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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Brooklyn native, Latina, and founder of Enlightened by Bravery, an adventure/travel and wellness blog that focuses on drawing inspiration from adventures around the world back into your life // iPhoneographer // Francophile

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  1. Absolutely loving your website girl! It’s really informative…..

    Missing you and Max Lots! I hope you’re NOT enjoying Australia

    Remember, if you’re ever back in New Zealand, please come and visit……

    As we say here in AOTEAROA, naku na, ka kite ano toku hoa! (Until we meet again my friend)

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E.

Easy, Healthy Homemade Granola Recipe!

easy healthy homemade granola

To be honest, my love of granola grew from my efforts of trying to make plain, unsweetened greek yogurt seem delicious years ago. Alone, the greek yogurt was tangy as heck (ugh, why). But with granola? Man, that crunch saved me. IT SAVED MY SOUL!

Yet, pacing down the aisles of the supermarket, I was baffled as to why granola wasn’t pure in the sense that it seemed to have to have juices/syrups from concentrate to sweeten it and things like TOCOPHEROLS to keep it fresh. The really good ones I did find (more natural, organic, simple ingredients) were all at least $9/$10 for a little bag. Yikes.

So, I did my research and started making my own at home! I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and having the power to control the ingredients made it everything I ever wanted and more. Throughout the years, I’ve done lots of trial and error, but it has brought me to tune the flavors into the easy, healthy and homemade granola recipe that I share with you today! It also happens to be my husband’s favorite — a big compliment, as he can sometimes be a bit of a food snob. What? I keep it real ;).

I promise that when you’re making these in the oven, your kitchen is going to smell like someone lit up a cinnamon-vanilla candle (best part? you can eat this!). Put it in your favorite yogurt, atop of smoothie bowls, or just have it with your favorite milk/mylk as a cereal! Enjoy!


Healthy Homemade Granola – total prep, cook + cool time: 40 mins
yields 3.5 cups of granola. keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
gluten-free*/vegetarian/dairy-free

* 1 TBSP virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil
* 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free* oats if making gluten-free)
* 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 cup walnut pieces
* 1/4 cup raw, local honey
* 2 TBSP ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp vanilla powder**
* 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) of ground, pink himalayan sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 300ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment baking paper. set aside.
2) In a pan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. once melted, swirl around the pan and add in your oats + pumpkin seeds. make sure to coat them evenly with the oil. let toast while constantly stirring for about 2-3 minutes (do not burn. if you start to smell popcorn, lower the heat). remove from heat.
3) Place your oats + pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Add in the walnut pieces, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt.
4) Combine (I love to use my hands for this) ingredients are all well mixed. Reach over for your prepped-ahead baking sheet with parchment paper and pour in mixture, making sure to create a think layer across the whole pan.
5) Pop baking sheet into the oven for 8 minutes and then remove to toss, mix up, relay into thin layer, and pop back in oven for another 8 minutes. Granola should be turning into a nice golden brown color.
6) Remove from oven and let sit to cool down for at least 15 minutes before storing. Enjoy!

*while oats are naturally gluten-free, if your product does not state that it is gluten-free, then it probably has been in contact with other wheat products. if very sensitive to gluten, please ensure you use gluten-free oats.
**vanilla powder does not have the alcohol usually found in liquid vanilla extract and you get a more concentrated taste with it; however, if using vanilla extract, ensure it is 100% pure and substitute the powder above with 1 tsp of extract.

xx,

5.

5 Best Places to Eat in Ubud

Let me tell you, there is no shortage of places to eat in Ubud; it is both absolutely fascinating and exciting!! With that said, whenever we go anywhere to eat, I always rank them and keep record of it so that I can (1) remember them for next time and (2) share them (because nothing makes me happier than being able to share some reccos with you!!). Below you will find 5 of the best places we ate at during our time in Ubud, so you can kickstart your yummy eating! And I’m sure you’ll find more as you explore around, so please comment below on any others you absolutely found to love!! Enjoy the recommendations!!!

The Clear Café

I love this place so much that I came here three times. Vegetarian, vegan, and raw-diet friendly, this place has all the healthy, delicious goodness and charm one could hope many restaurants everywhere could offer. For starters, you are welcomed by this beautiful hand-carved circular door where you “shoe check” your footwear, are given a number, and then are seated either on the first or second floor. As you descend up the stairs, where on each step lays fresh flowers at your feet, you come to a daily motivational quote sure to pick your day up even more (written entirely out of flowers, I should add). The food is absolutely healthy and delicious (did I say that already?!). It may be a little pricier than most regular joints in Ubud (meaning your meal may be $10 USD), but it is absolutely worth it. You will fall in love with the menu as there is a diverse offering in cuisine. I highly recommend the Bali Berry, Tropical Twister, Chai Iced Dream, Twilight Tonic, Fish Fillet, Dragon Bowl (my fave — I live for that mango chutney), and the Chocolate Platinum!


Warung Città Ovest Pizza & Pasta

This pizza and pasta joint is LEGIT. Not only is it crazy affordable, it is even crazier delicious. You don’t have to jetset to Italy for a pizza craving because this place ‘got you.’ The only caveat is that the seating is very limited, so get there before the lunch or dinner rush to score a seat — and a scooter parking spot right in front. For pizzas, the Basil Basil and Vegetariana were legit. Pastas? Can’t go wrong with Pomodoro and Pesto. ps: they also do take away, just keep your grip tight on your pizza box as you’re scooting on back to your place like we did :). pps: yes, they have WiFi!


Café Pomegranate

Located a little ways away from central Ubud, this place will require you to take your little scooter on up to narrow paths, but leave you highly rewarded with a feeling of freedom as you drive past the beautiful rice fields. Café Pomegranate itself is located in front of a rice field and boasts some wonderful al fresco dining. Park your scooter up front, remove your shoes at the entryway, be welcomed by your server (and probably one of the friendly cats just strolling around), and be seated to your place of preference. I highly recommend taking a seat at the perimeter of the restaurant where you’ll be seated on a cushioned chair on the floor, overlooking the beautiful green fields in front of you. The menu isn’t too extensive, but still boasts some very delicious foods. We highly recommend the curry and their fresh fruit juices. It is the perfect spot for anytime during the day, but I think going for sunset would be even lovelier, too.


Gaya Gelato

The heat is certainly going to be up while you’re in Bali, so why not cool off with some of the most delicious, artisanal gelato in the area?! With two locations to choose from in Ubud (or, why choose? go to both ;)), Gaya Gelato will certainly hit that sweet spot without feeling like you’re about to go on a sugar high– plus, they also serve sorbets for all of my dairy-sensitive friends out there :). They have classic flavors like vanilla, pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate, but also boast some local and artisanal flavors such as: durian, chocolate + orange, and mangosteen. Speaking of local, all of their ingredients are locally sourced and only the freshest of them all are used. So, how will you choose? Well, here’s a little hint: even if you get just one scoop, you can choose to do two flavors. Not too shabby, huh?


Toro Sushi

If you have a hankering for some sushi, Toro Sushi has you covered. We actually stumbled upon this place and were pleasantly surprised with the sushi as it was super tasty! It was also a nice break from trying all of the local Balinese food non-stop in the two towns we were at before hitting up Ubud: Uluwatu and Sanur. I will admit, the service could have been a little bit quicker, but maybe it was just the New Yorker in me, and maybe it’s just the Bali way ;). I’m more of a sweet potato, yellowtail and rainbow roll kind of girl, but can tell you that my rolls were all delicious and fresh. // bonus: if you’re feeling like a refreshing treat afterwards and don’t want to venture too far, right across the way from Toro Sushi is a place right across the way called “Açai Queen,” it’s great for a little something sweet (both for the palette and the eyes) if you’re craving a finishing touch to your meal ;).

xx,