GAP YEAR MOM

by Monday, June 20, 2016

EMPTY NEST STAGE:

This is that time of year when parent’s of seniors in high school start thinking about how it will be when their child goes off to college in the fall. Being a mom of a senior who is taking a different route, I’m in quite a different boat than most. I’m a gap year mom. I not only have to feel the empty nest stage that we all experience when our kids go off to college, but I have the extra unknown of where, what and how my daughter is doing while traveling the world, on a gap year.

A GAP YEAR: AN ALTERNATIVE TO COLLEGE

We have selected an amazing program through Winterline. This gap year program has the students visit ten different countries and learn 100 new skills.  The itinerary of the destinations and planned projects they will be involved in look so well thought out and over-the-top awesome! However,  there may be times, due to weak wi-fi, or her being in a remote location, or the time change being so different, that I won’t be able to hear from her on a daily basis, as I’d like to. (kidding, not kidding)thewanderlustyogi.net

We have talked about her possibly taking a gap year off and on throughout her senior year, but we couldn’t find a program that had what she was looking for.  I even wrote an article about this, mainly due to the fact that when we talked about this to others, nobody we knew had done this, and many we knew, had never even heard of such a thing, nor understood it.  I wanted to explain what a gap year was and why it offers some genuine benefits for young adults.  Australians and Europeans have already embraced opting for a gap year-long ago, and has reaped its many benefits.  (Here’s the link: the benefits of taking a Gap Year )

PLANNING STAGE:

In the fall, we did the traditional college tours and she applied to five schools. She got accepted into many, but not into her top choice.  This only made her start looking deeper into researching gap year programs.  “Maybe this was a sign and meant to be?”,  she thought.  She didn’t want to settle for a college and spend all that money on a school she wasn’t completely excited to go to, not to mention, her wanderlust was calling.  She wasn’t even sure of what program she wanted to apply? She went from thinking she wanted to do fashion, then considered business and marketing, now she is interested in global business and non-profit work.  Who knows what it will be the next week?thewanderlustyogi.net

For these reasons and more, it seemed like taking a year off to explore the world and learn new skills, might give her the time and self-awareness she needs to make these major life decisions. She just wasn’t ready yet.  Some kids know from the time they can talk what they want to do for a job.  Some kids, even adults, change their mind constantly. I’m guilty of this myself, but when you really contemplate that a seventeen year old has to decide their lifetime career choice at such a young and complicated age, its pretty crazy to think.

DECISION STAGE:

That’s when we found Winterline.  She couldn’t stop thinking about world travel and wanting to be able to do it before she has all the responsibilities of a job, bills, a car, an apartment, etc. Adulting is hard! She knew this and knew if she waited, she might not have the time or funds to do this after college.  She felt as though this experience would not only benefit her in so many ways, but it would give her a starting point to what kind of impact she wants to make in this world. This was it! After many long discussions, our family all felt it was a perfect plan for her, and knew she would thrive in this unique, alternative experience.thewanderlustyogi.net

She began the rigorous application process with Winterline.  She went through all of the steps; writing essays, Skype interviews, getting recommendations and sending her transcripts, to finally get accepted to this competitive program.  She also was awarded scholarships for video and blogging.  You can follow her travels on her YouTube channel: Maddie Meets the World

thewanderlustyogi.net

GAP YEAR MOM:

Now that I am officially a Gap Year Mom, I don’t know what I’m feeling? I am so excited for her to be able to have all of these experiences, but also know I will worry, a lot, and will miss her profoundly.  How I choose to manage these emotions and feelings is to blog about it.  I figure this is way to get things off my chest; the good, the bad, the ugly. In addition, I think this may be a great resource for other moms/dads who are considering letting their child go on a gap year. I wish I had something like this to read right now. Although I did meet a Gap Year Mom whose son just got back in May, that gave me her card and offered for me to call anytime for advice.  We are a rare group of parents and need support, lol.

GAP YEAR MOM SERIES:

My plan is to blog about what she is doing, which from the itinerary, looks amazing! For example; she will get scuba certified, Thai massage certified, be building a house, learn to sail a boat, learn to make a Bollywood movie, study mindfulness and meditation for a month, take driving school at BMW, learn robotics, work on a farm and many other unbelievable things. I also will give you feedback of how things feel back at home in her absence and how I cope with it.  I plan to interview her dad, her brother, her friends and possibly other gap year moms and dads.  Furthermore, I have two potential planned visits with her. The first one being in Costa Rica, during her first semester, which my husband and I already had to re-visit to finish his dental work.  (Here’s the link to that story:

How I Saved $7,000 For Dental Work in Costa Rica

The second one will be during her last semester, where I plan to visit her in Spain. I’ve always wanted to go, now, what a better excuse than this? Maybe even one of her friends can join me? That’s  not for a while so I’m not sure what will exactly happen, but the plans are in the works.

I hope that my Gap Year Mom series will not only help me, but others too.  It also will be a great way to look back on this amazing life-changing journey for my daughter Maddie, but will also be a life-changing journey for me too!

She leaves in September, so watch out for updated posts to follow. If you are interested in her sending you a post card from one of the ten countries she visits, leave a comment with your address or email me privately at strikeaposeyoga@gmail.com and we will pick one randomly per country.thewanderlustyogi.net

Sleeping in a Capsule Hotel for one Night: My Out-of-this-World Experience!

by Monday, May 9, 2016

You might be thinking? “How did you end up sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night?” I know. Crazy! It was really simple actually. My daughter and I were traveling on EVA Air (aka the Hello Kitty airline), which is a Taiwan based airline, and we had a 21 hour layover in Taipei on our way to Bali, Indonesia. We wanted to figure out an easy and cheap way to get a little rest, instead of waiting it out in the airport! That would have been horrible, especially having a 15 hour flight to JFK-New York City, once we got to leave Taipei. Ugh!thewanderlustyogi.net
I started to look for a discounted hotel around the airport by using my usual goto sites, like www.kayak.com, www.booking.com and www.agoda.com.  While browsing, I came upon this hotel called, Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. It first caught my eye because of it’s funny child-like name and theme of Teddy bears and other animated animals.  What is it about Taiwan, that everything is cartoony; Hello Kitty airlines, Teddy bear hotels?  Its so funny!  Then, the term “capsule” was something I didn’t quite understand. So, because of my curiosity, I clicked on it.
I started perusing the hotel information and reviews. It appeared to be a hostel type hotel, but the unusual part was it had individual sleep capsules for each guest to sleep in. The reviews were “excellent”, scoring a 9.0  out of 10 and the pictures made me scream with laughter!
As I laid on my hotel bed of our last night in Bali,  searching on my iPhone for a perfect place to stay the next evening, I yelled to my daughter, “I think I found where we are staying tomorrow night in Taipei?” She said, “Okay, where? Is it near the night market?” As I answered, I couldn’t help, but giggle the whole time. ” What do you think about staying in a capsule hotel? We each will get our very own pod or coffin, ha ha ha, and, we not only will have a totally unique hotel stay, but its right near a night market! Do you want me to book it??” My daughter squealed, “YES!!! This is going to be so cool!” So, for $26.00/ per capsule, I booked it!
The next day we took our 5 hour flight from Bali, Indonesia to Taipei, Taiwan. As we prepared for landing, it suddenly occurred to me that we are sleeping in a capsule hotel! This thought made me feel excited and giddy,  but also a little nervous. Not that I was scared to stay at the hotel, but I wondered if I would feel claustrophobic or not like it? In any case, we were only staying one night. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad? It’s a hell of a lot better than sleeping on an airport floor. Been there. Done that. The worst!
Now, I really knew nothing about Taipei. It was never on my list for a place to visit. On a quick overview of the city, I realized that of everything this city has to offer and with our short amount of time we had there, we had to at least;

  1. Go to a night market.

  2. Eat dumplings.

If I did those two things on our quick little layover, I would feel accomplished on my visit.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN:
We got through customs in no time and stepped outside into the taxi line. We noticed that we were not only, the only non-Taiwanese for miles around, but we were also the only English-speaking people around. This could pose for some struggles. Most places I have traveled, someone around me could speak English (the privilege we have as Americans only knowing the Universal language-cringe), especially people in the hospitality business such as taxi drivers, hotel workers and restaurant workers. Not in Taipei! This was going to be so much harder than I thought. I tried to say the name of the hotel to the taxi stand worker, “Hey Bear Capsule Hotel”. Then again slower, (this time just) “Hey Bear”, but for some reason my Boston accent came out full fledge. It does that every once in a while, even though I try my best to control it. (lol) My daughter caught it and she smiled, as to call me out.  She always does that to me and teases me about it. Brat!   I sounded ridiculous and knew I was wasting everyone’s time. He has no clue of what I was saying.  I looked around me, searching for a sign that someone knew what I was saying and could translate it for me. Nope! Not a soul.
Thankfully, for some reason, (something I’ve never noticed before) www.agoda.com, whom I booked the hotel through, had a pop-up message that said,  ‘”show this to a local language speaker to ask for directions”.  It was a picture with Taiwanese writing.  I couldn’t read it of course, but I assumed it was the name and address of the Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. I screen shotted it, just in case.
At last resort, I remembered that I took that screen shot and pulled out my phone and showed the taxi stand man.  He glanced at it quickly and boom, hailed over a taxi, told him where to take us and we were off! Just like that. So, another great tip I learned and wanted to share; for anyone staying in a foreign country that can’t speak the language or even say “hello” in their native tongue-Get your hotel information translated into that country’s language. I don’t know what we would have done? Thank you www.agoda.com. It was a total life-saver!thewanderlustyogi.net

CHECK-IN:
We arrived at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. It was in a regular building with other businesses. It had eight floors, with the hotel being on the top floor. thewanderlustyogi.netThe elevator doors opened and there was statues of teddy bears and other cute animals at the entrance. We laughed. We continued into a common area room with tables, computers, a coffee machine, a hot water machine (for ramen/tea naturally), video games, and a front desk. We went up to the front desk and was greeted by a young man. He couldn’t speak English at all. I showed him my passport and he filled out some papers, handed me two key cards and smiled. I smiled back and showed myself to the door that had a pink teddy bear on it. It was a male or female dormitory hostel. I presumed I was headed in the right direction. I also saw two young girls walking in that door, using their key card to access it while I was checking in.thewanderlustyogi.net
I took my key card and pressed it near the sensor. It opened. We entered into a locker room, with lockers and a bench, and a door to our right, leading to a bathroom,  and a row of doors to our left, with numbers labeled on each. I looked at my key card and saw that I was 805-1, my daughter’s was 805-2. I looked at the doors and found 805. It was the first door. I used my key card for access and it opened. The room was small with 4 pods on the left and 4 pods on the right. It looked like a space ship or some sort of coffins of the future. This was going to so hilarious!thewanderlustyogi.net
thewanderlustyogi.netWe each found our pod. Mine was on the top (sort of set up like bunk beds) and my daughter’s was in the one directly beneath me. We met a girl named Ivy, who had just arrived too. She had never stayed in a capsule hotel either. We all used our own key cards to access our pods and all of us were chatting and cracking up as we explored our little sleep cubicles.
When you enter, you couldn’t help but notice the blue neon light that felt almost soothing. They also had baby music pumped throughout the place that sounded sort of like a lullaby. I think its to calm you and make you feel sleepy? It’s a little creepy in a way.  I guess it was all part of the ambience?thewanderlustyogi.net

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My daughter in her capsule with iPhone in hand. Shocking!

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Me getting used to the idea that I will be sleeping in this thing!

Each pod had a basket with slippers, a bottled water, remote control (for the TV), headphones and a small towel. The bed was soft and all the linens where white. There was one pillow and underneath the pillow was a white comforter. The pod was equipped with a TV, lighted mirror, outlets for plugs and USB ports, a port for headphones and buttons for different lighting choices (back light, reading light, mirror light etc). Also, there was a button that was to lock your pod.thewanderlustyogi.net
For some reason, seeing the lock button, made my stomach feel a little uneasy.   All I thought about was, “What happens if I lock it and it didn’t open and I was stuck inside!?”  I needed to not think like that. It was going to freak me out.
I first took some video footage and pictures so that I could share this unique hotel experience with my friends, family, and my readers, but then thought it would be a good idea to see how it was going to feel, really sleeping in this thing.thewanderlustyogi.net
I laid down and pulled the blanket over me. I put the light on back light because that seemed the most like a night-light. I put the TV on and put the headphones on. Lastly, I hesitantly closed the capsule door until I heard a click. I checked it. Yep, it was definitely locked. My heart started beating a little faster. Let me just press the button to be sure it opens. I pressed it. The door made a click noise. I reached over to slide the door and it wouldn’t open! I tried again. Still nothing. I started to panic a little, but then after my third attempt, it opened. Yikes! That was a little nerve-wracking, but it was all good. “I think I’m just being a little paranoid?”,  I say to myself.
The bed felt very comfy and since I was so tired anyway,  I didn’t think I would have any trouble sleeping in this capsule at all (as long as I didn’t think about the door locking too much). The size felt bigger than you’d think and mostly anyone under six feet tall would fit perfectly fine inside with plenty of room to move around.
HOTEL/HOSTEL AMENITIES:
Besides our individual pods, we also had access to a common area that had tables and seats and computers, a bathroom that was equipped with showers, dressing rooms, mirrored vanities and restroom (Eastern-style and Western-style options-thank goodness!). Each capsule also had an assigned locker to keep your belongings in. The pod would be way too squishy if you had to store all your luggage in it with you.thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.netthewanderlustyogi.net
The one thing that stood out by far was the cleanliness of this hotel. It was absolutely meticulous and there was always someone cleaning the whole time we were there. It was not only clean, but was very modern as well. Like I said earlier,  you feel like you are in a space ship!  Its ultra-new age! The hotel itself, just opened in 2016.

CHECK OUT:
Additionally, the staff members at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel were very friendly, even if we mainly only communicated by hand gestures and smiles. The owner was a sweet women, who spoke English, and was very excited for us to recommend Hey Bear Capsule Hotel to our friends and family and she asked if we would come back. We told her we loved it, thought it was so fun, complimented the cleanliness, and even bought T-shirts of the hotel, as a keepsake. Our flight wasn’t until much later than check out, and she was kind enough to let us store our bags there until we left for the airport.thewanderlustyogi.net

Overall, sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night was a unique and fun experience that I will never forget. I’m not sure if I would recommend it for all travelers, especially for an extended period of time, for people with confinement issues (claustrophobia), for an older traveler, for someone traveling with small children, or if you are trying to have a romantic night’s stay (aka honeymoon) It’s one person per capsule.  However, if you are a free-spirit, young and able, love adventure, trying new things and not afraid of small spaces; this is surely something you will want to try at least once in your life! I never thought I would ever find myself sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night, but my experience was out-of-this-world!

Do you think you could ever sleep in a capsule hotel?

On a side note: Taipei, Taiwan was a fun city to visit with super friendly locals and would be a foodie’s delight.  We felt extremely safe and would recommend it for a female solo traveler.  We did go to a night market and ate dumplings. Two thumbs up for both! Now that I spent, almost a day there, I wish we could have stayed longer.  I hope to be able to go back some day.

Where Do Trending Celebrities Vacation?

by Thursday, March 3, 2016

When you are trying to plan your next vacation, do you ever wonder where do trending celebrities vacation? I know I do. My thinking is, if it’s good enough for them, it’s got to be good enough for me, right? I mean, they can literally go anywhere they want. It’s not like money is an issue.  The world is essentially their oyster. I decided I wanted to find out for myself. There are so many celebrities out there so I had to narrow it down a bit. I chose the top 10 trending celebrities on Twitter, in order, according to the number of their followers. If they aren’t influencers, than I don’t know who is? You may be surprised to where they go?  Maybe this will inspire you to want to go there too?

1. KATY PERRY (@katyperry/83,818,992 followers on Twitter)

This past June 2015, Katy Perry traveled to the Greek Islands, during her hiatus from her Prismatic World Tour. She vacationed with her family, including her older sister and her baby niece. This photo was taken in Mykonos with a backdrop of the Aegean Sea, with her instagram caption, “Oh my Goddess”

thewanderlustyogi.net


2. JUSTIN BIEBER (@justinbieber 76,286,692 followers on Twitter)

Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin, daughter of Stephen Baldwin, spent the holidays in Anguilla with Justin’s dad and siblings. The couple claims that they are just good friends, but they seem pretty cozy in their pictures? I wonder what Selena thinks about this?

thewanderlustyogi.netAlso spotted in Anguilla: Kendall Jenner, Harry Styles, Jon Bon Jovi, Ronald Perelman, Shia LaBeouf, Liam Neeson, Ethan Hawk, Uma Thurman, Kevin Bacon, Robert DeNiro, Toby Macuire and Dustin Hoffman. (It is said that these celebs go to Anguilla now instead of their usual St. Bart to escape the paparazzi- unfortunately it looks like not for long)


3. TAYLOR SWIFT (@taylorswift13 72,059,519 followers on Twitter)

This past December, Taylor Swift took her entire tour crew on vacation to Australia. At the final leg of her 1989 World Tour she gave her squad a much needed holiday. Her and 125 crew members spent their vacay on Hamilton Island, Australia.

 

thewanderlustyogi.net


4. BARACK OBAMA (@BarackObama 70,564,093 followers on Twitter)

I don’t know why I was surprised to see that President Barack Obama tops in Twitter followers. He is, after all, the coolest President the United States has ever had. I think it is fair to say that we all know that he is from Hawaii. Yes, that island in the United States of America Mr. Trump, not Kenya!  He and his family spend every Christmas season with family on the island of Oahu. On his visits, he enjoys golfing, spending time on the beach and eating a Hawaiian favorite, shave ice.

thewanderlustyogi.net


5. RIHANNA (@rihanna 56,724,337 followers on Twitter)

Rihanna, a native of Barbados, goes back home to vacation. Rihanna was there this past August 2015, to celebrate the Carnival Festival. She partied with her friends and enjoyed this annual event. She may be a force to be reckoned with in America, but she never forgets where she came from.

thewanderlustyogi.net


6. LADY GAGA (@ladygaga 56,424,580 followers on Twitter)

While on tour this past summer with Tony Bennet for their collaborative album, Cheek to Cheek , Lady Gaga took a little beach break in the Bahamas in June 2015. Although her career has never been so busy, as she notes in her caption on her photo on Instagram, “I take a Bahama mama. Work hard, play hard. Work hard again, play harder.”, she makes sure she takes time for herself and her loved ones, especially her fiance, Taylor Kinney, star of NBC’s Chicago Fire.

thewanderlustyogi.net


7. ELLEN DEGENERES (@TheEllenShow 54,884,493 followers on Twitter)

Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia deRossi spent the holidays with friends and family on St. Barth. On their holiday , they strolled along the shops, relaxed on the beach and dined on a yacht with Kendall Jenner and Harry Styles. These two love birds frequent this Caribbean island, as well as many other celebrities.  This is definitely a favorite among the rich and famous.  Maybe because St. Barth has a variety y of designer boutique, many fine-dining options, yachts and amazing views and it’s not too far of a flight from LA? In any case, a ton of the elite come to vacation on St. Barth.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Also spotted in St. Barth: Gwen Stefani, Beyonce and Jay Z, Lindsay Lohan, Miranda Kerr, Derek Jeter, Mariah Carey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, Channing Tatum, Paul McCartney, George Lucas, Prince, Paris Hilton, and Star Jones. (This place has got to be awesome!)


8. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (@jtimberlake 52,427,307 followers on Twitter)

During Justin Timberlake’s, 20/20 Experience World Tour, him and his wife Jessica Biel spent some time in New Zealand.  They are extremely private about their relationship and sharing pictures of themselves. That’s why it was rare to see this Instagram picture on Justin’s account with the caption, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – a quote for the fictional movie character Ferris Bueller. On their vacation, they enjoyed hiking, spending time on the black sand beaches, exploring caves and being away from the public eye.

thewanderlustyogi.net


 

9. BRITNEY SPEARS (@britneyspears 44,287,656 followers on Twitter)

This past summer, July 2015, Britney Spears, her two sons and her boyfriend, Charlie Ebersol vacationed in Hawaii. She enjoyed her time off from her Las Vegas shows, relaxing on the beach. She didn’t just relax though, she was spotted doing very difficult yoga poses while at the beach in Kauai. She is clearly determined to squeeze in some exercise, even while on vacation. Namaste!

thewanderlustyogi.net


10. KIM KARDASHIAN (@KimKardashian 41,014,992 followers on Twitter)

Last August 2015, Kim Kardashian and the whole Kardashian clan vacationed together in St. Barts. As stated earlier, this is definately a hot spot for the trending celebs. Kim being very pregnant still wore a tiny bikini and enjoyed playing in the ocean with her daughter, niece and nephew. Kim, her sisters, and her mom relaxed on the beach, shopped, dined at exclusive restaurants and went yachting. Most of the time however, the girls focused their vacation on taking their best Instagram photos of themselves. Well of course they did!

thewanderlustyogi.net


In researching the places that trending celebrities vacation, I found that they have trends within their circles too. This includes where they live, where they shop, where they dine, where they party and also where they vacay.  It seems like they influence each other on where the hot-spots are for A-Listers, whether it be The Hamptons, Hawaii, St. Barts, St. Tropez or Cabo.  Most likely, if you spot one celebrity, you can be sure to find another one to follow.

I’m looking into my summer vacation currently and now Hawaii and St. Barts is high on my radar. I doubt I’ll be able to stay at the posh, high-end and exclusive resorts where the trending celebrities stay, but at least I can be close. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t want to be near them? It could be depressing.

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