Yup, the birthplace of liberty. This is where Paul Revere came to warn John Hancock & Samuel Adams that “the British were coming” and home to the first shots of the Revolutionary War. Some may argue that it was actually in Concord where it all began, but I had the pleasure of staying in Lexington and, well, I’m a little biased ;). Now, I never was a true history fan in school growing up, but it’s interesting to see how we have been so drawn to such historical cities lately (like Beaufort)! And you know what? We love it!! And with that, we packed our bags, waved au revoir to NYC and drove on up about 3.5 hours to Lexington, Massachusetts to experience what it had to offer.

the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park

For lodging, we stayed at a hidden gem: The Inn at Hastings Park, part of the Relais & Château network, a very prestigious network of hotels across the globe that was started in France and prides itself on delivering the best in hospitality. The décor was so inviting, as classic New England can be, with a bar area and a ‘living room/reading area’ located on the ground floor. Imagine a good book just waiting to be read, a beautiful piano, warm tea and coffee ready to be sipped, and a small, but curated, selection of games, like scrabble, for those comfy late nights up where you just want to unwind. Our room was very comfortable and made us feel very relaxed, too; they even left us a little sweet treat on the armoire. Those little details are just what I adore the most!

the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park
the inn at hastings park

Now, we’ve never been to Lexington, but we were so eager to find out more about this place. We started at the local tourist centre where we received recommendations on a few places for us to eat, sights to check out (including John Hancock’s home, Munroe Tavern, Battle Green, etc.) and even got to hear a local’s take on life in Lexington; getting to know the locals is something we very much love to do whenever we are traveling. As we were inside, we heard drumming that was faint and started to get louder and louder. We looked out the window and saw a march down the main street in honor of Veteran’s Day. We ran out, listened to the marching band, reflected on all the great things about our country and had our hearts warmed.

Lexington has a relaxed pace and is great for taking it down a notch (super important for a city girl like me!). We’ve checked out a few places during our short stay there; below are just a few of our recommends:

  • Pampering: MiniLuxe was such a cute place for a mani (it was my birthday, why not? :)).
  • Baked Goods: Sweet Thyme Bakery & Très Petite Crêperie (croissant heaven!)
  • Shop: There are so many cute stores with unique finds here. I say take a nice stroll up and down and take your time :). One of my faves for a nice curated selection of beautiful pieces and fun stuff: A Pocket Full of Posies

Eat: Via Lago seemed like the place many locals were hitting up for lunch, so we did as well; great for sandwiches, wraps and soups. We were also directed to Royal India Bistro, as it was known to be the best for Indian food out there. And a GREAT dinner for a special occasion or just to treat yourself? Artistry on the Green. Not only was it at the Inn we were staying at, but the food was dreamy. My husband is a BIG foodie and he said that it was there that he had the best scallops in his life. They use locally harvested foods from the New England area and the chef and crew are very passionate about food! A MUST!

inn at hastings park

One of our favorite (and probably most memorable) parts of the trip was taking a nice long walk through the trails that led to Walden Pond at the Walden Pond State Reservation, where poet Henri David Thoreau lived for 2 years and wrote his popular reflection about living a simpler life in nature titled Walden. Naturally, we visited the site of the home he built and reflected by the pond ourselves.

walden pond
walden pond thoreau
road trip driving
walden pond thoreau
walden pond thoreau

If you’re looking for a nice retreat away from the city and want to take in a bit of history I’d definitely recommend Lexington. Concord is also just a short drive away, great for more cute shops and history! Check out Lexington’s calendar of events to see what’s going on in the area to help plan your next trip :). And, as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment/question below or email me and I will respond! Happy traveling!

xx,
signalorenii

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G.

Gap Year Abroad: How to Choose a Country & Visa Type

Days of day-dreaming finally giving you the itch to take a gap year/break from your routine and jump into another experience? And abroad, too?! You little dare-devil you.

I get it. I’ve been thinking of taking a break from New York for a while— a few years, actually, but was never able to convince myself to just peel away and ‘go.’ After attending the  Tony Robbins seminar, though, it gave me the validation I needed for my soul and just knew that we just had to make the move sooner rather than later. If I didn’t, it would be something I would regret.

But the question was: where?

I mean, it seemed very much like a first-world problem at the time: we could go anywhere in the world, but we didn’t know where to go. Portugal? France? Spain? All of these countries brought me so many questions. This wasn’t just a vacation that would end in two-weeks you know; this was our life for a year. We would stay there and not come back for a while. I needed to think about: the cost of living, quality of life, health insurance requirements, ease of getting a job, what the job market was like (a lot of countries require employers to prove that none of their citizens who applied were capable of doing the job so they, last resort, offered it to you), the occupations that the country needed, safety, transportation, etc.!

In an effort to hopefully help make your road-to-country discovery smoother and less overwhelming, I’ve laid some steps below from my own learnings!

1. SEEK TRADITIONAL RESOURCES:

To be honest, searching online was overwhelming. While the World Wide Web is amazing, there is just so much information and from everywhere. I’d be up until 3am every day trying to put together a document with pros & cons; and, even then, I feared missing a piece of information. I couldn’t handle it anymore as my options were constantly changing– every day was a new country! Monday, Indonesia. Tuesday, Portugal. Wednesday, Denmark. I knew that if I kept down this path, I would be 100 years old, sitting at my computer and still be confused.

So, I turned to Amazon and searched for books to help. Traditional, printed books are good for this because you can’t really get too distracted and “click another link;” it forces you to get into the “what you see is what you get” mentality, making your search efforts a bit more narrowed down and more easily digestible.

I ended up buying “Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America” and loved that it gave such great information. Not only is it very resourceful in terms of providing advice on things like health insurance, visas, etc., it also gives you some good stats to consider about each country: crime rates, population, etc. The book speaks to countries in which it has received expat testimonials with the testimonials included!

After reading every single page, I dog-eared my picks and then started looking into the thing that would essentially allow me to go: visas.

 

2. CHECK VISA TYPES & ELIGIBILITY:

With your countries now narrowed down, it’s time to look into their offerings & requirements. Some things to keep in mind when looking at government websites for visas are: time of the year you are applying for a visa (is the enrollment period open? If not, when does it open?), length of time to process (some take days, some take weeks), amount of visas available for US citizens (each country is different, can range from 10 to unlimited), occupation (can you get a specialized visa?) and age (age-specific visas are available— one size may not always fit all).

Each country has their own set of visas and looking into them all will help narrow down which ones match closest to what you’re going for and if you qualify.

Since we were looking for New Zealand, here are some we came across as an example (for a full list, click here):

Work Visas: available if you have a company “sponsor” you, meaning you land in a different country and you already have a set job with a business that, pretty much, vouched for you and brought you over. You can look at off-shoring companies/jobs for these in which you can enter a contract for your stay; this option also opens up many more countries you can choose from because you are committing to staying for at least 1-year with the employer, typically.

Residential Visa: it’s a bit more of a commitment if you really have your heart set on staying somewhere for a very long time. Requirements can have you invest in property to staying for an extended stay of years; this one is more popular with people seeking to retire to other countries.

Skilled Migrant Visa: if you have an specialized skill/occupation that the country is in need of due to shortage (such as nursing or construction), you can come over with this “specialized skill” to work and stay.

Working Holiday Visa: After tapping deeper into visas, I stumbled upon “working holiday visas.” Essentially, they are visas that allow you to vacation (or go on ‘holiday’), while also allowing you to legally work in that country for a certain amount of time.

Under this visa, as an American citizen, I soon learned that my options were the following: Canada, Ireland, England, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The catch? You had to be at most 30 years of age at the time of application (I believe Australia is now 35 years of age). The work/holiday visa was exactly what I was looking for and, with being just one year short of the age limit, I knew this was my time to apply.

 

3. WEIGH YOUR TRAVEL INTENTION

So after reviewing visa requirements and seeing that some of the world is your oyster, you now have a shorter list of countries to choose from. Woohoo! You’ve narrowed it down!

Before deciding on one over the other, it is very important to think about your travel intention, A.K.A.: what are you seeking from this move that your current country isn’t quite giving you?

Have the conversation with yourself (and if you’re going with others, get them talking about this, too!). Last thing you want is to be drawn somewhere, arrive, and second-guess that country versus another!

Here was my thought process to help guide you:
Personally, I really wanted to remove myself from the constant hustle & bustle and get more in touch with my soul; I also wanted to be more outdoors than not. While Canada offered so many beautiful outdoor adventures, I wanted to be somewhere a bit warmer during the winter months. I also wanted to be somewhere that I felt was more “once in a lifetime” in terms of the travel time required. While I had Ireland and the UK as my options, I gently placed them to the side as I could always hop on a plane across the pond from NYC and be there in six/seven hours. Singapore intrigued me, but since I wasn’t a recent college graduate, I didn’t qualify. This left me with two last options: Australia and New Zealand.

Australia’s beaches were tempting, but I knew so many people that have been there. It seemed that Australia was more popular and, through pop-culture and Instagram, saw that the culture kind of resembled the USA a bit.

New Zealand on the other hand? Not so much. I could count with my two fingers all the people I ever knew who’ve travelled there on vacation. The little cousin of Australia, whose total country population is less than that of New York City’s, intrigued me so much. It wasn’t a quick flight (I needed to dedicate at least 24 hours to get there) and it looked like it offered a lot of hiking, space and nature. Countless adventures seemed to be had and, oh, according to what popped up on my Google image searches of ‘New Zealand,’ it seemed absolutely photoshopped and I just had to go confirm the validity of these locations. I mean, REALLY(?!), those perfectly snow-capped mountains and bazillion sheep wandering around green rolling hills just *happened?!*

It wasn’t somewhere many people I knew went, which made me want to go there even more.

My intention was set. I thought about it. I weighed my options. I was all about uncovering the beauty of “the underdog” and, so, New Zealand turned out to be my heart’s desire.

 

4. APPLY FOR YOUR VISA— OFFICIALLY:

With your intention set and country chosen, now it’s time to fill out your visa. Make sure to gather ALL necessary documents BEFORE applying (the government’s website will detail it all out for you). You will find that, if any info is missing, it will only give you more stress; best to do your homework beforehand! Note: some countries will ask you for your passport (if you don’t have one, you need to get one first!) and they require your passport to be valid for a length of time (if you do have one, and it’s going to expire in three to six months, best to renew it!).

I remember applying for my student visa at the French Embassy in NYC once and I missed a few pieces of information that it left me running around the city like a crazy person, stressed, frustrated and in tears. Day after day I returned, until I finally received my visa. Best bet is to gather EVERY PIECE OF DOCUMENT before starting the application— trust me!

Alternatively, if there is no embassy for the country you are interested in applying to in your current city, your host country may have the visa application available online! This was the case with New Zealand for us.

I made sure to have all information ready before applying on their government’s immigration website; yes, you can even come across delays online and it can become even more cumbersome due to back and forth emailing/phone calls that may need to be made.

Check out the fees required for the country, too. For Americans interested in New Zealand: the price for the visa application is zero dollars (yep, that’s right— who’s coming now? ;)— Australia is about $300), the turn-around time is lightening fast, and the immigration website is the best I have ever seen (there’s even a chart mapping your emotions throughout the year when acclimating to a new country based on previous immigrants as the survey!).

Now you sit and wait! Remember, it may take some time and government sites do let you know how long processing will take. If it says “six to eight weeks,” go into your calendar eight weeks from applying and put in a reminder that your visa should have arrived by then! :).

Hope this helps!
Got questions? Ask ’em below!

xx,

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B.

Beaufort: Small City, Big History, Lots of Beauty

I like pushing the envelope. It’s just what my curiosity does to me. It’s a curse, perhaps at times, but when it comes to travel, however, I find it as a true blessing. It was no surprise, then, when planning my trip to Georgia that I wanted to squeeze in a day-trip to South Carolina. Now, I knew my days were tight, so I made sure to make this destination worth it. Cue in Beaufort, SC, a little city that opened my heart and mind through its history.

As a NYC resident, I wanted to explore more of a southern coastal city (can you blame me?)  and so when I saw Beaufort featured in the New York Times (and then after I booked my trip saw it featured in Southern Living and Vogue,) well, you know I just had to check what this city was all about.With a population of about 13,000 (and it being the second-oldest city in South Carolina), I must say, I felt pretty close to everyone I encountered and felt the history instantaneously upon my arrival.

I partnered with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce to plan my trip and when I asked:
“What’s the best way to see the city?”
“Via a walking tour,” is what they non-hesitantly replied.

So, my husband and I got in the car, waved ‘bye’ to Savannah for the day and headed up north about 1.5 hours.

When we arrived to the visitor’s center in Beaufort, we were happily greeted and given recommendations of where to eat and what to check out. Never be shy about asking locals – they are the best source of information!

We started our day with lunch at Plums. Real talk: I have been having SO much delicious butter (and shrimp!) down south that I opted for a refreshing chicken salad – oh, and some oysters on the side, of course to change things up a little bit and give my body a bit of a break. As we entered the restaurant, we requested outdoor seating and were escorted to the back, right by the Waterfront Park, a wonderful spot for people-watching and seeing boats pass you by. Interestingly enough, every couple of minutes during our conversation, we’d have to stop talking because we had fighter jets fly over us; turns out, we were right near Parris Island, a Marine Corps Air Station. How cool, because you never see those jets flying around in NYC!

After lunch, we went on our walking tour of Beaufort where I walked amongst some of the most beautiful Antebellum houses I have ever seen, built on what used to be plantation fields and learned that they were used during the war. Today, many of the homes are residential and used for films! There were so many movie references while on the tour, I wish I was a big movie person to understand; but it was okay, I understood the history and, honestly, just walking along the streets filled with oak trees, Spanish moss, birds chirping, carriage steps and imaging myself back in the 1700s was just incredible.

Friends, look at the following photos and imagine yourself hearing horseshoes and standing in front of these beautiful homes while feeling the slight breeze on your cheek.  We walked around the city for about two to three hours. All worth it. So in love:

After our super informative tour, shopping was obviously next on the list. I sometimes wish I had a cute little beach home that I could decorate à la plage. But, who says that daydreaming is a bad thing?  Even if it’s to go inside and imagine the décor I’d put into my beach home, I have a wonderful time just strolling around, touching every piece of glass, opening up and flipping the pages of freshly printed coffee table books, and sniffing every candle my nose can handle.  At this point, my husband was outside sitting on a bench waiting for me as he turned to his phone and flipped through who-knows-what. Either way, I stayed inside the store and kept exploring. Scout Southern Market was such a great find! They have such wonderful things inside that are one-of-a-kind and I poo-poo on myself for not buying the beautiful blue & white porcelain dish I kept going back to!  Lucky for me, they deliver.  I’ll be adding that to my to-do list ;).

As we know, shopping works up an appetite (yes, yes it does, ladies ;)) and I was craving something sweet. I recalled the gelato sign we passed by earlier in the day and headed back to Common Ground Marketplace Café where I indulged in a wonderful lemon sorbet. As a lactose-intolerant soul, I highly appreciate when places that carry gelato also carry sorbet. It was the perfect treat after walking around for hours under the sun.

After our little snack, we sat by the Waterfront Park on its swings for a while and enjoyed the beautiful waterside view. We made our way through some more cute shops and pondered about how great our day was, how much we learned and which restaurant would be our last stop for dinner (we love to eat, don’t judge ;)).

We ended up crossing over a little bridge and (per a local’s strong recommendation- I mentioned I loved locals, ya?) headed on over to the Dockside Restaurant for dinner. I KNOW.  I know.  I said I wasn’t going to have any more shrimp. But… it was strongly recommended… and how could I not? ;).

As we finished up our dinner, we packed ourselves back into the car and headed back down to Georgia. Our day in Beaufort was as beautiful as its homes, its nature, its water, its friendly people and, most of all, its rooted history (for the history buffs, check more out here). In a city that I knew nothing about, I walked out knowing so much and banked the trip in my memory, so happy I fed my curious mind.

xx,
Loren.


Outfit

Dress: Revolve | Shoes: Nine West | Watch: Fossil | Sunglasses: Shein

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