Girls Love Travel NYC Meetup

Less than a year ago, the incredible and wonderful online community called Girls Love Travel was founded. Using Facebook as its platform, Girl Love Travel brings women young and old and from all corners of the world together to share and discuss travel and adventure stories, information, and general positivity.  I’ve been with the community from the very start and am so beyond excited to see it grow (our logo is now a registered trademark! Crazy!). While Girls Love Travel functions mostly online, we do have in-person interaction, too. I first met the founder of Girls Love Travel, Haley Woods, last January at a small meetup in Orlando, where we went to Disney World and had SO much fun!  It was a pleasure to be able to meet up with even more women from the community this past weekend at an event in New York City!

Girls Love Travel organizes events and meetups around the globe as a way for women to connect through travel.  A large meetup was held in Los Angeles not too long ago and, after the success of that west coast event, we decided to have one on the east coast, too.  Last Saturday, we meet up in Brooklyn for a fantastic afternoon of drinks, friends, story telling, and overall fun!!

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I arrived a little early since I live (relatively) nearby.  I took a train into Long Island City, Queens, and walked over the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn, where our event was being held.  Our venue was a fabulous rooftop with views of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.  It was stunning!

I checked in upon arrival and immediately headed to the merch table – there are so many great goodies to be had! The red tank top with our logo had been catching my eye for quite some time, so I was happy to make a purchase.  Not long after, more and more women showed up and the event was really underway!

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We feasted on yummy sandwiches, caprese appetizers, fruit, desserts, and gulped down some Hubert’s Lemonade, wine, and cocktails.  People floated around and exchanged incredible travel stories, divulged travel tips and info, and just got to know one another.  I was so happy to meet a bunch of women who happen to live within walking distance of me.  Girls Love Travel has a great way of bringing people together!

There was a raffle that included a bunch of prizes, a photo shoot for our upcoming 100,000 member milestone, and goodie bags! It was such a fun afternoon that no one wanted to leave – I helped organize an “after outing” with some of the girls in Queens that eventually landed us in Manhattan later that night.  A group of us enjoyed the sunset from Hunter’s Point Park and then took the East River Ferry into the City.  Drinks and dinner at Joshua Tree rounded out the night!

Seriously, it was an incredible day.  I met so many amazing women, shared information, stories, and laughs, and just had so much fun with everyone! There’s definitely a unique bond that Girls Love Travel creates among its members.  If you’re a female who loves adventure and travel, or are even just interested in getting started with travel, check out our facebook page! There’s so much to read about and explore there!

 

Happy travels!

sarahheart

 

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Baby Gators and Thunderstorms

Over the years, I’ve written a number of blog posts recounting my adventures at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida.  It’s an absolute favorite spot of mine and, on most visits, I am usually blown away by the fantastic wildlife sightings and encounters I have there (especially during the more active gator season!).  When I first moved to Florida a few years ago, I thought my hiking days were pretty much over – I was used to hiking mountain ridges and dense forests and Florida didn’t really have any of that.  But Circle B Bar Reserve has proved to be one of my favorite hiking places of all time.  On my penultimate trip there (…I recently moved house and no longer live near it! So sad!!) I got to see some baby alligators, got super close to some wildlife, and outran an incredible thunderstorm. Of course, I took pictures 😉

When I arrived at Circle B, I immediately noticed the posted signs indicating that the major trail, Alligator Alley, was closed.  There wasn’t a specific reason given for the closures, but my assumption is that it had to perhaps do with the many alligators and sightings there recently.  With the main trail closed, I decided to just head up the trail that leads to it, which fortunately still offers incredible views and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

The trail I walked up sits in the middle of a large wetland area.  I had my infamous massive-gator-encounter here (see the gator here!) and was hoping to actually see another.  There weren’t any large gators this time, but I did spot a number of baby ones! So cute!

It was gorgeous and sunny as I headed down the trail in hopes of some more wildlife sightings, as evidenced by this lovely photo here (lol):

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Perfect skies, perfect temperature! It was seriously gorgeous.  I continued my way down the trail and even explored part of the Alligator Alley trail until I was met with the closed-off area and warnings not to dare attempt entering it (which I did not).  I did, though, make friends with a brave and fearless squirrel!

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After becoming acquainted with my new squirrel friend, I began making my way back and, for the first time, noticed how extremely dark it had gotten.  The sky was no longer a beautiful and clear blue, but a dark and storm grey.  Thunder sounded in the distance.  I was standing in an open wetland… So I booked it back to my car.

The storm that rolled through was impressive.  The wind gusted so hard, Spanish moss rained down from the trees and large branches fell to the ground.  I had a hard time keeping to the center of the trail as I headed back, the wind was that strong!

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I made it back to my car just before it started down-pouring.  The whole experience was a reminder of just how powerful mother nature can be, and how quickly a really nice day can turn really dangerous in a matter of minutes (weather in Florida is so fascinating this way!).

So, although my hike didn’t include my favorite trail and was cut short by the extreme weather, it was still an eventful and worthwhile adventure! I’ll certainly miss you, Circle B!

sarahheart

Summer Perfection: Hoboken’s Pier 13

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Summertime means getting outside and enjoying the sunshine, preferably with a refreshing beverage in hand. In Hoboken, New Jersey, the “Mile Square City,” that means heading over to Pier 13.  With food trucks, fun drinks, and incredible views of the New York City skyline, it’s hard to beat!

Pier 13 stretches out into the Hudson River on the north end of Hoboken.  It’s a bit unassuming if you merely walk by it on a stroll of the waterfront, but once you walk out onto it, everything changes.

At the front of the pier, you’ll encounter that day’s food trucks.  Pier 13 has a pretty great “collection” of food trucks that change and rotate day-to-day.  My favorites include the Dark Side of the Moo (burgers, wings, tacos), Amanda Bananas (banana-based ice cream!), and Carnivale (stuffed donuts!).  There’s generally at least five options to choose from, unless you happen to go during their monthly Food Truck Frenzy, when ALL the food trucks come to share their deliciousness! It’s quite an event!

After the food trucks comes the booze! If you want to drink, you’ll have to get a wristband as you walk farther down to the pier toward the water.  Here, you’ll encounter the drink stations.  There are two structures on the pier that serve alcohol – one is more geared toward cocktails and the other is a bit more beer-centric. Pier 13 is home to all sorts of fantastic drinks! You can get a “beach ball” or a “party pail” to bring out into the seating area with you. I personally enjoy their spiked lemonade and Arnold Palmer beverages – super refreshing on a hot day!

Once you grab your drinks, grab a seat! The remaining stretch of the pier is devoted to casual and relaxed grass-carpeted seating.  These brightly colored lawn chairs are perfect for sitting back and enjoying your food, drink, and friends.  Around 5pm each day, the crowd on the pier switches over from moms-with-their-kids-enjoying-the-sunshine-and-booze to young-and-hip-twenty-somethings-getting-a-drink-after-work.  It’s a great place to head with friends and coworkers to unwind from the day’s work grind!

Of course, you can’t talk about Pier 13 without mentioning the stunning views.  New York City serves as the scenic backdrop, with the iconic Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Freedom Tower taking center stage. Even if you go it alone to Pier 13, enjoy your drink and just take in the incredible sights!

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Pier 13 is always hosting fun events ranging from movie nights and painting classes, to silent dance parties and mini golfing.  There’s also boating and water activities available from the pier, too, if you’re looking for something that gets you off the concrete and into the waves.  Summer is the perfect time to try paddle boarding and kayaking!

For more information about everything Pier 13 has to offer, check them out:

Website // Instagram // Facebook

 

Happy travels and happy summer!

sarahheart

Touring Florida’s Natural Orange & Citrus Center

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I have lived smack in the middle of orange grove central for three years now and I have finally gotten around to really exploring the citrus world.  Citrus is huge in Florida – many of my friends work or have family members who work in the citrus industry.  I’ll be honest, I never knew so many variations of citrus existed before living here!  Sure, I knew there were a few types of oranges and lemons and grapefruits and so on… but never before have I encountered so much variety, including ones I have never heard of before, even when out in the wild simply hiking or walking!

My curiosity in learning more about citrus led me to a visit to the Florida’s Natural Orange visitor center.  Here, one can take a look at the history of citrus in Florida and discover just how large and complex the industry is – there’s a lot more to it than just oranges!

The Florida’s Natural visitor center is located on route 27, southwest of Orlando by about an hour.  They’re closed Memorial Day through the end of September, during the off season, so plan a trip during the “cooler” months! I went around midday during the middle of the week.  Surprisingly, no one else was there! It was very quiet (but very nice that way!).  There are different varieties of citrus growing around the visitor center property, so I browsed through them and was amazed at how many different kinds of oranges there are! Many are non-native, having been brought from other parts of the world, but I was surprised to learn that there was a unique local variety of orange, too.

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Inside the center, there is a large gift shop that makes up the front of the building.  Anything you can think of that could be “orange-ized” pretty much is.  I tried some citrus flavored popcorn (it was really good!!) and sampled some of Florida Natural’s juices.  The rear of the center is devoted to information exhibits about the history of citrus and the formation of Florida’s Natural.

The self-guided, walk-through tour gives visitors the chance to learn about all aspects of the citrus industry – from picking and boxing, to the effects of weather and how the growing seasons work.  Florida’s Natural began as a co-op in 1933.  Growers worked hard to develop methods to best pack and ship their crop and produce their juice, which used to only be canned juice and concentrate (non-concentrate didn’t come around until the 1980’s!).  It amazed me how there was so much work that went into developing and building the wooden crates that oranges are famously seen in nowadays – it was the best way to pack the fruit without damaging it!

Since the citrus industry began, weather has always played a large role in the growing and harvesting of the fruit.  There have been years where frost has virtually wiped out the season’s crop.  I think many people don’t realize how damaging something like this really can be to an entire industry or business; for example, many local, smaller groves in Florida survive by selling their crop to larger citrus businesses, such as Florida’s Natural.  If the local groves suffer crop loss from freezing temperatures or frost, their business is essentially lost for an entire portion of the year (and all the money that went into growing the citrus is wasted).  Similarly, fires can just as easily decimate entire groves.  And, in an extremely hot climate like Florida, groves are vulnerable to wildfire threats.  It was really an eye-opening experience to learn about and consider all this information.

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Florida’s Natural also focuses heavily on energy conservation.  The visitor center, for example, receives its energy from solar panels.  With entire groves exposed to sunlight, its easy to see how citrus and energy can go hand-in-hand.  Even the watering systems for the groves have been worked and reworked to reduce water runoff and waste!

So the next time you reach for that cold glass of orange juice, consider where it all came from!  I am very lucky to be surrounded by these wonderful orange groves on a daily basis and enjoy their (literal) fruits. Next time you find yourself in Florida, particularly in the Orlando (or even Tampa!) area, swing by Florida’s Natural for a look at the history of the citrus industry, a taste of their products, and a sample of the citrus-inspired goodies they have! You’ll be amazed at just simply how many varieties of citrus there are!

Happy travels!

sarahheart

 

 

 

8 Ways To Pass Time At The Airport

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Whether you show up super early to not miss your flight, or get caught with a long layover, spending time at the airport often means sitting in a chair for hours on end simply waiting for your next plane.  Sure, you may browse the shops or walk around, but what about those late-night flights or overnight layovers where everything in the airport is closed? Sure, you can always create a short video to entertain yourself (see what this awesome guy did here!), but there are actually a number a ways to occupy your time during those seemingly never-ending airport hours.

 

1. Get In Your Exercise

If I have lots of time at an airport, I’ll often walk from terminal to terminal to explore and check out what’s around.  This allows me to see various food options if I’m hungry (no such luck if it’s super late at night, though), discover neat views of the runways, and just see what planes are arriving and from where. I usually end up walking a couple miles this way, which is perfect since the next few hours are generally followed by sitting in a cramped airplane seat.  If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can find a space at an empty gate and actually do your workout routine – I’ve seen people jog in place, break out yoga mats, do squats, etc.  Some airports even have free yoga/exercise areas you can take advantage of!

2. Tackle That Book

Bringing something to read normally tops every list of “things to do on an airplane” or in an airport, but that’s because it’s truly really good advice.  If you’re like me, you probably have a mental list of books you’ve told yourself you’d like to read that has only gotten longer and longer over the years.  I take my time at the airport (and on the plane) to knock out some of this list as often as possible (I’ve finished Heart of Darkness, The Revenant, and a book about Ernest Shackleton this way).  So, bring that always-wanted-to-read-book with you and settle in for a page-turning adventure!

3. Find A Place To Sleep

If you happen to have a lengthy overnight layover, this may be for you. Sleeping in the seats at your gate is usually uncomfortable (unless the seats don’t have armrests and you can spread out!), so securing a comfy spot elsewhere is usually a good option.  Lots of airports have public “lounge areas” with larger (comfier) seats and tables (that you can put your feet up on!). If you are a lounge/club member with a certain airline, take advantage and use their amenities.  Otherwise, find a corner or comfy area (some even have TVs! The joy!) and rest up.  Remember to set an alarm to get to your gate on time!

4. Plane Spotting

If you are not familiar with this phrase, plane spotting is seeking out airplanes and tracking their take-offs, landings, and general movements.  I love to find great plane spotting locations at airports (which usually involves walking around the different terminals to find views of the runway) and watch the planes come and go.  If you’ve never seen a double-decker A380 take off – you’re in for treat! It’s a great way to pass the time and enjoy a view of the planes.  Lots of people consider photography a large part of plane spotting, too.  Finding the perfect viewing location can result in some fantastic photos! Plus, you may find new areas of the airport to explore and get some great views!

5. Catch Up On Some Work

It may sound mundane, but layovers and early arrivals are excellent times to get some work done.  Even if it has nothing to do with your actual job, there are probably “household” work things you can catch up on – sending e-mails, calling family members, paying online bills, editing travel photos, etc.  I often catch up on actual work as well as “household” work. It saves me a lot of time later on!

6. Do A Food and/or Drink Tour of the Terminals

If you are with a group of people (or can find one!), this is even better.  Dining options vary wildly by terminal and you might be surprised what yummy treats are hiding at a terminal different than your own! I found my favorite new sandwich place, for example, when I flew out of a different terminal than the one I usually do at the Orlando airport.  If you’re one for drinks at the airport, try the different bars!

7. Make Friends

Some people are naturally better at this than others, but it never hurts to be friendly to someone! Sometimes the last thing many people want is someone else bothering them with conversation in the midst of their travel stresses and worries, but I’ve found that this is the exact time I’m more thankful to have a stranger strike up a conversation with me.  After almost missing a connection, a girl about my age boarding the same plane began speaking with me at the gate. We happened to end up seated together, too, and it was nice to welcome the cool discussion we had going.  It’s never a bad thing to have friends in different corners of the world! You never know when one of those friendly connections could turn into your next trip, place to stay, or party partner!

8. Work on Your Hobby/Interest

I think it’s safe to say we all have hobbies and interests that we somehow never end up having as much time for as we want.  For me, that’s writing.  If I’m sitting at the airport, I may as well break out my computer and start working on that novel! It’s a great way to spend time doing something that you really love and could potentially help alleviate that airport stress that can creep in!

There are so many things to do at airports! Leave a comment if you have something in particular that you do to pass the time! 🙂

Happy travels!

sarahheart