Bucket List Item Completed: See a Whale Shark


Earlier this week, my friend and I had several days off and wanted to head somewhere new. We researched many options, but were leaning toward a scuba-related trip, preferably one with sharks, as an early celebration for Shark Week next month. During our research, we found that July is the peak season for whale sharks at a little island (only 7 miles long) called Isla Holbox (pronounced “hole-bosh” rather than “hole-box”) in Mexico. We looked into lodging options, which were affordable and plentiful, and the tour was reasonably priced as well. We decided to go for it. Using our travel perks, we flew into Cancun from Miami. The island is a few hours north of Cancun and a ferry is required in order to get to it. There are a couple of transportation options, so we decided to take the easier route and arrange a shuttle directly through the whale shark tour company. It was $65 per person (cheaper with larger groups) and included pickup from the airport, a shuttle ride of about 3 hours to the town of Chiquila, ferry ride to Isla Holbox (about 30 minutes), and a taxi to the house that we rented. The other option is to arrange for a taxi or shuttle to the bus station from the airport and take one of three daily buses to Chiquila and then purchase a ferry ticket to Isla Holbox. There were many affordable hotel and rental options on booking.com, so we found a house that a woman rents out, called Casa Francesca, which was only around $150 total for 3 nights (split between two people). It was a good 15-20 minutes from the main village by foot and it lacked A/C, but it was a nice, simple getaway steps from the beach. It had a nice rooftop for laying out with great views of the surrounding area. It was also a great spot for stargazing at night! The tour was booked for the following day, so we walked along the beach, relaxed in the hammocks at the house, and explored the town, ending the day with some great Mexican food and Sol beer on the beach on the first full day. Our tour (http://www.holboxwhalesharktours.com/) was booked for 7am on the next day and was $120 per person, which included snorkeling gear, plenty of time with the whale sharks, snorkeling at a nearby reef, lunch at a small island, and a boat ride by an area populated with flamingos. It was worth every penny. We brought our GoPros along and got some amazing footage (not too bad for our first time using them!). The guide was wonderful and the groups were small enough so that we had plenty of one-on-one time with the sharks. We saw a number of whale sharks, both from the boat and in the water. The ones that we saw were around 25 feet, though they can reach lengths of around 40 feet. They come to this area during the summer to feed on the plankton (they are harmless to humans and feed more like whales than sharks) and swam a lot more quickly than I imagined! I tried to keep up with them while in the water as much as I could in order to get some good footage. Here are some pictures from the trip, and I will try to update this with a GoPro video once I figure out how to best edit them!

DIGITAL CAMERA whaleshark11 whaleshark10 whaleshark9 whaleshark7 whaleshark6 whaleshark5 whaleshark4


Bucket List Item Completed: Go to a Shooting Range


A few months ago, I was browsing around on Groupon, since I had plenty of credit in my account from a returned Groupon about two years ago. I’ve been wanting to use it on a few of my bucket list items, and was lucky enough to find a Groupon for shooting at an indoor gun range. It was $45 for 2 people (a $95 value) and included gun rental, ammunition, and a brief instruction on how to use the gun. It was located about a half hour from where I live, so I went ahead and purchased it, assuming that someone would want to tag along. Well I’ve been so busy that I hadn’t had a chance to use it or ask anyone to join me, so I received an email recently saying that it was expiring on July 20th. One of my roommates had agreed to go with me and we had the day off yesterday, so I called the place and they said to just stop on it whenever, since they weren’t too busy. We got to Miami Guns and the two gentlemen working there were extremely friendly. They chatted with us a bit and gave us an introduction to shooting. My friend has shot guns before, so I was the newbie. We had 50 rounds of ammunition and were shooting a Ruger 22. The place was pretty empty, so we got a lot of one-on-one instruction. The first shot was somewhat scary for us, but after that, it was a blast! We even decided to purchase another 50 rounds. I noticed my shot improved dramatically the second time around. The guys helping us were great and we would definitely return! What a neat experience! Now I just have to upgrade to a 9mm…

The Power of Listing Your Goals

The questionnaire

I’ll admit it; I’ve been in a rut lately. I haven’t been working out, eating right, reading, or catching up with people as much as I’d like to. My new job (and essentially lifestyle change) has definitely kept me busy with new activities and travel, but I found myself getting worn down and actually sick due to neglecting my body and inner peace.

I decided to take action and made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish this month. I tried to include goals for different aspects of my life (ex. family & friends, diet, exercise, mind). It included running at least one 6-mile run (which used to be a piece of cake for me last year, but now I struggle to even run 4 miles), run one 3-mile run in under 24 minutes (again, this used to be easy…), eliminate airplane food (other than salads and fruits) from my diet, eliminate fast food and reduce carbs and sugar intake, reunite in person with one old friend, read two new books, write two new blog posts (this is my third this month!), visit my dad and grandma (about a 4-hour drive north), and have a “ladies’ night” with my roommates. Well, the month is just about halfway through and I have accomplished almost every single goal! I just need to complete that 3-mile run in under 24 minutes and continue to eat healthy. While I am sure that I would have been able to motivate myself to do these things otherwise, I think that having a checklist definitely helped me to stay on top of them and remind me of what I would like to be doing.

Writing out your goals serves as a constant reminder for yourself and is a great method of organization and time-management. It can also boost your self-confidence as you check items off of your list. By following through with your goals, you may find yourself getting into better shape, losing weight, improving your health, stimulating your mind, saving money, or increasing overall fulfillment by spending quality time with people you love or doing activities that you enjoy.

Have you found that making lists helps you to accomplish your goals? I challenge you to formulate a checklist for the remainder of the month with just some simple goals that you’d like to accomplish. Try to keep them simple and within reach. I also made a list of things that I’d like to do before the end of the year. Try it out!


Image credit: James Madison University

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

fruits and veggies

You’ve probably heard it since you were young: eat more fruits and vegetables! At that point, they were probably the last things that you wanted to have on your plate at the dinner table. As we grow older and more aware of what we are putting into our bodies, we slowly learn the benefits of what our parents once encouraged us to eat.

As summer begins, I have found that it’s easier for me to eat more fruits and veggies as they seem like refreshing snacks on a hot day. They are an integral part of a healthy diet, and we should be consuming several servings of them daily. Do you get enough of them?

According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, within a 24-hour period containing 24,000 test subjects, only 11% received the recommended number of servings (two or more of fruit and three or more of vegetables) per day. A study from 2005 showed that less than a third of American adults received the proper serving of fruits and about a quarter reported eating the recommended amount of vegetables.

According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables “can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.” They suggest mixing it up by trying out different types and different colors of fruits and vegetables to attain the most nutrients.

A long-term study by Harvard University found that there was a direct link between consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased risk of heart disease and stroke. Those who had 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke, compared to those in the lowest category at 1.5 servings or less. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study found that people with high blood pressure who followed a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products reduced both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure to numbers similar to what medications can achieve.

While data on the link between cancer and consumption of fruits and vegetables is variable, researchers typically agree that certain fruits or vegetables can lessen the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer. For example, fruit may help to prevent lung cancer and tomatoes may aid in preventing prostate cancer in men. In 2007, the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting showed that among smokers, those who ate the most food rich in flavonols (spinach, apples, onions, and berries), were 59% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

The indigestible fiber of fruits and vegetables may relieve or prevent constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, many fruits and vegetables have been linked to healthy vision by preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Eating more fruits and vegetables may also assist in weight loss, as they are typically low-calorie options and provide a lot of water and fiber to add volume to your plate, so that you can eat more food but fewer calories.

To work on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, go out of your way to purchase them at the grocery store and keep them out in your kitchen for you to grab when you are hungry. Make a conscious effort to eat them while you are out at restaurants. Mix it up by buying different fruits and veggies so that you don’t get “bored” with the same ones. Continue to look up new recipes to spice up your diet as well. Try adding fruits and vegetables to dishes that you already like!




Image credit: Roma Foods


Bucket List Item Completed: Visit Italy

visit italy

Last month, two of my good friends and I (my two adventure buddies from the trip to Peru last year from a previous post), took full advantage of my travel perks and planned a one-week getaway to Italy. I say planned, though in reality, we did no planning other than buying an Italian phrasebook and a Lonely Planet guide along with picking a week in May that worked for the three of us. There was no guarantee that we would make it, since my travel passes are not confirmed tickets and the flight that we wanted was oversold. We made it on with pure luck and embarked on an adventure throughout Italy, cramming as much in as we could and completely winging it every day. I will summarize the vacation in a later post with plenty of details in case you are ever hoping to visit the amazing country, which has so much to offer.

10 Life Lessons From a Navy Seal

navy sealThis inspiring piece has been circulating on the web recently and I wanted to share it with you:

10 Life Lessons From a Navy Seal

Please take the time to read it! It is primarily about overcoming many of the obstacles that life throws at us. Failures make us stronger. If you can motivate yourself into dealing with life’s hardships, you will be better suited to assist others with making this world a better place.


Photo credit: Lifebuzz.com (The University of Texas at Austin, Marsha Miller)


Life Experiences, Not Things, Make You Happier


In case you were wondering what to spend your tax return on, you may want to avoid the mall and look into a fulfilling experience instead! Researchers have discovered, unsurprisingly, that people tend to spend their money on material goods, assuming that goods are of higher “value.” In reality, our long-term happiness depends more on experiences than on our possessions, which typically only deliver instant gratification. Consider purchasing a vacation package, trying a new activity for the first time, or even spending that money volunteering or taking a fun class.

Check out the article and video here: