Adventures Abroad

Adventures Abroad
Machu Picchu

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Hostels

Due to the fact that I woke up early today and ate breakfast alone in my hostel, I decided to tell the story of last night.

Remember how I told you that hostels are great places to stay in? Well, they are, but like with everything else there are pros and cons. Last night seemed like another typical night in Rio, but to my surprise B and I decided to head back to our hostel (I´ll give you the run down on it later) instead of dancing. When we arrived, we went to the bar attached to get a beer before truly calling it a night and going to bed. I got up to head to the bathroom, which is attached to the common area. In this common area is a computer, a television, and couches for people to relax and be social. Or so I thought. I walked in and an older guy was on the computer and I thought nothing of it. Yet, when I walked out of the bathroom, the older guy was actually on some kind of pornographic chatsite. It took a lot for me to contain my laughter...until I got to the bar where I told B to go peak in the window. We both laughed for a while and finished our beers. Oh, no this story is not over yet. We went to watch the things remembered for 2011 on the t.v. and to my surprise the older guy was still looking at a pornographic site. We pretended like this was not happening and the room was filled with youngsters hanging out. All of us looked at each other with an awkward smile and assured each other it was really happening. Finally, an employee came in and gave the most priceless expression that I will never forget. He turned around to look at us...puzzled. He quickly walked out and got Maria, who I suppose was a type of manager. Maria came in and called the guy out into the hallway. Everyone started laughing and the older guy walked back in, but continued to look at the site. Maria came back in about 5 minutes later and yelled at him again. She eventually called him into the hallway and after he came back he logged out. In the end, Maria apologized to all of us and said, "when this happens, we try to stop it immediately." I suppose that means it happens quite often.

So, what does this teach us?
Everything has its pros and cons.

Do you have any funny stories about your adventures abroad?

Happy New Years, fellow bloggers!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Lights

Are you looking for something fun to do this holiday season? If yes, then check out the Bull Run Festival of Lights. This is a festive light show that has been going on for over 12 years now. You pay a small fee of roughly $20 for a car full of people. At the end of the light show is a carnival. Yes, you read that correctly! Grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the holiday spirit. Be sure to bring the kids to see Santa!

So, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Tip: Dress warmly if you plan on going to the carnival afterwards!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tis' The Season For Travel

Now that the stress of exams are behind me, I figured we should travel into the world of Christmas. To welcome 2012, B and I are heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Due to this new adventure, I decided I should think of really good gifts that people can get for traveling whether its camping, hiking, or just exploring. Each product is linked, so check it out!

So, what kind of gifts do you get for an avid traveler?

Fellow bloggers, stay posted for my new adventure to South America. 

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Photojournalism: David Burnett

Have you ever thought about combining photography and journalism together? Well, David Burnett has been a photojournalist for over 35 years. He has worked as a freelancer for National Geographic, Time, and Life. A National Geographic representative said, "he is known as someone who can-no matter how challenging the assignment-return with the picture."

Burnett's photo featured in National Geographic's photo contest

What does Burnett have to say about photojournalism?
1) Why did you become a photojournalist?  What inspired you?  How did you do it?

"Once I joined the high school yearbook staff, I was bitten by the bug. From the time I saw my first picture develop in the tray.. the magic of the white paper slowly emerging with greys and blacks to make  a real photographic image, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I loved the idea of sharing something I had seen, and letting others be able to share that moment. At first it was just pictures of the French Club and the cheerleaders in school but eventually that became something more universal and (hopefully) marketable. I was working for a little weekly paper by Senior year of high school. It didnt pay much but I felt I wanted to pursue it, and I just never stopped trying to find clients who might be the right place for me to share my images."

2) What's most gratifying about your work?

"There is something gratifying when you connect with a picture. It's fun to watch others react to your own work, because that is what counts. It's less important for me that I love my work, than that it be accepted in publishing, and eventually perhaps art circles, as something important.  I want my pictures to tell a story, and I want that story told to as many people as possible."

3) What are some personal characteristics a photojournalist should possess?

"You need to be single minded, tough, ready to pursue the difficult; empathetic, and able to understand the needs and feelings of your subjects.  And able to operate on few hours sleep, with nothing but a candy bar to keep you going.  The energy comes from the picture taking and the excitement of being able to see the world. Curiosity: own it."

4) What advice can you give me that would best help me understand the career of photojournalism?

"Work hard, prepare not to receive any accolades or atta boys. Enjoy seeing your work produced, and if lucky, published.  Take joy in the making of the images."

Well, what about photography should you know?

1) What should I know about photography?
"Study the great photogs of our time.. start with August Sander, Martin Chiambi, and shoot right through the 20th century... KNOW good photographs, and why they are good.. Cartier-Bresson (who shot with the simplest LEICA, nothing 'auto' about it), Gene Smith, Leonard McCombe (LIFE), Grey Villet (LIFE), Bill Eppridge (LIFE), Salgado... the list goes on and on.. but only good can come from your paying attention to what has been done by those who went before you. Just because you can see your work instantly on the back of a digi cam doesnt mean youre special... but take your inspiration where you can, and never stop looking for good images.. both by others, and those that happen in front of your own eyes."
2) How do you climb to the top?
"The biggest thing about our business is ... Good Photography. In the end, your pictures, for better or worse, will determine whether or not you are going to be successful.  You need a business plan, you need to understand that you have to STAY in business to REMAIN in business, and that by doing things such as guarding the ownership of your images (copyright), you retain the rights to resale important pictures over the course of your life.  Giving up that copyright means you give up the chance to re-license those pictures down the road." 

A special thanks to David Burnett for taking the time to answer a few important questions.

For more information on David Burnett visit National Geographic or

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A hui hou kakou: Until we meet again

The title of my blog is Hawaiian for "until we meet again." I chose the title because not only was I born in Hawaii, but my Makuakane (Dad) loved Hawaii.

Steph dropping a lei
in the water to honor my
So, in honor of my Dad, Richard E. Oswald Jr., I decided to give you fellow bloggers a glimpse of a man that is truly missed. November 19th will officially mark four years...

What did my Dad do?

  • Naval Captain
  • Physician
  • Lawyer
  • Husband
  • Father
  • Grandfather
I know what you are thinking...he was intelligent! He had a passion for traveling, learning, teaching, and of course, spending time with his four daughters and wife. 

Click the link to check out some photos of my Dad and the rest of my family!

-A hui hou kakou.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feel Good About Yourself

Have you ever had a day where you felt bad about yourself as a person? I’m sure we can all agree that has happened to each of us more than once, right?

Can you change that feeling or does it just take a good nights rest? Well, lets travel into the world of feeling good.

Once upon a time, I awoke to a tragic event on the television. The lady on the television was reviewing images of a tsunami that hit Japan. At that moment, I realized I had a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food. The feeling of guilt struck me…

My group raising money for Japan.
The next day, I attended class where we had to find a project to do that gave back to the community. My group agreed that we wanted to help Japan even though it was not technically within Fairfax, VA. We discussed this with the teacher and she was really excited that we wanted to take the initiative to help Japan.

How did we succeed?
Well, my group worked with the Salvation Army to raise money. I went from business to business asking people to donate prizes for a raffle that would be held at school. (Of course, businesses do not just hand out merchandise without proof, so be sure to have extra copies of an email saying you are specifically helping an organization!) We received a lot of great prizes from different companies like Rave Theater and Hooters. This led us to begin our weeklong raffle. By the end of the week we raised roughly $300. This does not sound like a lot, but when disasters strike every bit counts.

How can you feel better about yourself?
Simply give back to the world you live in by:
T.J. saying goodbye to his kids
before heading to Afghanistan.
  • Volunteering (animal shelters, Salvation Army, hospitals, etc.)
  • Donating (money is needed, but animal shelters look for food donations as well as homeless shelters)
  • Plant a tree (we take a lot from the planet, so give back to her by planting a tree)
  • Send care packages to the troops 
Remember the old phrases you used to hear as a child, such as the one that says, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or "treat others like you want to be treated?" What I am trying to say is you can feel good about yourself if you help people, creatures, and nature every once in awhile. Have fun isn't a chore!

     -Remember to honor the veterans on Friday (Nov. 11)!

Do you have a great volunteering story you want to share?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat

A big yawn came out of my mouth as I stretched to get out of bed. I looked out the window and to my surprise it was snowing! Yes, you read that correctly. There was seriously snow in October. I decided it was too much to process at the moment, so I got up to begin my day. I grabbed my winter coat and headed out to get coffee with B.

Toucan Man, Vampiress, and Zombie
The night was planned, but with snow I just wasn’t sure what would happen. I mean, snow puts a damper on an outdoor house party. Naturally, we sat down and tried to figure out alternative adventures. We ended up deciding to pre-game with a friend (Toucan Man) in Arlington then possibly head to D.C.
B and I

The cold night eventually led us to travel to Adams Morgan where there were tons of Halloween costume parties going on. We ended up at Madam’s Organ Blues Bar and if you were dressed to impress you got in for 1/2 price. Obviously, B and I dressed up. He was dressed as a zombie and I was dressed as a vampire. All in all, to avoid boring details, lets just say the dark night was filled with dancing and fun new memories. 

Happy Halloween fellow bloggers!

What did you do to celebrate Halloween?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dark Hollow Falls

As Halloween quickly approaches, the weather gets colder. I sit in my room pondering what to do on this chilly, fall day. My room has the perfect view of the woods and the beautiful combination of fall colors. The wind has blown a few of the yellow leaves off of the trees, but it creates a beautiful site as they glide ever so elegantly to the ground.

Leaves at my house.
Just watching the leaves makes me travel back to old memories. I have this fond memory of walking in the mountains alone down a horse path. The site I saw was like something from a painting. The trees were parted and both sides were filled with yellow, orange, and red leaves. As for the ground, well, it was covered in leaves. It seemed so peaceful and for a moment time stopped.

Where is this place I refer to?
The Shenandoah National Park is located near Front Royal. There is a small fee to enter into the park, but I can assure you it is completely worth it. This time of year is pretty quiet, so not too many tourists. The exciting part is looking out at the gorgeous site of fall. It truly is picture perfect. Take a picnic basket with you because there are not many places to eat or get water.

What is my favorite place to hike and sit around?
Once I enter the park I always head straight for this waterfall called Dark Hollow Falls. Sounds enticingly scary for Halloween, right? It is a steep climb up and down, but my suggestion is head past the waterfall and deeper into the woods. This is where you will see picture perfect scenery. Unfortunately, there are no pets allowed on this trail.

Have a safe journey to Dark Hollow and beware of the werewolves that haunt the woods!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scare Your Pants Off

Due to the Halloween spirit I decided to travel into the world of horror movies. Have you ever found yourself questioning almost every scenario in horror movies?

Even Scream likes to carve pumpkins!
Lets start by breaking down the appeal of the genre. I watch the genre a lot during Halloween because I feel it has enough of a scary vibe to keep the spirit of Halloween going. On the other hand, scientists’ say that psychologically it releases built up or repressed emotions. In my opinion, I think we just love to have the pants scared off of us.

What are key elements in horror flicks?
  • There has to be some sort of hero or main victim. Due to this main victim’s decisions many people close to him/her will be killed.
  • The main victim must be isolated. The isolation is done mentally and physically (i.e. separate him/her in the woods).
  • The main victim will become panic-stricken and will end up in deeper sh*t.
  • The main victim ends up backed up against a wall and does not sacrifice him/herself. This leads to the secondary victims to start dying off.
  • Usually, the end is when the main victim fights back. Some horror flicks allow the main victim to win while others have no hero and everyone ends up dead.

So what else do I have to question?
Well, recently I watched Scream IV. The movie was cool, but it made me realize in almost all horror flicks:
  • There are never any parents at home with their kids.
  • Nobody owns dogs.
  • People rarely fight back when attacked.
  • My favorite is the fact that someone always gets out of the car, which makes the killer’s life easier.

What are some suggestions for films to analyze?
Human Centipede, Scream IV, Black Sheep (weird & funny horror), An American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, and Creature From the Black Lagoon

Why do you watch horror flicks?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October Fun

As I walked outside with my cup of coffee, I noticed an orange leaf fall to the ground in front of me. I picked it up and looked around. It is October and fall is in the air. What should you do to enjoy October? How about you travel back to your childhood years.
1/2 of my family

When I say travel back to your childhood I am not talking about costumes, but pumpkins. Every year my family travels to a pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins to carve. It becomes an all day event at the Belvedere Plantation. We bring the kids so they can ride ponies, make scarecrows, pet farm animals, enjoy corn mazes, and of course, travel to a field of pumpkins to yank one off a vine!

Me carrying all the pumpkins for $26.99!
There are many farms that allow people to enjoy the festivities of October. The farm my family goes to is located in Fredericksburg, Va. called the Belvedere Plantation. There is a small fee to get in, but the festivities are free. The pumpkins are not over priced and if you carry all you can 3 steps, then you get them for $26.99. I have been stuck carrying all the pumpkins 3 steps for 3 years now.

My advice is don’t be scared to still be in touch with your childish side. Carving pumpkins is a fun activity and when you are done you can bake the pumpkin seeds! Click for a recipe! Remember to take a break from your busy lifestyle and have a little fun!

Do you have any good fall ideas?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Shadows Of The Past

Have you ever seen shadows lurking in the dark? Do these shadows scare or intrigue you?

Andy Warhol has an exhibit that displays his artwork called Shadows. Of course, unlike the creepy shadow that you see on a dark night, the Shadows by Warhol are artistic. For the first time, all of the artwork is hung together at the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C.  So, exactly how many Shadows are lurking around the Hirshhorn? There are 102 pieces or Shadows that are installed in the donut shaped museum until January 15, 2012.

B and I traveled to the gallery on Saturday to see the installation. B was not as impressed, but I found the two types of shadows that were repeatedly painted to be quite amazing. One word to describe it would be _______. How about you go see it yourself and fill in the blank for me!

What do you think of Warhol’s Shadows?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Journey Through Time

Time Travel: traveling through time to the past or future

When I was about 10 years old, I remember sitting on the floor watching a black and white film at my Grandpa’s house. I can easily say that this may have been the beginning of my dreams to time travel. The crazy thing is that I can actually travel through time and so can you! Let me guess, you think time travel is a crazy science fiction thing, right? Well, I am here to tell you that you may not be able to travel into the future, but you can travel into the past.

4 Ways to Time Travel:
  1.  Movies: Old films provide a window into the past. A few of my favorite films to watch are: The Seven Year Itch, My Fair Lady, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, if you are not into old films, then you can try watching Paris at Midnight or The Notebook.
  2. Music: I achieve time travel quite often by listening to old music and occasionally having a glass of wine by the fireplace. A few of my favorites that you can check out are Bing Crosby or Cab Calloway.
  3. Books: I absolutely love to read during my free time or while waiting for a class to start. A few great authors to check out are Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
  4. Art: You can surf the web or go to a gallery and check out art by Picasso, Warhol, Monet, and Dali. If you are interested in time traveling through art, then D.C. has an art exhibit in honor of  Andy Warhol (Click the link for details!).

What is your favorite way to time travel?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Braving the Weather

B parked the car and we stared out the window. The wind was blowing and the rain was falling. The temperature gauge in my car read 50 degrees…time to bundle up and adventure out.

B and I braving the weather.
Crafty Bastards is an event that comes once a year on October 1st, so people are willing to venture into the crazy weather to find one of a kind art pieces (i.e. paintings, shirts, candles). This is not just a festival for art, but also a chance for breakdancing competitions.  (Click the link to check out a video!) The event is free to attend, but you need money for the snacks and art you may be interested in. Keep a budget in mind!

I was surprised how many people actually attended the event due to the weather. Each tent that was set up was crowded with people and many umbrellas. Within an hour, my tote bag was filled with neat things. I went a little over my budget, but it was worth it because I found some great art, a fox shirt, and an owl candle.

What neat things did you find at Crafty Bastards (if you attended)?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Travel Safe

Have you ever heard the horror stories of people traveling and getting their passports and/or valuables stolen?

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Once upon a time in Nicaragua I heard a story of a girl who got everything stolen from her. She was in the country for humanitarian efforts. Unfortunately, one day she needed to go somewhere and jumped into the first taxi she saw, which already had two men in it. Within a few seconds she had a gun pointed at her and two men yelling in Spanish that they wanted her money. After a few ATM stops they left her on the side of the road and miles away from civilization.
This is not a story meant to scare you, but maybe keep you on your feet…just a little!

Rules to live by when traveling:

·      Don’t wear flashy jewelry
·      Don’t carry all your money around
·      Lock your passport up or hide it, but always carry an I.D. on you.
·      Be careful with your camera (I personally use the handle strap on the camera to loop it through my belt loops because it makes it hard to steal/drop.)
·      Always trust your gut instincts
·      Be aware of your surroundings
·      Be wary of taxis
·      Don’t be scared

Be sure to have fun while traveling!

Do you have any horror stories of traveling abroad?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vietnamese Cuisine

How many of you wish you could travel to an exotic place? Well, lets travel on a budget to Vietnam. How can we do this? Easy! Lets travel to Vietnam through cuisine because it is a cheap way to begin exploring exotic places.

The best way to survive a chilly fall day is by consuming warm food. I personally love pho, which is a hot noodle soup that consists of beef or chicken. B turned me on to a hole in the wall restaurant in Manassas called Pho Nguyen, which has the best pho I have ever consumed.
The best bowl of pho is different for everyone; so don’t be scared to add in basil leaves, bean sprouts, lime, and different sauces to perfect your soup. I personally love the kid size bowl of beef pho with lots of limejuice. However, B prefers to take full advantage of all the ingredients available, so again to each their own.

Now, if you are really adventurous I want you to try bubble tea. It is a delicious frozen treat with chewy balls made of tapioca starch. There are many flavors to try, but my favorite is the honeydew flavor. My advice to you is don’t be scared to experiment!

Click for more information:Vietnamese Food

Are you brave enough to try pho and bubble tea? 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Delicious Wine and Good Times

I awoke to a cold, dreary day and thought well, I guess there will not be a wine festival today due to rain. Of course, I was wrong.
The 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival was held September 17th and 18th at the Bull Run Special Events Center. The event was a little steep because it cost $30 to enter, then inside you have to think of the cost of each glass ($5) or bottle of wine ($17+), food, and maybe even souvenirs. (As I have mentioned in previous posts, have a budget in mind so you don’t overspend for events like this.)
B and I at the festival.

I personally love wine, so I entered with high hopes and a budget. B and I walked into the event and met up with a few friends who knew the band playing, which was an excellent Beatles cover band. Then, we headed to a tent of a winery we had never heard of and bought a glass of wine. We proceeded to stroll around the event and it was quite fun because I like watching people go from “flat foot walkers” to “sideways walkers(drunks).” Incase you are unaware of what I am referring to, take your foot and walk on the side of it…now you are a “sideways walker." 

My favorite wine from the festival is called “POW WOW” and it is a chocolate strawberry wine. Yes, you read that right. The wine smells of chocolate and it is the perfect dessert wine. Who could pass on a dessert wine? I left with two bottles. The winery is called Mattaponi Winery located in Spotsylvania and I highly recommend checking them out.

What is your favorite wine (if you are of age)?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Travel Smart

Peru: I paid them about 50 cents for this picture!

I awoke to a stewardess telling me to put my seat in an upright position because we were ready to land. Finally, we have arrived. I rubbed my eyes as a voice replayed in my head. The voice was of my travel partner, B, mocking me for overpacking. As a backpacker, you are supposed to travel with the bare necessities. Well, I had stuffed my hand-me-down red bag with sweaters, long sleeve shirts, tank tops, shorts, and a fall jacket. I was hoping I didn’t overpack because I had to carry that bag all over Peru from the mountains to the jungle. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw my red bag come around on the baggage carousel. I collected my stuff and continued on to my journey of the unknown. As the airport doors opened a gust of cold air came rushing in. Yes, for once I won the game of “ the best traveler!” I pulled out my jacket with a smile and realized I did not overpack.

How do you avoid overpacking?
  • ·      Read up on the location
  • ·      Map out a plan of attack (or if you are spontaneous like me, don’t worry you can just show up)
  • ·      Check the weather
  • ·      Ask yourself simple questions (i.e. Do I really need to bring a pair of heels?)
  • ·      Pack travel sized bottles (i.e. shampoo, contact solution, etc.)
  • ·      Pack lightly because there are laundry services
  • ·      Take away half of the clothes that are in front of you (5-6 days worth is perfect)
  • ·      Always wear your bulkiest items on your body on travel day (i.e. sneakers, hoodie, & jeans)

How do you prepare for a trip?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bucket List

Wanderlust: the desire to travel
I use to be like many kids…a dreamer. I always wanted to travel, but it did not become reality until about 3 years ago.
The story is, my dad passed away almost 4 years ago and that is when it hit me, life is truly short. We all have a bucket list and I chose to start crossing mine off. I decided to start with the basics, which are school and travel. I want to finish school, so I attend a University and it is my last year. On holiday breaks I travel. Yes, traveling is expensive but that is why I accepted the “backpacker’s lifestyle.” I live on the cheap and stay in hostels. Where have I traveled you ask? Well, I have been to almost all of Central America, Peru, a few Caribbean Islands, and Italy. My adventures abroad are not even close to being over. The next thing on my bucket list that slightly involves traveling is surfing. I was born in Hawaii and I don’t know how to surf. One day I will learn and cross it off my list.

What is on your bucket list?