Thailand is one of only three countries which I have visited more than once, and I will always carry a fondness for its culture, its food, and its incredibly gracious people. I visited Thailand a second time in September of 2022, and ended up staying in the same regions as I had in 2018: Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Bangkok. While on Koh Samui, I had a strong desire to go to the beach, but my cousin and I had only three days to fully explore the island, so I wasn’t sure if we could squeeze in a beach day. In addition, there was a bit of rain which, pun intended, put a damper on our beach plans for the first two days.
Then on our third and final full day on Samui, the weather cleared up, and we decided to spend the day at Chaweng Noi Beach, the beach which was a stone’s throw from the resort at which we were staying. We ended up ordering lunch right on the beach, and also managed to polish off a couple of bottles of wine over the course of several hours. When we felt ourselves overheating, we decided to go into the Gulf of Thailand’s waters, and were rewarded with crystal clear water which was the temperature of a perfect bath. We had also discovered that some previous hotel patrons had left two pool floats there for other patrons to use, so we grabbed them and went back into the water, atop which we floated for a good hour or more.
Whenever I return to Thailand, and specifically find myself on Koh Samui, I plan to visit Chaweng Noi Beach to experience the same perfect beach day that I had been so fortunate to have experienced in 2022.
A nice sunset shot from my final evening in Porto, Portugal
During the spring of 2022, I traveled to Spain and Portugal on a bold solo trip which had its share of frustrations and glitches, but I was very proud of myself for enduring all the problems. Since I speak a decent amount of Spanish, Spain presented no language issues for me, but it was an entirely different story when I was in Portugal, because I only know a few Portuguese words. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to enjoy my stay in Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto.
I stayed at a lovely AirBnB in Vila Nova de Gaia which had a beautiful view of the Douro River and the town of Porto across the river. For four days straight, I would explore the wine caves on Vila Nova de Gaia (VNdG) side, walk all over VNdG and Porto, visit the grocery store to get authentic Portuguese food items, and dine in various restaurants in VNdG. I was completely free to do whatever struck my fancy, and I loved the entire experience so much that it was hard to leave and move on to Lisbon, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much.
On my final night in VNdG, I decided to stay out as late as possible so that I could absorb as much of the sensory stimuli as I could. That final night turned out to be extraordinary, punctuated by a fantastic meal at a riverside restaurant, some lovely vinho verde, and fun conversations with other travelers. The sun began to set around 8:20, which was incredibly late for that time of the year. Even after the sun had completely set around 8:50 pm, the sky was a very vivid cobalt blue.
Another beautiful image from that magical night…
Live music was playing at a couple of restaurants, the river water was glistening, the crisp air was refreshing, and my heart felt so full while taking it all in. That night, I honestly fell in love with VNdG and Porto, and resolved to visit again. At some point, I will definitely return to VNdG and Porto, hopefully with a romantic interest in tow, because the area is so replete with romantic energy.
One more image from one of my favorite evenings of my life…
If you are looking for an absolutely gorgeous place to visit which has plenty of fresh seafood, great wines, and interesting culture, consider visiting VNdG and Porto.
Anyone who loves gorgeous beach destinations should put the Maldives on their list of must-visit island paradises, because it will not disappoint. A beach lover myself, I had spent decades fantasizing about traveling to the Maldives before making that dream come to fruition in 2018. I was fortunate to have found an excellent package deal for travel to Nalaguraidoo, also known as Sun Island, and ended up spending 6 days and 5 nights surrounded by some of the most captivating azure waters and white coral sand beaches I had ever seen in my life.
Before I dive into the morning experiences I had on Nalaguraidoo, I will mention two negative aspects regarding the Maldives, the first being that making the trek to that part of the world is abysmally lengthy. Between the three planes, the bus, and the speedboat we were transported on, the total travel time (mind you, this does NOT include the time spent on layovers, which added another 14 hours) was almost 24 hours. By the time we were on that final speedboat ride which took us to Nalaguraidoo, we couldn’t remember what day it was, and the fact that it was almost pitch black while on that boat didn’t help with our awareness of time.
The other negative feature of the Maldives was that there was absolutely no local culture to be found. The island was teeming with tourists, mostly from England, Germany, and Australia. The workers on the island were from neighboring India and Sri Lanka, and they were all lovely people, but none were Maldivian.
Despite those negatives, the time I spent on Nalaguraidoo was absolutely magical. I stayed in a villa which was right near the water, and upon exiting my villa, I would be rewarded with the following view:
The climate was almost egregiously humid and hot, but I could always very easily submerge myself in the clean water of the Indian Ocean, which was replete with nurse sharks and a dazzling assortment of different species of fish. The temperature of the water was about the same as our body temperature, incredibly inviting and relaxing. The fact that I could spend five mornings of my life waking up to such conditions was absolutely wonderful.
I traveled to Budapest, Hungary in September 2014 and spent a week taking in the sights, struggling with the Hungarian language, and consuming Hungarian cuisine. I was very fortunate to have connected with two photographers in Budapest shortly before I left the U.S., and I was able to schedule photo shoots with both. The first photographer was extremely hospitable and took me for a city tour of Budapest the day before our planned shoot. The next day, I got even more of a tour of the city since the photographer and his girlfriend were so enthusiastic about showing me certain parts of the city.
About midway through my stay in Budapest, I shot for an entire day with the second photographer, and though I became a bit fatigued after traveling and shooting all over Pest side, I looked forward to shooting on Buda side as well. We didn’t reach Buda side until early evening, and since the temperature was starting to drop, I quickly changed into my final look for the last set of the day, a black minidress with black heels. The photographer set up in such a way that Hungarian Parliament would be in the background of each image in the set. If you haven’t seen the Hungarian Parliament building, it is an architectural marvel, and it is especially dazzling at night because the entire building is illuminated.
The photographer asked me to stand near the Danube River so that he could check exposure and framing, so I walked over to the designated spot. As soon as I did so, a very fine rain mist started falling, and though I was in a sleeveless minidress, the drizzle and the air felt refreshing. We began shooting, and the church which the photographer was standing in front of chimed 7 times, marking the 7 o’clock hour. I will never forget the church chimes, the light rain, the crisp air, and the glow of the illuminated Hungarian Parliament building. It was a beautiful, magical moment.
Even though I consider Hawaii my second home, I have always been most familiar with Oahu, since my grandparents had settled there from Japan and raised a large family. Some of my relatives migrated to the Big Island, Kauai, and Molokai, so I ended up visiting those islands as well. The one island which I was extremely curious about was Maui, but since none of my relatives had moved to that island, I never had a reason to visit.
Then in June of 2007, the guy I had been seeing for close to a year and I vacationed on Maui for a little over a week, and in that small period of time, I fell in love with the island. The ocean was clean and warm, the local restaurants served incredible food, the scenery was beautiful, and we enjoyed daily rainbows over the rental property we booked. Every day on Maui was magical and held new discoveries, such as the afternoon when we decided to buy some pineapple from a roadside vendor and were rewarded with the sweetest, most delicious pineapple I had ever tasted.
On one particular day we jumped into our rental car and decided to explore the south border of the island. We found ourselves in Kihei, a casual, laid-back beachfront town with many turnoff points which gave us access to the beach. We settled on a small cove and set up our towels and snack foods for a nice afternoon, and because it was a small, hidden area, there was no one else on that stretch of beach with us. After we had been there for a couple of hours, my boyfriend remarked, “Hey! I saw a dorsal fin out there! I wonder if that’s a shark or a dolphin?” I told him I wasn’t about to swim out to the spot where he spotted the fin, and the next moment, he was rushing into the water so that he could determine what sea creature he had seen,
As soon as Dameon swam out to the area where he saw the fin, he dove underwater and I didn’t see him for close to a minute. He then popped his head up and yelled, “Get your ass in here, and bring the underwater camera! There’s a bunch of dolphins out here!” I grabbed the underwater camera, making sure the strap was secure around my wrist, and jumped into the water. Once I reached Dameon, he told me to go underwater and check out our new buddies. We were in the midst of a pod of dolphins, about 14 or 15 of them, including a couple of youngsters. Two of the large adult males kept bumping up against me and pushing me around in the water.
We ended up swimming with the dolphins for close to 10 minutes, alternately bobbing on the surface and diving down so that we could swim along these playful creatures. Dameon made sure to take numerous shots of the dolphins, which we developed that same day. We began to get tired of swimming, since we were relatively far out and in deep water, so we swam back to shore. Within a few minutes, the dolphins headed southeast, but not before jumping out of the water numerous times as if to say, thanks guys, we had fun!
During my final year at Occidental College, I was invited by my academic advisor to go camping in Yosemite with a group of other Exercise Science classmates. Since I had never gone camping before, I was a bit nervous about the prospect of answering the call of certain excretory processes by squatting in the woods, as well as the idea of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the cold forest floor in a tent. It turned out that my concerns were unfounded, because my advisor chose a campsite at Upper Pines, very close to restrooms and showers, and the sleeping bag which I borrowed was incredibly cozy, comfortable and warm.
We went on our camping trip in April of 1992, and though we were rewarded with relatively sunny but brisk days, the evenings were quite chilly, and we also experienced sudden torrential downpours during a couple of very random points during our trip. The landscape was ostensibly breathtaking, and the hikes we went on were strenuous and fun. We also had a great time cracking jokes while eating breakfasts and dinners back at the campsite. On one particular morning, we were all eating our breakfasts, when a sudden heavy downpour of rain befell us. Instead of us running for cover, every single one of us remained seated at the picnic table and continued to eat, allowing the raindrops to fall upon us.
The shower abated quickly, so we were able to go hiking that day, albeit on more level terrain so as to avoid slipping down any embankments. We returned to the campsite shortly before dusk, and prepared dinner. Once we finished dinner, a classmate and I decided to take a walk around the nearby area. We became so engrossed in chatter that at one point, we found ourselves on a paved road, but it was completely empty. My classmate said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we just decided to lie right on the asphalt and look up at the stars?”, to which I replied, “Let’s go for it.” She and I then proceeded to lie down on the asphalt, which wasn’t too uncomfortable since we were wearing parkas, and we turned our attention to the sky.
In all my years on the planet, there have only been a handful of times during which I was able to see such a shocking display of stars, and that night was one of those times. We were absolutely blown away by the massive collection of stars in that inky black sky, and saw constellations we had only learned about in textbooks. It was mesmerizing and magical. We enjoyed the moment, which lasted a good ten minutes, until the headlights of a pickup truck startled us and made us rise from the pavement!
During the summer of 1980, I spent 30 days in Europe with a group of girls from my high school, along with our ancient history teacher, her husband, and a German foreign exchange student named Jorg Eichhorn. There were countries which I absolutely loved (Italy, Greece), countries which were impressive in certain ways but which didn’t capture my heart (England, Switzerland, Austria, Germany), and two countries which I did not enjoy one bit (France, Turkey). Despite the fact that I wasn’t enamored with every country we visited, I truly enjoyed the entire experience immensely.
One major highlight we experienced was a cruise we took on the M/V Aphrodite, a cruise ship which we boarded in Ancona, Italy. We spent a week on the M/V Aprhrodite, which docked in Santorini, Athens, and Istanbul. Our first night on the ship, I remember sitting out on the deck, looking up at the sky, and being dazzled by a glorious display of stars, completely unobstructed by pollution, the distraction of electric lighting, or ominous storm clouds. The next day, when we docked in Santorini, I was even more awestruck by the gorgeous turquoise water of the Aegean Sea. Once I set foot on the rocky shore, I saw the waves lap against the rocks and realized that I could see fish swimming in the water. I had never seen such a shade of water, and for that matter, I had never seen any major body of water except for the Pacific Ocean until I went on that cruise. It was an experience which left an indelible impression on my 14 year old self.
I recently thought about what my ten favorite moments in my life have been, and I decided to compile a list. I was astonished to see that eight of the ten moments occurred while I was traveling, and six of them involved water. Every single one of these moments is special and sacred to me, and full of meaning. I’ve made sure to list them in chronological order. I will add ten blog posts in the future which will discuss each of these magic moments.
Are you in a midlife rut? Then this fantastic article written by Camille Johnson of bereaver.com is for you!
You’re not sure what set it off, but you feel like you’re stuck in a midlife crisis. You might be unsatisfied with your job, mourning a dream you never accomplished, or feeling unfulfilled in your relationship. With the help of a trainer like Stacey Naito, you can finally start working towards the goals you previously pushed to the back burner. Furthermore, these tips will help you figure out where to live, how to outfit your home, and which lifestyle changes you should implement.
Move Somewhere New
You might feel like you can’t turn over a new leaf if you continue living in the same city. Maybe you’re looking for opportunities that aren’t available locally, or maybe you’ve trying to get out of a toxic environment. Either way, it may be time to move to a new city. If you plan to buy a home in a different area, you’ll need to research current Pennymac mortgage rates and determine which type of mortgage is right for you. Your lender can help you determine whether you would be qualified for a conventional, FHA, or VA loan.
Focus on Your Health
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you don’t feel as energetic and lively as you once did. You might assume that your mental health is suffering because you’ve reached a turning point in life – but it could be because you’ve been neglecting your physical health. You may want to invest in a few items for a basic home gym, such as an exercise mat, resistance bands, a stability ball, and dumbbells. To enhance your home cooking skills, you could pick up an immersion blender, a vegetable spiralizer, a slow cooker, and meal prep containers.
When you’re buying new products, especially ones that the whole family will use, it’s important to spend your money wisely. Therefore, before you buy anything, make sure to go over product reviews from a few unbiased sources. That way, you can feel confident in your purchases.
Write in a Journal
Writing in a journal can help you decide which steps you want to take next in life. It can be tough to choose a direction, but when you write about your feelings in your journal, you can gain some clarity. PsychCentral states that journaling can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and even help people process traumatic experiences.
What if you feel like you need to break out of your routine for a while? You could book a trip to a destination you’ve always wanted to visit! Travel can be a boon for your mental health, and spending some time in an unfamiliar place can help you shake off feelings of stagnation. Everyday Health states that traveling can make you feel more creative, relieve your stress, and even strengthen your relationships with your family and friends back home.
You might be experiencing a midlife crisis because you haven’t achieved some lifelong goals, and you’re wondering if you’re really capable of becoming the person you want to be. Taking on challenges – and overcoming them – can shift your mindset. Whether you want to challenge yourself physically or intellectually, now is the time to do it. From learning a new skill to volunteering in your community, there are lots of ways to challenge yourself and change for the better.
Going through a midlife crisis isn’t easy – but with the right outlook, you can make it to the other side and come out stronger. A midlife crisis can actually mark the start of an exciting new chapter. By following these tips, you can move to a welcoming place, choose the best products for your home, and focus on self-care.
Ready to focus on fitness? Start training with Stacey Naito! Check out our website today to learn more about our training services.
As of today, April 12th, I have completed a 567 day streak on Duolingo, and I have every intention of continuing my daily language practice on the user friendly app. I began this streak with Japanese and Spanish as my daily languages, and added Portuguese at the beginning of March because I want to have some familiarity with the language when I visit Portugal in May. Duolingo is an excellent app for brushing up on languages or even learning a new one, and Duolingo Plus is only $84 per year. For that price, you can practice as many languages as you’d like.
I have practiced a bunch of languages, besides the ones I mentioned previously, on Duolingo over the past several years (French, German, Hungarian, Latin, Italian, and Hawaiian), and I love the fact that I can jump back into practicing any of those languages if I’d like. Though I took French and Latin in high school, I am rusty in those languages, and I only know a small amount of Hungarian, German, Italian, and Hawaiian. It is important for me to polish my Spanish speaking and reading skills constantly, not only because I was immersed in it when I would visit my dad and his children from his second marriage, but also because I don’t want to lose the skills I learned from Spanish classes I took throughout grade school, high school and college. I also feel a responsibility to learn as much Japanese as I can, since I am half Japanese, took Japanese in college, and intend to visit Japan again in the future.
Duolingo truly is a fantastic way to learn any language which is in their system. I highly recommend it!