travel

Travel: What It Means by Amanda Liew

Travel.

Over the past few years my travels have defined me in ways I could never expect.

I've begun to see my trips as markers along my path purely because of how much each trip has taught me -- how I changed after I studied abroad, how my perspective on solitude changed during my first real solo trip. It's taught me a different kind of self confidence, how to interact with strangers, how to be satisfied with solitude, how to be flexible, the list goes on. 

It's also taught me how to appreciate "home."

2015 was filled with Australia, Jordan, National Parks, and 17 European cities. To say the least, it was a whirlwind. When I came back, though, I made a different kind of New Years Resolution: "to grow deeper roots."

To me, that meant spending more time in New York City & deepening my roots in my faith, my relationships, my job, and my community.

It has been a beautiful year of exactly that: growing roots deep. After 8 months of limiting myself to a few domestic trips here and there, in 3 short days I embark on my first international trip of the year: Iceland. I feel that familiar sense of excitement tingling in my stomach, my wanderlust ready to burst out, my eyes already imagining incredible photographic shots, and more.

To add to the excitement even more, this trip is the first time I get to share my love for travel with my wonderful boyfriend, Caleb. We joked at the beginning of our relationship that there were different "versions" of ourselves - Party Caleb, Outdoorsy Caleb, California Amanda, Get Down to Business Amanda, and more. A beautiful part of our relationship has been discovering new sides of each other, and finally, finally...Travel Amanda gets to step into her element. And with that, I get to share an extremely important aspect of my life.

Travel on.

ABCD Trip Part 2: Antelope Canyon by Amanda Liew

It's embarrassing, but 2016 has flown by so fast, that I am only now getting to editing my ABCD Trip from...September 2015. Corey, Benedetto, and Dana have been bugging me for nearly a year to see my photos, but between my extra travels through Europe, starting a new job, entering a new relationship, and more, it's been hard to find the time to sit down and edit the thousands (literally) of photos that I have on backlog.

 Nevertheless, I am absolutely determined to blog all aspects of my travelventures before my memory fades, if only for myself & my own pleasure.

After leaving the Grand Canyon, the four of us drove from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon. While the drive straight through was supposed to be 2 hours and 40 minutes, one of our big regrets was not leaving ourselves enough time to see the Grand Canyon from a different view along the drive. There were so many points that we wanted to stop & just couldn’t because we were trying to make our first tour at 10am in Upper Antelope Canyon. We also naively thought we could just “pop in” to Horseshoe Bend to take a quick look & did not factor in a mini hike to a proper viewpoint.  

Nevertheless, this was one of the most incredible parts of our trip! Based off of our research, you have to do a guided tour for both the Upper & Lower portions of the canyon (details below). We did Upper at 9am in the morning, went to Page for lunch, did Lower at 1:30pm and then caught the sunset at Horseshoe Bend around 5pm.  

Without a doubt, Antelope Canyon is every photographer’s dream. The way the canyon changes throughout the day, the way the rocks can appear blue, purple, red, or pink just with light and shadows, the way that the entire canyon was carved out of wind and water…it’s all just incredible. This was by far my most photographic-centric part of the trip, especially since the “hikes” themselves were not strenuous at all for our group. I loved how abstract the photos came out & how you can't always tell if you're looking up or through the canyon. The way the light beams would hit the ground below or bounce through certain crevices only made the canyon all the more magical.

If you’re planning your own trip:

Tours:

  • There are a lot of tours that go through Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon. I picked the following based off of some other reviews, but to be honest there is only one “route” through the canyons and therefore I would assume the tours can’t differ too much.
  • Upper Antelope Canyon: Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours, $40/person*
  • Lower Antelope Canyon: Ken’s Tours, $20/person*
  • Navajo Grounds Entrance Fee: $8/person*
  • *As of September 2015 

Hotels:

  • Best Western View of Lake Powell Hotel - a pretty decent hotel! There was a great pool and jacuzzi with a view. Nothing out of this world, but it gets the job done, was decently sized, and clean.

Food:

  • Big John’s Texas BBQ (https://www.yelp.com/biz/big-johns-texas-bbq-page) - surprising to find a Texas BBQ spot in the middle of Page, but this was legit. We ordered a huge fill of ribs, brisket, sides, and ate to our heart’s content. Incredibly friendly waitstaff too! Definitely the perfect meal in between our tours.

DSLR Photography: 

  • If you are looking to get some really spectacular shots, keep in mind that the regular tours move pretty quickly through the canyons & you won’t have an opportunity to set up a tripod. Admittedly, I skirted the rules a bit by lingering behind as much as possible on our tours to get certain shots with long exposures (sans tripod), but it was very rushed.
  • I noticed that some of the other companies have Photography Tours which cost much more, but unfortunately that would have meant going without my 3 friends which wasn’t really an option.
  • Given limits on shutter speed & wanting to use a pretty large depth of field, you’ll certainly need a high ISO. I could get away with shooting at ISO 3200, f/4.0, 1/25 for some of my handheld shots, but other times would have to rely on steadying my camera against a rock of some sort.

 

[1Month2Wander] Stop 1: A London Homecoming by Amanda Liew

Note: All photos in this post were taken on an iPhone, not a DSLR. 

Oh how quickly things can change! In just a few short weeks, I went from job searching to sitting in my friend Stephen's flat in London, enjoying a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner. In an exciting turn of events, my social impact job search has come to a close, and I am ridiculously thrilled to start a new position in January 2016. Fortunately, this meant that for the rest of 2015, I could take advantage of my true time off by backpacking through Europe! Since I unabashedly love unnecessary hashtags, I'm calling this one #1Month2Wander because that's truly what it is. After embarking on my incredible Jordan Solo Trip, I realized I was completely capable of setting off across the world by myself, albeit with a travel group. With the encouragement of my friend Megan, blogger over at Drifting Not Aimless, I decided I was in fact going to backpack without a firm plan! Not going to lie, it has only been a few days in, and I've bounced back and forth between having mini freakouts and total zen. On one hand, I wanted to kick myself this morning when I realized that a Eurorail pass probably would have made more sense for me given the unpredictability of my travels, but it requires enough planning to anticipate the 3-4 days of shipping. Not to mention, nearly everything is just so much more expensive at the last minute! On the other hand, it's pretty awesome having total freedom over my schedule - my weeks have been in flux nonstop & I like that I'm not particularly tied down to anything at the moment. 

One thing I did know, though, was that my trip had to begin in London. Just a month ago, I was lamenting that I couldn't come back to London for Thanksgiving this year, only to discover last minute that in fact it was possible. My incredible friends Stephen & Beccy threw open their arms and welcomed me to London with literally only a week and a half's worth of notice.

Honestly, I'm so happy I decided to start my trip here! Ever since my ABCD Trip this fall (yes, yes, I'm rather behind on blogging about that...), I've been more aware of the way a trip's "flow" impacts my experience. It's been wonderful starting off a really big trip on a little bit more stable ground; a homecoming of sorts. I've already seen most of the big sights, so there's no franticness to the pace of my day. I'm here to have good conversations, get my bearings on the world, spend the day cooking American dishes for a medley of British & Canadian friends, and explore new parts of London that the tourists don't get to see. There's also the relief in being able to easily navigate the tube system myself & knowing I should stop at Boots to pick up a toothbrush or Oxford street to replace my broken boots. I love that I don't have to get fish & chips this time around (although I might), and instead Beccy and I can stop by her local Malaysian-Thai restaurant for some good curry laksa. I love that I don't need to see Big Ben for the thousandth time, and instead can spend a solid hour with Stephen at the temporary pop up British Museum of Food sampling chocolate in sound booths, sitting in massage chairs to feel what it's like to get digested, and jot down our recommendations of what a hopefully full-time exhibit should include. There's just such a feeling of comfort and familiarity that has made this such a great time already.

For that reason, all of these photos are just iPhone snapshots rather than DSLR quality photos. Bringing it back to my traveling roots and original style of blogging, really! Most of the snapshots below are of the British Museum of Food's butterfly effect room highlighting the importance of butterflies in the ecosystem for pollination. We were so impressed that they were able to build a complete rainforest atmosphere and that we could even watch a few butterflies coming out of their cocoons! The pink lighting is due to the type of lamps they had to create the environment. We literally stumbled across the exhibit, and couldn't be more thankful for it - it was only 5GBP, so I highly recommend it.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Up next? Copenhagen with Patrick! I'm going to do my best to semi-live blog my travels if I can! 

Old Friends, New City by Amanda Liew

20150327_0095_Washington DC

After almost two years of forcing my brother to come up to New York City, I finally got the chance to make the trip in the other direction and visit Washington DC this past weekend. While I was hoping to finally check off the cherry blossoms from my bucket list, the never ending winter foiled those plans. Luckily, thanks to some especially fortuitous timing and a last minute scramble, a few of my college friends from Penn (and one straggler from Princeton, ahem) managed to all convene in DC for a spontaneous reunion! As much as I love my new post-grad life in New York (I think I'm one of the only people that prefers "real life" to college...), seeing everybody in one place reminded me of what I truly value from my college experience. Yes, I had wonderful professors and a pretty great education, but most importantly, I was surrounded by an incredibly diverse group of people who were all high-achievers in vastly different fields. When I first got to Penn, I shunned the word "feminist", had no idea what racist microaggresions were, wouldn't have recognized privilege even if it slapped me in the face, and all around just knew so little about society! The diverse ethnic, cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds of this group here as well as so many more of my friends at Penn totally transformed my viewpoints on life, society, education, and culture. Even though we didn't realize how diverse our little reunion actually was, looking at these photographs now brings so much joy to my heart. Beauty truly has no bounds - just look at these people! Beyond the lofty thoughts, though, of course the whole weekend was just an all around great time. I got to explore more of the city, meet my brother's friends, experience some epic brunches (shoutout to Tonic for their ridiculous breakfast tots and Busboys & Poets for their very unique Iraqi corned beef hash!), experience one of the weirdest shows I'll probably ever see, eat a gigantic passion fruit macaron from Bakers & Baristas (although it wasn't a "real" macaron in my humble opinion #ladureesnob), check out the incredible Newseum (the Pulitzer Prize photo exhibit brought tears to my eyes multiple times), re-live my study abroad semester with a friend at Nando's, and of course force everybody to pose for portraits and more portraits. Can't wait to travel more!

20150327_0053_Washington DC 20150327_0089_Washington DC 20150327_0100_Washington DC 20150327_0103_Washington DC 20150327_0106_Washington DC 20150327_0108_Washington DC 20150327_0117_Washington DC 20150327_0118_Washington DC 20150327_0059_Washington DC 20150327_0073_Washington DC 20150327_0078_Washington DC 20150327_0076_Washington DC 20150327_0083_Washington DC 20150327_0058_Washington DC  Group shots (iPhone 6):  124AFD96-FF0D-424B-8217-3FE3110EEB32 CBF06B1C-4B5E-44C2-81B2-470074BFE12C