Thursday, September 22, 2016

One Day Without Shoes: 2016 Edition

Pretty much everyone has heard of Toms Shoes. What started out as basic canvas shoes has really exploded into so much more than that. And it all started because the founder of Toms, Blake Mycoskie, went to Argentina and witnessed, firsthand, the effects of children living without shoes. Lacking something as basic as shoes can led to illness and the inability to attend school. 

A lot of us see these struggles, whether it's on TV or Facebook or through trips of our own, but are unable, or unwilling, to actually do anything to help solve the problem. But Blake actually did. In 2006, he started the Toms company. It has since expanded to, not only giving shoes, but funding to help restoring sight to those who need it, clean water, safe birthing experiences to those in impoverished countries, and bullying prevention. 

All of this started because one man saw the need for a change and realized that the "someone" who should help out was him. 

Which definitely Toms One Day Without Shoes one of my Top Five Favorite Holidays. (And joining ranks with Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and Cinco de Mayo is definitely a big deal.)

As in years past, we spent a few days talking about all things empathy. And kindness. And mercy. And we watched this video which may or may not make me tear up every single time we watch it.

Because regardless of our age or social status, we can promote change. This is the biggest message that I want my kids to understand. They may be "only" 9 or 10 years old, but they can spark change NOW. When they're older, I don't want them to forget the impact that they can have on others.

And, of course, we collected shoes.

Because WE can be the someone to step up and change the world.

One Day Without Shoes-- 2012 Edition (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
One Day Without Shoes-- 2013 Edition (Siguatepeque, Honduras)
One Day Without Shoes-- 2014 Edition (Siguatepeque, Honduras)
One Day Without Shoes-- 2015 Edition (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

30 by 30.

I'm a pretty bad goal setter. Actually, that's not true. It's not the goal setting that's the problem, it's the follow through. 

But I've finally set a goal that I think I can achieve. I've finally set a goal that I can crush.

Visiting 30 countries by the time I turn 30.

Also known as "30 by 30".

Which is, quite possibly, the best goal I have ever set for myself. Ever.

USA. Canada. Mexico. Honduras. Costa Rica. Brazil. El Salvador. Nicaragua. Argentina. Taiwan. Guatemala. Belize

As of today, I have visited twelve different countries, so I clearly have some work to do in these upcoming years. 

The twelve countries that I've visited, for varying lengths of time, have all been awesome in their own way. Vastly different, yet startlingly the same. Some of them have only fed my addiction for travel, some of them fund my addiction for travel. 

30 by 30-- let's goooooo.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Don't Stop Belizin' [CAT2016: Belize]

I'm going to sound pretty spoiled when I say this, but I'm going to say it anyways. Traveling for a couple of weeks at a time is tough. Not only we were living out of suitcases (with clothes that kind of smell after awhile), but we were only staying in each city for one or two nights at a time, so we weren't really getting settled anywhere. It was also humid and rainy in Central America, so all of our stuff started to feel a little bit damp after a few days. I know, life is so difficult.

After almost two full weeks of insane travel, we finished up our trip with four days in Belize. We actually stayed there for three nights, which is longer than we'd stayed anywhere. And we decided to splurge a little. You know, treat yourself. 

We stayed on the island of San Pedro, so you think it'd be easy to go from the island of Honduras to the island of Belize. You'd be wrong. We ended up taking the shortest route, which was also the most expensive, and flew there. Even that required us to leave Utila the day before we were flying to San Pedro, Belize and spend the night in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. 

Is this not a giant safety concern?
Love you long time, Honduras.
Once we arrived in Belize, we still had to take a taxi to the ferry terminal and then take an hour and a half ferry ride to the island. I don't think that a single one of us regretted it when we set foot on the island, though.

San Pedro is famed for many things including the Blue Hole (which we did not see) and Hol Chan Marine Reserve, better known as Shark Ray Alley, which we did see.

We hung out at our hotel for an hour, tops, before we were picked up at our hotel dock and taken out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Our guide took us out snorkeling where we saw our first shark, tons of fish, and sea turtles! I have arms weaker than infant arms and my swimming skills are atrocious, so I opted to swim with a life jacket to allow for maximum snorkeling enjoyment. And let me tell you, there was maximum snorkeling enjoyment.

We got back on the boat and drove over to the area officially known as Shark Ray Alley. Apparently fishermen used to clean their days' catches in that area, the sharks and rays began to associate the sounds of the boat motors with food and began swarming pretty regularly, and as soon as the tour companies caught wind of it, the rest is history.

Real life. Not me standing in front of a poster.
So, yeah. It was basically awesome. There were so many sharks and so many rays and not a single one of them tried to eat me. Shark Ray Alley fulfilled all of my wildest shark dreams. And we were there during Shark Week, which is basically the best timing ever.

The following day, Sarah and I signed ourselves up for an all day catamaran tour and had zero regrets. Except for the fact that we should have applied sunscreen a bit more regularly.

We started out the day by going reef fishing where we both successfully caught two fish. And it's a good thing we did because that fish was our lunch and, besides the other two people who were fishing with us and both also caught two fish each, no one else caught anything that day. I'm not a great fisher because it's a lot of patiently waiting and then about ten seconds of excitement. And I'm pretty bad at being patient. But this was awesome because the water was so clear that I could spend all of the time waiting looking at all of the sting rays, sharks, and fish in the water. The ocean is a crazy place, you guys.

The tour group that we were traveling with was rotating people who were fishing and people who were snorkeling, so when we returned to the catamaran we grabbed our snorkels and headed in. And then we saw this guy.

There are few things more terrifying than swimming around and then looking up to see this guy headed your way. I quickly realized that Steve Irwin's death did very little to inform people of how you actually get stung by a sting ray because no one seemed to know if it shot the stinger at you or if it could flip it's tail at you. Needless to say, we kept our distance and no one was stung.

Oh, hay. 
We snorkeled for hours. Literally. Which is probably why we were burnt to crisps and my lips felt like I had licked the inside of a Lays potato chip bag. But it was incredible. At one point we got back onto the catamaran to enjoy the fruits of our labors via fish tacos and they were pretty bangin', if I do say so myself.

Our boat captain was sitting at the back of the boat, dropping pieces of fish into the ocean, which, naturally, was attracting all sorts of marine life. Not three minutes later, I had the best moment of my life, to date.

Yes, I touched a sea turtle. I touched it. It swam over to me and then we were swimming in the same water together. Granted, I was holding food for it, so it's not like it swam to me because I'm really pretty, but I don't even care. I swam with a sea turtle.

And then I swam with it some more.

And then I swam with it some more. Seriously, I think I was squealing like a little girl the entire time. Thank god it couldn't hear me. Or maybe it could. Regardless, it was awesome.

On our last day we went to a restaurant called Palapas, which has innertubes available for floating and drinking. Unfortunately, it was real freakin' wavy while we were sitting there. Fortunately, neither Sarah nor I cared and we ended up sitting in those tubes for a couple of hours. While sitting in those innertubes, we convinced ourselves that we could squeeze in a little stand up paddle boarding before our sunset booze cruise that night.

Remember when I said I had weaker arms than a baby? Do you realize how difficult that makes it to go paddle boarding? Especially when you're paddle boarding right where all of the boats are pulling into the dock. At one time, I actually started to float away and Sarah had to come rescue me. Needless to say, I spent most of the hour paddling along the dock and watching Sarah actually paddle board.

The only five seconds that I was actually able to stand.
For our last Central American/ Belizean hurrah, we took a sunset booze cruise and it was incredible. We toured with Island Dream Tours and they had excellent customer service. I mean, can you imagine the type of patience it takes to deal with a boat full our intoxicated tourists every night? Seriously, the thought of it makes me want to cry a little.

That bun though.
We boarded the boat and, over the course of the night, we were served ceviche, fresh fruit, and chips and dip. As well as an open bar. We basically sailed the open seas until sunset at which point we anchored for a bit so that they could turn on the party lights that lined the inside and outside of the boat and blast the music. What could be better than a floating dance party? Honestly, few things come close.

A beautiful sunset to end a beautiful trip.
The next morning we boarded the ferry back to the mainland and officially bring our trip to a close. We must have looked something awful though because the guy at the airline desk upgraded us both to First Class for freeeee. Holla at ya girls.

Was San Pedro the perfect way to end our 3 weeks of Central American travels? You better Belize it.

Stitch Fix #7: The One Where I Had to Address My Shopping Problem

I absolutely do not need anymore clothes. I always convince myself that I do, but when I returned to Rio de Janeiro at the end of August, I ran out of hangers and didn't have anymore room in my makeshift closet. I either need to start purging or stop buying and I can't see myself putting a halt to all the shopping any time soon. 

And just because my clothes buying addiction needed a little bit more help, I decided that I HAD to have one more Stitch Fix box before coming back. After being in control of a classroom for ten months, I didn't want to make any decisions during my vacation, so I just told my stylist to surprise me, but that I love prints and dresses. 

Collective Concepts Rema Maxi Dress ($88)
The Decision: Kept

IT'S JUST SO PRETTY! After buying this dress, I actually went out and bought a jean jacket just so that I can wear this dress to teach in. I mean it's a good investment because jean jackets are pretty versatile, but still, more clothes. I did end up hemming this dress a bit because it was just a tad bit long and I have a bad habit of getting my dresses caught in the wheels of my roll-y chair at school.

Liverpool Frankie Printed Cropped Jean ($78)
The Decision: Returned

I really wanted a new pair of light wash capris, so I really wanted to love this, but I just didn't. They felt a little too tight in the thighs, but I think that would have worked itself out throughout the day. I wasn't too wild about the print either.  It felt a little juvenile to me and I know that I'm way too anal to wear them with anything other than a solid colored shirt. And, frankly, that seems like a waste of a perfectly good pair of jeans. The part that I disliked the most, though, was the saggy crotch. You can't tell from the pictures, but the crotch was a good 1-2" inches too long. Ain't nobody got time for that.

RD Style Lirio Lace Up Top ($64)
The Decision: Returned

This is the perfect shirt for a 70's party or a country western shindig. Neither of which I have ever attended, nor do I see in my near future, so I sent it back. It is worth noting that my mother actually really liked this shirt, so I know that not everyone looks at it and hears a banjo twang in the background. But I did.

Seychelles Mind Metallic Strappy Wedge ($100)
The Decision: Returned

I adore wedges and want a thousand pairs. I am also horribly picky about my shoes. The front part of these shoes reminded me of those brown leather sandals that were all the rage in the 90's and are making a comeback now, but I didn't like then and don't really like now. Honestly, I could have gotten over that part, but the shoes were a pink/ blush color and I know that I would always pass them up for something else.

41 Hawthorn Tova Dress ($64)
The Decision: Kept

I think I loved this dress so much that I didn't bother taking a picture of myself wearing it because I was too excited to take it off and take the tags off. It's perfect for teaching without any alterations which is always a HUGE plus in my book. My stylist also referenced it in her note to me, saying that while it wasn't exactly what I had pinned on Pinterest, it did look similar to something on my board. Which it did. And I loved it just as much. So this beautiful baby became mine.

I had the same stylist for this fix as I did for my last one and, while I was originally bummed that my original stylist wasn't with Stitch Fix anymore, I actually really love this stylist, even after only two fixes. She's done a great job including something in each box that I know will be a keeper as soon as I see it, as well as some things that push me outside of my comfort zone a little bit. As much as it pains me to share, if there's anyone in the market for a new stylist, I would highly recommend Christine K.

Until December, Stitch Fix, you've been lovely.

Stitch Fix #6: The One Where My Stylist Left Me
Stitch Fix #4: The One That Arrived Just In Time For Christmas
Stitch Fix #3: The One That I Had Mailed to Ohio and Brought to Vegas
Stitch Fix #2: The One Where Details Matter
Stitch Fix #1: The One Where I Understood the Obsession