Ah, Tokyo <3. Admittedly, it wasn’t at the top of my travel list, but all it took was one visit for me to absolutely fall in love with its energy, cuteness, order, and all-around awesomeness!! Tokyo has stolen my curious little heart, allowed for me to feel like a giant kid in a really cool (read: advanced) playground and just, honestly, live. I grew addicted to the little capsule machines, got into my element gaming at the Sega Arcade, and had some of the most fresh fish ever! Though we were there for just a few short days, I have gathered below what we did cover + absolutely loved the most.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Robata Sho Tokyo (for the love of authentic + all things grilled)

We stumbled upon this place (and what great luck!) because it was one of the highlights of our trip. Located under ground of a pretty empty Tokyo street, this izakaya (Japanese Gastropub) is where locals (and the tourists who can find it) come for some authentic dining. It was very much like “Cheers” where everyone feels so welcomed and like it’s home!

The restaurant is lively with people sitting near each other, the chef in the center grilling all of your orders, and laughs with clinks of beer and sake with the staff (if you ask) is frequent! Food notes: the sashimi platter was the freshest fish I’ve ever had; be sure to order their potato salad (thank me later) and order the whole fish for a super delicious, omega-3 filled delight! Prices are very fair and it’s served “tapas” style, so pair with your drink + share :).

Reservations HIGHLY recommended as there are only 42 seats (we were lucky that there happened to be a cancelation when we walked in), but make sure to make a rezy to make things way easier.

Genki Sushi (for the love of fresh, cheap sushi + tech)

Locals go crazy over this spot! This was our first self-service, tech-loving conveyer belt experience in Tokyo with some super fresh sushi for an amazing price! Enter into the store and they give you a seat number, you walk down the aisles to your seat where you’re greeted with your own touch-screen waiter. The sushi (and ramen or whatever else you’d like to order) will arrive right in front of you; with a tap of a green button on the screen, the serving platter will head back to the kitchen where the chef will prepare your next dish! Complimentary green tea is at your fingertips and, don’t say I didn’t warn you, ordering can get pretty addicting! But, for about $8 USD I ate like a queen and all of the interactiveness made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

Directions/Note: As of the publishing of this post, Genki Sushi is currently undergoing renovations, but you can check out their temporary spot (the one we went to!) at Uobei Dogenzeke (click here for the google map link). Tip: if going for dinner, get there between 5-6pm; after that, you will have a bit of a wait!

Kikanbo (for the love of ramen, juicy pork + testing your spice level)

Our friends Rachel + Nick recommended Kikanbo Ramen and what a treat this was! The experience starts outside, as you approach the ordering ‘vending machine’ of sorts and place your order (it’s where you also pay). You then take your ticket inside, sit down, and pass it to the chef who comes to confirm your order and ask you for your spice level. note: this place is known for their “devil spice” and my husband ordered “high” spice– it was love (and tears of heat) at first slurp (I ordered medium)! The décor, matched with the music of drums, helps set the tone for when your giant bowl of fresh cooked ramen arrives. It’s delicious. It’s super flavorful. And at around $10 for a bowl, you will certainly not leave hungry with the portion they give you!

tips: definitely use the little round container of spices found at your seat (next to the water). Add it to the ramen and make the experience EXTRA magical (they actually sell this stuff at the restaurant (so popular)) // there can be quite a line to stand on around 11:30am when they open; so we went for a later lunch (around 1:30pm) and there was no line! 🙂 // you may feel silly, but use the bibs they provide (!!) — those juicy slurps don’t just go anywhere ;).

Robot Restaurant ()

TONS of colorful lights, loud music and people controlling GIANT robots with remote controls; what can get more TOKYO than this?! It may seem super touristy (note: it is), but tourists and locals alike love this place for its super funky feeling. The show is separated into a few parts that includes a pre-show performance (hello men dressed in robot costumes on the sick guitars and drums!) and goes into some more amazing percussion music, a Power Rangers-like live performance, laser show, and a full-out dance performance on the floor with remote-controlled cars. As touristy as it may have seemed, we honestly had such a fun time!

note: we read reviews that the food here wasn’t exactly the tastiest, so we opted out of having dinner here, but did order a drink (though pricey) for the show because, well, why not! (I had bubble milk tea — alcoholic drinks available for purchase, too).

Tokyo Metro: as a foreigner, you are allowed to purchase (with proof of passport) an unlimited subway card (BUY IT AT THE AIRPORT NEAR THE METRO)– it gives you access to both the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines. I cannot stress enough how much this was useful because as you enter/leave stations/switch lines, you will have to enter your ticket into the machines, and if you don’t have the correct ticket, you’ll have to purchase new ones a few times; it can get pretty confusing, so eliminate it with an unlimited card! Available for 24/48/ or 72 hours, it’s honestly the easiest way to get around Tokyo! (Also, at first glance of the Tokyo Metro map, you may start to feel uneasy, but TRUST; after an hour or two, you’ll be a PRO! And it becomes to easy and FUN!)

pro tip: station names are great, but utilize the station numbers (ex: C11, T02, S01)– so much more easy! And, when you’re unsure which platform to board the train on, the platform walls will tell you the direction of the train by noting what the next number is! (ex: you are at C12 and you need to get to C8: the wall will say C12->C11 (which means it’s decreasing, so C8 is in this direction; board this platform) voilà! // Follow the lines and stand in line when waiting for train + when boarding (Japanese are super organized and it’s polite!!)

Rubbish Bins: you won’t really find any in Japan! So, if you make garbage, you’re supposed to take it with you and dispose of it at your home/hotel (and recycle!). While it’s a very conscious effort on reducing public waste, let me let you in on the-more-you-know: back in 1995 there was a sarin gas attack that left thousands injured (the gas capsules were hidden in the rubbish bins) and locals pleaded for rubbish bins to be removed for their safety. Since then, they’re pretty much been gone! But it’s so crazy to know that even with no rubbish bins around, the streets and metro are so clean!!!

Basic Japanese Language: we don’t speak Japanese, but these very basic phrases were always appreciated when used– and we got by just fine! (ps: don’t expect everyone to know English; it’s taught in school, but Japanese is their official language, afterall!)

Kon’nichiwa – Hello – pronounced CUN-KNEE-CHEW-AH!

Arigato – Thank You – pronounced AH-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE!

Arigato Sai Mas – Thank You Very Much – pronounced Ah-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE-SIGH-MOSS

 

Body Language: a smile goes a long way and so does a bow. When greeting and thanking, always bow. When in doubt, smile and bow. // when handing anything over (money, a postcard you want to purchase, sushi bento box, etc.) always use two hands and give a little bow; handing things over with one hand is considered rude! Don’t be that person :). Impress them!!

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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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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

2.

2018: Goodbye NYC, Hello New Zealand!

…and I don’t mean it just as a vacation. Family & friends, it is with great excitement and joy that we share with you all that we are leaving everything we know about NYC behind and heading off on an adventure abroad for the year!

We are moving to New Zealand!!

There have been so many factors that played into our decision: one of them was attending a Tony Robbins seminar (that post coming next!), another was experiencing the beautiful culture in Denmark last summer (gosh, I love that bicycle life), and another was that, frankly, I have been left feeling a little uninspired by NYC lately. Nothing against the concrete jungle, but maybe that’s my problem: too much concrete.

I don’t know if I ever shared this, but there were two times in my life that I literally sobbed on the plane as we took off: once was when I wheeled up from France after studying abroad there (oh, the tears!), and second was when we left Denmark (how could I live without all the pastries and that bike life?!). I started noticing a pattern and it drew up a concern for me: why was I crying so hard? And what was it about those countries that made me want to stay forever?

In my efforts to understand myself, it was clear that those other places (and travel in general), always filled a void of unpredictability, new adventures and new customs/cultures. When I landed, it was like a game of strategy in which you must survive, learn the rules and get excited about all the different things happening around you. I know NYC is a giant melting pot, but having been born and raised here, it all has just started to feel and become a little, well, predictable. I already know we are all celebrating the fourth of July no matter what state in the country I am in. And while I love traveling around the country (the USA is beautiful), I am seeking something more.

It occured to me that in order for me to continue to grow, continue to be inspired and continue to love deeper, I need to get out. NYC, USA, it’s not you, it’s me; we need a break. You will always be my home, but I feel that distance will make the heart grow fonder. You give such great opportunities that I have yet to be thankful for. The opportunities are endless and you can be whoever you want to be; yet, I’m not grabbing anything by the horns.

So why New Zealand? Well, why the heck not?!

xx,