A taste of American culture: Bushwick Beer, Bites & Street Art #InstaWalk

*It’s important to know that this is not a paid post. I whole heartedly feel that Jessica offers quality tours and photo safaris that reveal a unique perspective of New York.


Is Brooklyn worth the hype? After moving to Brooklyn last summer I wanted to get to know the Bushwick neighborhood a bit more. I reached out to Jessie and booked her Beer, BItes & Street Art #Instawalk Bushwick tour!

Jessie is a New Yorker and certified New York City tour guide who calls Bushwick home. She was able to pinpoint details in the architecture and explain some of the history behind the ‘old Bushwick’. in a way I couldn’t appreciate merely exploring the area myself. I hate some tours for the way they parade you around like a flock of blind sheep, begging to be entertained. This, is nothing like that.

Jessie has relationships with everyone from a new local business owner to the guy working at the bodega down the street. Meeting these local entrepreneurs, artists, and everyday people helped me appreciate the identity of this sprawling, eclectic neighborhood. For me, the most important factor when exploring a new country, city, or neighborhood is getting an authentic sense of the people and the culture of that unique place. I was able to get that sense of Bushwick…and I loved the neighborhood right from the get go.


for a taste of the ever-changing NEW YORK…

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A missed flight that made for one hell of a night (A Misadventure)

missed flight misadventure barcelona

Barceloneta heat by night!

What happens when a missed flight leads you to spend one more night out?


Barcelona, Oh How I Needed You

After diving into a new teaching position in chilly Prague, Barcelona was exactly what I needed to revive my soul from the unexpected grayness of my new life. I spent my days trying to imagine the fantastical thoughts behind Gaudí and Picasso’s works, emboldening myself to ask to join a volleyball game on the beach and allowing my eyes to close so I could taste the quality prosciutto just a little bit better. I spent my nights soaking myself in wine, sangria and 1€ beers bought on the beach, dancing with new friends in the heat of a trendy nightclub or walking the quieted cobblestoned streets lit in gold. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better I’d be batting my eyes at another seriously gorgeous barista or server (who seemed to be waiting around nearly every corner by the way) shelling out a few euro coins for an indulgently thick, hot xurros de xocolata.

missed flight misadventure barcelona

Afternoon sangria. Always a good choice.

I would walk and walk without knowing or caring how much time was passing. I let myself smile like an idiot, as I took in the sun and wondered why on earth I was living in Prague instead of Barcelona. But the days melted away as did my worries and stresses that were holding me hostage in Prague. It flew by, as it always does, and it was time to say ‘Adeus’ to my new friends leave the sunshine of Barcelona to return to the shadows of my then-dreary life in Prague.

On another (seemingly unrelated) note, it took some time for me to get used to the 24-hour system of time telling in Europe. ‘16:45? Processing, processing… 4:45 p.m.?’ I did quick conversions in my head on the daily and cursed the States for having to do everything our own way! This is the excuse I use for missing my flight from Barcelona back to Prague. My theory behind what really happened in maybe my unconscious brain is that I missed my flight intentionally because in no way was I ready to leave and Barcelona still had a few more surprises for me.


The Missed Flight

So, there I was, at 5 p.m., rolly bag in tow, ready to board my 07:05 flight to Prague when the sweet, Vueling employee said with confusion,


“There are no flights to Prague.”

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Why I DON’T love Boracay (A tourist trap)

tourist trap boracay

Tourism destroys another white sand beach.


I had to walk with my head down. On this top rated beach in the Philippines I was dodging filth on what should have been a relaxing sunset walk (given I wasn’t on the luxury hotel part of the beach). Back when I was researching the best beaches in the Philippines, many signs pointed here. I was excited about it and thought it must be something special upon seeing the immaculate Google images of this white sand beach. Turns out there was a lot of hype.


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What it’s really like moving to New York City

moving to new york

All smiles in NYC back in 2011

The world loves New York. Having grown up next door in Connecticut, New York City was always so close but also so far (we were disconnected from MetroNorth…and because my parents weren’t keen on the traffic or prices). I had dreamed that I’d one day live in New York, and despite my travels, that dream hadn’t really gone away, though maybe it had settled under the surface a bit as Buenos Aires, Barcelona and seaside, Italian villages danced in my head.

I love traveling, living abroad and being a foreigner! I love it so much, in fact, that I often used to wonder if I’d ever be able to find a place in the U.S. that was really ‘me’, where I belonged and felt comfortable but also stimulated and challenged in my day to day. I need a place where I can easily continue learning Spanish and can find hot yoga and salsa classes that I so enjoy; a place where I can access authentic foods from different cultures, and meet people from all over the world too. While I love my country and my culture, at this stage in my life, that is what I need, and I wasn’t sure an American city could give me all of those things.

Well, long story short, I got hired last minute for a great job in the city and now live happily in Brooklyn.

I remember one of the first conversations I ever had with my roommate was over artisanal pizza in Crown Heights. I tend to talk a lot when meeting a new person who doesn’t fill the air with words. I remember having serious word vomit, much of which consisted of questions about what New York was ‘really like’, what New Yorkers ‘really did’, and how much better is Brooklyn pizza than Manhattan pizza, really? I was the kid who had just arrived at Disney World but hadn’t been on any rides yet and was annoying the crap out of everyone around me with my eagerness! I had an image that this city was grand, glamorous and gritty and that beautiful, chance encounters happened all the time…just like in the movies! I couldn’t wait for all of it.

These are some realities that I’ve found in my own experience of living here, both chilly and enchanting…

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Finding my travel identity, thus my new ‘Free-spirited Foreigner’ deal

New year, new blog, new me!

Welcome to my new spot!


I’m a whole new woman! You may have noticed, I’ve transformed from Traveling Vanilla Bean to The Free-Spirited Foreigner, woot woot!!!


Backpacking? Not my  style!

I set off on my backpacking trip in spring of this year, wide-eyed and full of expectation. Halfway through, I was completely exhausted. I didn’t feel inspired or fulfilled in the way I had in my other travels and continually asked myself what was missing. While living abroad I had tough moments, even tough weeks and months, sure, but I never before felt a deep urge return home…

This was what really proved that I’m a slow travel kind of girl. I love diving head first into one culture and really getting to know it over time rather than bouncing from place to place. Getting to know the people, the language, the drinks, the dances, and the food in a new place is fascinating to me, and those are things you just can’t rush. Like anything in life, the best things take time!


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What I Remember Most About my Childhood Vacation to Jamaica

We were stuck on a single-lane highway, if you could even call it that, headed back towards the Kingston international airport. The tropical heat was more intense than ever and the lack ofcrash air-conditioning was killer. Small, rotating fans pushed the wet air back and forth and a blonde woman wretched a few seats up from us as we absorbed every bump and swerve of the potholed, coastal road. All of a sudden the traffic congested and came to a halt. I couldn’t understand why we were barely even inching forward. Eventually we got close enough to see a big, white van had flipped over and was smoking. A little girl and her mother were outside the van, looking a bit banged up. Being only ten-years-old myself, I didn’t know what to make of what I was seeing.

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5 Ways to Test if living abroad is right for you



Spend a week not eating staple foods you normally rely on.

If you’re thinking of Asia, cheese-lovedon’t eat any cheese. Eat rice or noodles for every meal, including breakfast! If you’re heading to South America, try skipping vegetables and eating lots of meat, potatoes and corn. Without meaning to generalize entire continents, try to restrict your diet depending on what country you are going to. Can you stay true to it? Can you adapt and replace your normal routine with an alternate substitute? If you can do this successfully, there’s a good sign you are adaptable and could handle living in a different food culture! We all know food makes us happy, or at times disappointed, so gauging your adaptability in this area will help you to determine how flexible you really can be and how badly you really need that Kraft Mac & Cheese after a bad day at work!


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Travel Books & Stories: The Lost Girls

The Lost Girls: 
Three friends, Four continents, One unconventional detour around the world (2010)

By: Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett & Amanda Pressner



The Lost Girls is an inspiring, modern story of three women, unsure of where their lives are going and also of where they want them to be going. Jennifer, Holly and Amanda abandon their impressive, fast-paced New York City jobs, leave some boyfriends and exes behind and commit to a year-long, Round-the-World (RTW)  trip that they never dreamed they’d actually do. This is a great story for travelers or really anybody  who feels lost or unsure with the current stage of their own life. Their moments of confusion are relatable, particularly for the career or relationship-confused.

They jump around the globe hitting iconic sights from New Zealand to Peru while also delving into uncharted territory in Kenya and India. This is a story about how travel can bring you closer to yourself while also bringing you closer to those around you.

Jennifer, Holly and Amanda try samplings of South America, Africa, Asia and Australia & Oceania. If you’re planning a RTW (Round The World) trip yourself, this may help you decide on some stops along the way! I found it refreshing that they didn’t stop in Europe. While I love Europe, it is nice to see people branching out to other continents, possibly breaking misconceptions and stereotypes and finding beauty in the world outside of the glamorized!

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The strange beauty of Cajas National Park: A Photo Essay


PictureIn our short two weeks in Ecuador my best friend and I decided to spend some time in Cuenca, Ecuador. We had imagined a quaint city and had seen the European style architecture and thought it was the perfect last stop in the south of the country before we hopped over to Peru. The center is pretty, but can be explored in just 1-2 hours. We quickly were bored in Cuenca and it’s not a place I’d recommend unless you have a lot of time and really want to see all of Ecuador. However, there are several really cool day trips outside of Cuenca, including Cajas National Park!
The park is at elevation and ranges from 10,171 – 14,600ft (3100-4450m) above sea level. I wasn’t sure if I could handle hiking at that elevation and it was definitely challenging but doable. Even walking on flat ground was tiring, which makes you feel real out of shape, especially when you’re not in shape to begin with! We did the simplest hike, which was about 3 hours around the lagoon. Cajas has tundra vegetation on a jagged landscape of hills and valleys you wouldn’t expect to see in Ecuador. It’s gorgeous and was unlike anything I’d seen before.



Caterpillar textures

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Have you shaken your head at the President of Ecuador yet?

Rafael Correa is Ecuador’s current president. After having 7 different presidents in a short 10 years, Correa rushed into the scene and has won the last 3 presidential elections, all while never dropping below 50% approval ratings since his start in 2007. He is the strongest leader Ecuador has seen in a while, but he is not without flaws…
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