Alvin, available for print   HERE

Photo by Stephan Alvin, available for print HERE

3. Mcway Falls

My very favorite spot of all! The path that begins at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is still partially closed, but don’t worry! This view is actually from a pullout on the side of the road, just before you get to the actual entrance of the park, and it’s beautiful and most importantly: empty!

4. Point Lobos State Park

Not free, but worth it! Such a beautiful place to wander around, hike, take pictures and breath some fresh air! These photos are from earlier this year, February to be exact. And because it was winter it was pretty empty, we had no problem parking inside the park whatsoever. But since then we’ve been to Big Sur twice and every time we drive by the entrance it says the parking lot is full and there are loads of cars trying to park on the side of the road. So my tip is, go during winter or go really early, like as soon as they open!

5. Pfeiffer Beach

The entrance is a little tricky to find and there are no signs leading to it, and since the signal at Big Sur is pretty spotty I would download the offline map before you go! It’s a 5 to 10 minute drive down this super windy and tight road that leads you to one of the most photogenic beaches in Big Sur! You can’t miss this spot!

There is so much to do and see in Big Sur, and if you haven’t been you should plan a trip there ASAP, it’s gorgeous!

Not convinced yet? Check out more landscape photos from this amazing place at Stephan Alvin Photography!

How We Fell In Love With Myanmar

Balloons Over Bagan - one of the best experiences we’ve had in life was to watch baloons fly over 2,000 temples while the sun was rising.

Balloons Over Bagan - one of the best experiences we’ve had in life was to watch baloons fly over 2,000 temples while the sun was rising.

Myanmar, a country that was never in my radar of places to go. Never on my list, top five or even top ten. But Stephan, like always, convinced me we had to travel there. Sometimes when he has an idea, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not so sure about it. But then I usually get on board at some point because he has proven to be the best world explorer and travel buddy I could have asked for!

So anyways, Myanmar... where to even start? We headed there after a busy week of shows in Bangkok, both had been pretty sick and both were beyond exhausted. The thought of getting on a plane early in the morning and landing in a country we had no idea about wasn’t very appealing honestly. But since we always push each other, we did it.

We woke up at the crack of dawn, flew to Mandalay and took a shuttle to Bagan. A shuttle that by the way, we had booked online but had no confirmation email and no clue if the driver was actually gonna show up. Well, he did, and he was the nicest guy. He helped us get sim cards at the airport and drove us all the way to Bagan, our first stop in this country that was about to become one of our favorites.

Over the next ten days, we learned so much about their culture, saw so many beautiful things and ate the most amazing food. We rode our scooter through the 2,000 temples in Bagan, spent days on a boat exploring Inle Lake, woke up way too early to catch all of the sunrises and had a blast. I can’t even imagine how much regret we would have felt if we had cancelled the trip just because we were overtired and sick.

By pushing ourselves we learned, once again, to never let doubt or fear of being uncomfortable to stop you from doing something, from going to a new place. The rewards that come from getting out of your comfort zone are huge.

I'm not usually one for quotes and all but this one has been leading our lives for a while:

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer
— unknown

Our Top 3 Favorite Cities in the US

Everytime I think about a topic for a travel blog post my mind always goes international. I’m always thinking I should write about somewhere really far, like Asia or South America. And then I remember that there is SO MUCH to do in the US, and that Stephan and I have travelled all over this country several times and we rarely talk about that!

So I thought, nothing more appropriate for this 4th of July than sharing what’s on the top of our list when it comes to cities in the United States.

1 – San Francisco, California

Marshall’s Beach, at Sunset.

Marshall’s Beach, at Sunset.

So predictable, I know, but I can’t help it. I absolutely love San Francisco. I’m from Rio, a city where everyone walks, or takes the subway or the bus. Cars are welcomed and nice to have but not necessary. So whenever I’m in a city in the States where you can actually walk around and see people doing the same, I get really happy.

There is something to say about walking cities, the streets have energy, color and life! And that might be one of the things I miss the most living in Fresno, you need a car to go basically anywhere!

So I mean yeah, the Golden Gate Bridge is amazing, the whole city is photogenic and there’s a million things to do there, but my favorite thing about San Francisco is just being there. Just walking all day, up and down those crazy steep hills till your legs can’t walk anymore, makes me really happy!

 

2 – Austin, Texas

Hamilton Pool Preserve. Pro tip: go on a weekday.

Hamilton Pool Preserve. Pro tip: go on a weekday.

Fun fact, going to Austin was actually our first side trip as a couple! We had just started dating and our show was playing Houston, but we had a couple of days off, so we decided to rent a car and spend our days in Austin. Yay for good decisions!

We had heard that Austin was fun, different, corky and that had some of the best restaurants in the country. Well, all of those rumors were true. We had some of the most tasty food ever, from a nice restaurant for a date night to a single slice of pizza at a Brewery, everything I ate I said it was the best I ever had!

If I had to give recommendations, one would be to go to Hamilton Pool, which is a bit far from the city but worth the drive. And another would be to have dinner at Moonshine Grill. I ordered Mac&Cheese, simply. It was the best Mac&Cheese I ever had. Other than that, you make your own script, find restaurants, breweries or coffee shops that appeal to you and you won’t be disapointed.

 

3 – Savannah, Georgia

Photo Credit :   Stephan Alvin Photography

This one was not on my list because unfortunatelly I’ve never been, but it’s one of Stephan’s favorite cities so he made sure I would write about it. He said the whole city seems to be covered in old trees with hanging moss, which made every street very photogenic. Walking around you see that every block has a little park square, breaking up that urban feel.

I kept asking him what he liked the most and he said “the houses were big and old. In a good way”. Then he explained himself and elaborated a little more saying that every house had a pretty unique style and that you could tell there was history behind every wall! Guys, there is a reason why I write this blog, not him.

Anyways, happy 4th of July everyone! Enjoy your family and friends, bbq and fireworks and be safe!

I’m working on a Myanmar post and I can’t wait to share some of our adventures in that amazing country, but I’ll try to post more about travels within the US as well.

Honeymoon Destination Ideas, on a budget!

Stephan and I have been a lot of places, and 98% of the times we managed to see a lot and still stay on a budget. You really don’t have to be rich to travel, and once you learn that, it changes your life. We have a few favorite places to share and a few tips on how to go to these places without spending a huge amount of money.

 

1.       Thailand

Certainly one of our favorite countries, Thailand is an amazing place. You can either make yourself exhausted each day with things to do, or you can simply relax on beautiful beaches. We kind of alternated in between those two options! We spent most of our time there getting scuba diving certified in this island called Koh Tao, and you really can’t find a cheaper place in the world to do that. With plenty of affordable hotels and delicious local restaurants everywhere, we had the most amazing 12 days in that little island. We had a 3 star hotel, super clean, walking distance to the beach and restaurants, and it only costed us about $20 a night. Not joking. We ate at local restaurants everyday and spent about $3 or $4 on our meals, which were either different types of Curry or Pad Thai and no, we did not get sick of eating the same thing all the time!

2.       Vietnam

With culture exploding in every corner and so many things to do, I wouldn’t say Vietnam is a good option if all you want to do is relax. If you want to explore and get to know a new place and experience somewhere completely outside of your comfort zone... go for it! We had a total of two weeks in the country and we wish we had more time! We managed to go to Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minn City and had a blast. Even more inexpensive than Thailand, you get to stay in really nice hotels and experience the local cuisine all the time for hardly any money.

3.       Croatia

If you’re feeling that Europe is a better choice for your honeymoon destination but you’re worried about the cost, head over to the Eastern side of Europe! We spent 3 and half weeks backpacking through Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Cyprus and couldn’t have been happier with our choice. We managed to fit all of those countries in our schedule, but if we could only pick one I would have picked Croatia! There was so much to do and, again, you can alternate in between sightseeing through the streets of Dubrovink or relaxing on beautiful islands and beaches. We stayed in apartments (booked through booking.com), had amazing hosts, and I swear we didn’t spend more than 50 euros a night!

4.       New Zealand

Okay. This one isn’t so much on budget when you compared to the other ones. But is so worth it! If you go during the winter, June till August, all the prices are way lower because that’s their off season. Get yourself a nice camper van (we recommend Britz) and just drive around. We spent 10 days driving through the South Island and again, we didn’t wanna leave. There’s beauty absolutely everywhere, it’s like being in a movie. We cooked all of our meals, either inside our van or in the campsite kitchens (they were amazing), so that saved us a lot of money that we could have spent eating out!

 

Fun fact: we got married November 2018 and have not done a honeymoon yet. But we will. And we’re planning to explore Central America! It’s hard to pick a place when your husband has been to 71 countries and we want to see somewhere new! But both of us haven’t been to Honduras, Costa Rica or Belize, and they are all on the top of our list!

PS. I’m aware that for most of our travels we were already working in the continent or even in the country, so we never really had to factor the flight cost. But if you make sure to fly from a major city to another major city and check everyday for good deals, you can find round trip flights from LA to Bangkok for example for like $480. Let’s be honest, you can barely go anywhere inside the United States for that price, so.. choose wisely ;)