Surfing Magazine SwimSuit Edition: Top Travel Tips

mtg_slider_7I was recently published in Surfing Magazine’s Swimsuit Edition, sharing my top three travel tips.

 After visiting more than 20 countries-through beach towns and historic villages, and bartering through more local markets than I can count- I’ve learned a lot about the experience of travel. Here are a few tips on how to make your next experience abroad that much more special. 

Immerse yourself in local flavor. Once you have given yourself the time to fully appreciate your new surroundings, look to the local residents to give you a proper introduction.

While guidebooks are useful as a background guide to a city, it’s best to take advice from locals on places to eat, drink, and explore. This not only exposes you to unique experiences, but also gives you the opportunity to support the true backbone of the country, the indigenous industries. 

The final step towards immersion is an emotional one. Give yourself permission to let go of your usual fears and approach each new experience with enthusiasm. Whether that involves trying fried squid eggs in Bangkok, or leaping off a cliff in Aruba, each adventure brings you that much closer to the land you’re lucky enough to visit.

Check out more surfing photos here and check out the full magazine, on newsstands now. For more of my published work, click here.

What are some of your favorite travel tips?

Hostal Nicolas de Ovando: A Historical Oasis in Santo Domingo

2014-03-13-18-52-46Picking the perfect place to stay on a vacation is a constant struggle. Do you want to stay on a resort your entire trip? Are you looking to meet people? Do you prefer modern amenities or local flavor? After choosing the Dominican Republic based on its warm temperatures and proximity to New York, I was disappointed by most of the suggested resorts. Punta Cana seemed to be a hub for spring breakers and the all-inclusive crowd and I was looking for a side of culture to my vacation.

After reading more about the capital city of Santo Domingo, I realized that the mix of history, outdoor cafes, and ample sunshine would make it the perfect combination. I chose to stay on the Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, a hotel that was formerly the home of the city’s first governor. This sprawling white stone building sat high above the river, giving poolside views of the ships passing through. Located on the first paved road in the New World, just a few steps away from Christopher Columbus’s family home, the hotel was a living piece of history with an oasis within.

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Santo Domingo Instagram Photo Essay

2014-03-13 06.00.46-2From my first sighting of Santo Domingo’s notorious baseball fields, to my first drink order sans Inglés, my journey through the Dominican Republic’s capital city was filled with warmth, music, and relaxation.

If you’re not already, make sure to follow my Instagram feed @americangirlintransit and stay up to date on my travels in real time, but for now, just enjoy the view through my trusty iPhone.

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Scenes of Life in Santo Domingo

2014-03-14 12.30.18I always find it interesting to see the juxtaposition of travelers on vacation interacting with the locals who are going about their daily life. In larger cities like Paris and London, there are many similarities to life in New York. People are bustling by, on their way to work, to home, to the gym, to dinner. It seems that people are constantly in motion. However, I noticed that in Santo Domingo the way of life was much slower than I was used to.

All around me there were families, friends, even solitary individuals enjoying the warm air, dining al fresco, taking a nap on the warm stones, and just enjoying the view of the history-laced buildings around them. There did not seem to be any sort of rush and it made me smile to see a country that had learned to truly enjoy even the small moments in life.

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Santo Domingo’s Chocolate Museum

2014-03-14 11.34.53During my time spent exploring the Colonial District in Santo Domingo, I was solicited by an older man in Colon Park. At first assuming he was trying to sell me something, I brushed him off. Instead he launched into a history lesson of the area, explaining that he worked for the city as a tour guide. He seemed more proud of his country than out to make a buck, and quickly pointed out his favorite spots around the park. His first pick was the Santo Domingo chocolate museum, which immediately piqued my interest.

I stepped inside and the scent was intoxicating. Warm, melted chocolate simmered in cast iron pots, while bottles that presumably held various forms of the dessert were scattered around. As I tasted chocolate in more forms than I knew existed (jam, liqueur, soap, etc.) I realized just how inventive you could be when determined to enjoy something sweet.

My favorite chocolate treat? The cinnamon spiced chocolate liqueur.

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Santo Domingo’s Colonial District, Zona Colonial Part Two

2014-03-16 11.41.52On my last day in Santo Domingo, I decided to pull myself away from the sun-soaked poolside terrace and retrace my steps around the Zona Colonial. Whenever I visit someplace for the first time I typically get overwhelmed by the entire scene, drinking in as much as I can as quickly as I can. However, after a couple of days, I was able to relax and discover new corners and details that I had not discovered before.

I turned down a quiet, residential street just off the Colon Park and heard the soft tinkling of a piano. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the door to the house was wide open, and framing the doorway were an old woman and her (presumably) grandson, lost in the music and in the moment. It was such a beautiful scene, that I stood there, frozen, unwilling to leave and knowing that I could not disturb the peace. Finally I shuffled on, the clicks of my camera adding the only sound to the tinkling keys against the stiff heat.

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Santo Domingo’s Colonial District, Zona Colonial

2014-03-14 12.33.54When people think of the Dominican Republic, they generally imagine the sandy shores of Punta Cana, all-inclusive resorts, and raucous spring breakers, drunk off of the ever flowing rum on tap. On my latest trip I opted to explore a more historical side of this country, and flew to Santo Domingo, the site of Christopher Columbus’s first successful city in the New World.

The main historical tourist attractions in Santo Domingo are located in the Zona Colonial, or the Colonial District. In this ten block radius travelers can walk down Calle Las Damas, the first paved road in the New World, explore Christopher Columbus’s stately home, taste the home grown chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, and take a horse-drawn carriage ride down the cobble-stoned streets. The citizens of this city are very proud of their country’s heritage, many offering a history lesson to any interested parties.

Some of my favorite moments included a live, open-air music and dance performance, dining al-fresco in the Plaza Espana, and admiring the hand painted murals on the wooden horse carts.

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