≡ Menu

While Mexico has been home to us for the past six years, we O’Gradys also have our wanderlust sights on other countries, not only for family travel, but also for a potential relocation when our teenage twins are in college…something that seems to be just around the corner with time traveling like the speed of light!

All great plans begin with an idea, and lots and lots of research!

We have decided to partner with some reputable travel brands as part of our own process of discovery and will be sharing some of the information with you all– just in case you too might get an inkling to explore beyond!

If you are a hiking enthusiast, you likely want to hunt down the best trails in the world. If you find yourself out of places to visit, this list will give you an idea of some of the most exotic hiking destinations around the world.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the world’s up and coming hot travel destination; laced with stunning beaches, incredible luxury accommodation and hiking trails, both casual and more extreme, fit for every type of traveler. One of the most popular hiking spots in the country is Ella Rock in Ella town. It’s about 1000 meters high above the sea level. When hiking here, it’s best that you start early to avoid the crowd.

You can also drop by Adam’s Peak while in Ella town. While here, you can enjoy the sights on top of the town’s mountaintops, overlooking the vast tea plantations below.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Cambodia

Be one with nature as you hike in Cambodia’s Kalai Jungle, starting your trek in a village and then venturing out into the rich, surrounding forest. Here, you can make campsites to rest while listening to the sounds of nature all around you.

For those who are interested in history, you can also incorporate it with hiking. Visit the River of a Thousand Lingas in this exotic destination. Once you’ve overcome the steep trail, you can witness one of the most historical and spiritual places in the area – a flowing river and landmark with ancient religious carvings on the river bed.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Indonesia

In East Java, you can marvel at the grand Ijen Volcano. With its turquoise waters, the crater shines wonderfully as you stand on top of the 9,183 ft. volcano. Hiking here will surely be worth it. However, as a warning, the blue flames emitted from the cracks are poisonous so don’t go near them.

Top Exotic Hiking Destinations

Cuba

Fourth on the list is Cuba. While this country is mainly known for its pristine beaches, it is not lacking in some of the best hiking trails around. There a huge array of things to experience in Cuba. To get you started, go on a short hike in Sierra Escambray. Here, you can opt to go to El Cubano where your hiking trail will lead you to a waterfall or to La Codina where you can walk around in a vast hacienda and enjoy a rustic lunch while enjoying the scenery.

Australia

Last on our list is Australia’s great hiking trails. For long hikes, one can go to Tasmania’s Overland Track. It’s 65 kilometers long and can be toured for over 6 days. You can hike around the Cradle Mountain-Lake in St. Clair National Park – a renowned world heritage site in the area. One can hike independently here, but due to its vastness, you must book yourself in at  the Parks & Wildlife Service or get an operator guide to help you navigate the terrain.   

These are just some of the many exotic and adventurous hiking trails available to you around the world. If you’re out of ideas, why not try one of these top destinations for your next hiking adventure! 

SUBSCRIBE & STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH OUR ADVENTURES:

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK:

*When traveling (and at home), please protect yourself and your loved ones with a portable carbon monoxide detector.*

{ 0 comments }
Six Years in México: A Life in Color

Seven years ago today I celebrated my 44th birthday by boarding a plane with my eight-year-old twins on a one-way ticket to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

My husband Frank had left a few days prior by car with our 90-pound chocolate lab and our 14-foot aluminum boat filled to the rim with all of remaining earthly belongings after a two-year process of massive downsizing.

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

We left five-lane freeways and a rat-race mania for a slower and more connected way of life.

No Map, No Worries!

Frank will have to tell the story of how he did the 1400 mile trip from San Diego to San Pancho, Nayarit without a map–something about just heading south?!

He made it safe and sound in four days total, car and trailer intact and Seamus slobbering on the back of his neck the entire drive down.

As we approach our seven year Mexi-versary, we pause to reflect over some of the more noteworthy life insights our time in Mexico have gifted us.

1. Savor The Moment

Here in the land of “mañana”, there is a palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and to take it all in. The sensory-rich nature of a quintessential Mexican town, alive with a mosaic of sights and sounds, make it nearly impossible to not pause and linger in the magic of the moment.

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

2. Honor Your Heritage

Mexico embraces her rich history, values her cultural roots and honors her young and old alike. Her people celebrate with intention and a reverence for the sacred. 

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design3. Celebrate Life

Weddings, Quinceñeras, Blessing of The Horses, Day of The Dead, the list goes on…there are oh so many wonderful reasons to celebrate life in Mexico!

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

4. Be Curious

Life in Mexico invites one to stop and look around, to be in the moment, to celebrate the textures and layers within the day, to pay attention, to notice…to be participatory and present.

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

5. Use Common Sense & Situational Awareness 

There is a certain “organized chaos” on the streets of Mexico—families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of traffic, police officers standing in the middle of busy four-way intersections—a cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds emerging from the markets, corner cantinas, garbage trucks, city buses and street vendors. To some it might seem a lawless and haphazard way to live…to others, cultural immersion!

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

6. Honor Thy Family, Community & Friends

I love the importance placed on the family unit in the Mexican culture.

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) or hermano/a (brother/sister). Our children have as many–if not more–tíos and tías (uncles and aunts) here in Mexico than they due in the States simply due to the fact that family ties are not limited by blood relations alone.

Family Photo

Conversations are sin prisa (without hurry) and you can count on a customary kiss on the cheek between young and old, male and female alike.

There is a strong sense of community and connectedness amongst the Mexican people. They are united, loyal, hard-working, welcoming and generous of their time and help. 

7. Live Sustainably

Taco Stand

10-peso street tacos, 20-peso super-sized fresh fruit cups, 100-peso chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers. With the current value of the peso to the dollar about 19 to 1, you can calculate the amazing value!

Fruit Stand

There is never a shortage of fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, wines and breads…and many, thankfully organic.

Seven Years in México: A Life of Design

8. Be Grateful

This was not meant to be a promo for Coca-Cola, but I love this capture of a cowboy with his horse, taking it all in at the jardín in San Miguel de Allende. 

From the jungle to the desert highlands and back again to the coast, I have thousands of pictures of our immigrated lives that capture, as they say, a story within a single image.

I am grateful that I live in a country that provides plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences and that I get to share some of them with an audience who appreciates my work.

Muchas Gracias.

What about you?

What are some of your favorite things about Mexico? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

 

Saludos,

~Katie

SUBSCRIBE:

 

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK:

*For information on Expat Health Insurance, contact Bethany Neumann*

Would you like to know more about immigrating to Mexico?

 

{ 49 comments }

While Mexico has been home to us for the past six years, we O’Gradys also have our wanderlust sights on other countries, not only for family travel, but also for a potential relocation when our teenage twins are in college…something that seems to be just around the corner with time traveling like the speed of light!

All great plans begin with an idea, and lots and lots of research!

We have decided to partner with some reputable travel brands as part of our own process of discovery and will be sharing some of the information with you all– just in case you too might get an inkling to explore beyond!

Hiking can be more than just an activity for getting healthier.  It can also be a spiritual and peaceful journey, making it an extremely holistic experience. 

There’s nothing quite like reaching a summit while enjoying the beauty of nature at the same time.  Indeed, it is one of the best ways to spend time outdoors even if you’re not the outdoorsy type.  Below is a list of the lesser-known hiking locations where you can have a blissful experience.

Sri Lanka

This small island has fairytale-like landscapes with beautiful mountain peaks.  Marvel at the clouds while at the mountaintops of Ella, go to the second highest peak in the island called Adam’s Peak or Sri Padaya and watch the beautiful sunrise, hills, valleys that surround this holy mountain. 

If you’re the type who likes to go on trails with an abundance of flora and fauna, then you’d surely enjoy hiking through the largest virgin forest in the island called Sinharaja or the enchanting trail in Kirigalpoththa where its surrounded by beautiful flower fields and lush lands. Not only does Sri Lanka boast rich nature, culture and wildlife, then it also has some incredible accommodations to explore.

Explore Idyllic Up-and-Coming Hiking Locations

Northern India

Featuring trails with natural beauty and picturesque sceneries, this country isn’t called hiker’s haven for nothing. It’s not just their long trails of snow-capped mountains and glaciers that you can visit here. You can also come across to India’s dream-like trails like the Valley of Flowers in Garhwal, as which its name suggests, features a sea of flowers bursting with vibrant colors during autumn or spring.

If you’re craving a challenge, you can also hike through the Pin Parvati Pass in Himachal Pradesh. This trail features the sight of magnificent lakes and massive glacier crests which will give you a very extraordinary experience.

Explore Idyllic Up-and-Coming Hiking Locations

Vietnam

Rich in culture and history, this country also features some beautiful hiking trails that are less known and explored.  To start off, you can go for a multi-day hike on the spectacular Ba Be National Park which features stunning waterfalls and majestic caves. 

If you just want a casual hike away from the busy city, then you can go to Mai Chau and experience a peaceful walk through its spectacular landscape of rice paddies and tiny villages.  Whatever fitness level you’re at, you can always find a hiking path in Vietnam that you can truly enjoy.

Explore Idyllic Up-and-Coming Hiking Locations

Morocco

You can go on a hike on the Moroccan trails that feature the majestic views on Mount Toubkal, the highest peak of North Africa. One of these trails is the Paradise Valley, a small section of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains; it has small natural pools and breathtaking cascades of waterfalls. 

You can also get in touch with nature in one of the greatest parks of Morocco, the Tazekka National Park which is located on the highest mountain of the Middle Atlas Range.  The most stunning feature of this park is the stunning Friouato Caves. There are a number of different tours that run throughout Morocco that can take you on a journey to suit your preferences, be it to the city, the desert, the ocean or the mountains.

Explore Idyllic Up-and-Coming Hiking Locations

Thailand

We’re capping off the list with the land of smiles, a small country that is rich in unique landscapes and spectacular trekking trails. Thailand has vast amounts to explore, with its delicious cuisine, obscure nightlife and fascinating culture. Whilst there, you can hike through the city of Ban Ruam Mit.  This unexplored city offers more than just elephant rides as it is here that you can also experience the mountainous community as you hike alongside the astounding Kok river. 

Explore Idyllic Up-and-Coming Hiking Locations

Wherever the trail takes you, always be mindful of yourself and mother nature.  Best of all, take in the benefits of hiking for the mind, body, and soul.  This list reminds you that, sometimes, it’s good to “take a hike.”

SUBSCRIBE & STAY UP-TO-DATE:

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK:

 

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM

*When traveling (and at home), please protect yourself and your loved ones with a portable carbon monoxide detector.*

{ 0 comments }

“Sometimes we encounter things that profoundly change our outlook on life and when it happens, it doesn’t matter that former joys have lost their allure or that our foundations have been shaken. All we know is that the walls we’ve built around ourselves have crumbled into dust. All we know is that our unsatisfied yearnings no longer throb inside us and something restorative is taking place deep inside our souls… ~Will Kautz

From Wheelchair to Walking

It is nothing short of a modern miracle and a testament to the strength of the human body that I endured and survived two major surgeries in less than six months. The skills of each of the specialists together with my undeniable grit and gumption, saw me through one of the more difficult years of my life and returned to me the gift of function without debilitating pain or partial paralysis.

To say that I am grateful is an understatement. 

After a spinal fracture at the age of 17, years of competitive sports and a 60-pound twin pregnancy, my back was in need of some serious TLC come the age of 45.

I had done all the “right things”—chiropractic care, deep tissue massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, rest, ice, heat, a prayer that the pain would go away…and sometimes it would. Most of the time, I just dealt with it, brushed it off as part of my evolved reality and hoped for a better, more pain-free tomorrow and always the ability to continue my active lifestyle. 

No Guts, No Glory

The whole “no guts, no glory” mentality has carried me through life and in my physical prowess I have found the stronger, never-give-up, courageous parts of myself. 

This time, however, I was knocked down for the count. 

During my afternoon hot yoga practice at our home in San Miguel (specifically, in the forehead to knee pose), I felt a searing pain down the left side of my body, never imagining that I had just herniated two of my discs. Collapsing to the floor and calling out for my husband in agonizing pain, I knew that there was no amount of strong will nor determination that was going to get me back up on my feet without help.

Unable to move nor stand unassisted, my husband and a wheelchair were my only forms of movement and transportation in the days up to my surgery. “In good times and bad” definitely had its opportunity to demonstrate its worth and value.

I hoped and prayed with all my might that the doctors would successfully repair my spine so that I would not be sentenced for the rest of my earthly years to a wheelchair. I refused to accept that reality.

From Wheelchair to Walking~ I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico

2 herniated discs, left side paralysis and awaiting my MRI

Flat out on a hospital bed in central Mexico like a turtle on its back, I have never felt so helpless and (nearly) defeated. The streams of tears flowed without restraint as I lay alone in the dark, not believing the surreal reality I found myself in. There is no dignity in semi-paralysis, using a bedpan or sponge baths by complete strangers. I refused to accept that as my rest-of-my-life reality. 

From Wheelchair to Walking~ I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico

Waiting, Night Before Surgery. Jesus Watching Over Me.

I was in and out of a pain-induced trance of sorts, experiencing some truly powerful revelations about myself and my life…about balance and honoring oneself first–like the airline safety instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask first.

Silver lining, lemonade out of lemons.

My God and I got to spend some one-on-one, quality time together…He and I have always been together since I was a little girl, like the Sclemeel, Schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated song of the good ol’ Laverne and Shirley Sitcom that I so loved as a kid. Connected at the hip, He and I, always present in my little girl heart.

Making Our Dreams Come True

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.
We’re gonna do it!

Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.

Nothin’s gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin’ it our way.

There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.

On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.

I knew what lay ahead of me and that I had to put my big girl panties on and confront it with determination and courage. That was my only option. That was the only reality I would entertain…getting to the other side—out of the wheelchair, functioning and enjoying my life again with my family and friends. 

During what ultimately ended up being a six-hour surgery, Dr. Salvador Galvan completely removed my L3 L4 and replaced it with a 12 mm silicone prosthetic spacer. My L4-L5 was so severely damaged that it was just a matter of time before it failed, so it was fortified it with a 10mm spacer. Apparently the trauma to my spine was so severe that I lost over three times the amount of blood that is normally lost during one of these surgeries. No doubt that was part of my recovery challenge.

From Wheelchair to Walking~ I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico

First Steps. Power of The Polka-Dot-Pajamas!

Spinal Surgery in Mexico Success!

My surgery was on a Tuesday morning and come Wednesday night I took my first assisted steps. By Thursday I was able to take my first unassisted ones and be discharged home.

I had a road ahead of me, taking one step at a time. Walking back and forth to the bathroom, taking a shower and being able to stand long enough to brush my hair and teeth were huge accomplishments. Poco a poco, I got there, back to a newer, improved, and “bionic” version of my former self, with my family right by my side cheering me along and literally and figuratively picking me up when I would fall.

My running, kickboxing and horseback riding days are a thing of the past, but I have learned a new “new”. I can walk, dance, trot, stretch, yoga, swim and live a very fulfilling existence with 90% mobility and minimal pain. My limp is gone, cane thrown away and joy and gratitude forever imprinted in my heart. Looking at me, you’d never imagine the scars behind the clothes. We all have them, I just choose to speak about some of mine in the hopes that by bearing my story, I am helping someone else out there. 

Several of my nurses questioned why I didn’t return to the States for my surgeries where the medicine is “more modern”.

“Because Mexico is my home”, I told them each, This is where my heart is, where my family is, where my life is.”

Mi Querido México, I love you.

I want to express my extreme and eternal gratitude to Dra. Rosario my physical therapist, to Dr. Salvador Galvan my neurosurgeon, to Dr. Paolo my pain specialist and to all of the nurses and operating room staff at Hospital Santiago de Querétero. You will forever be my earth angels.

Spinal Surgery in Mexico

Me & Dr. Salvador Galvan, Discharge 3 Days after Spinal Surgery

The gift of walking and of health is not to be taken for granted, ever.

May we all pause to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. They are there.

Peace & Health to you all….

~Katie

For more on healthcare in Mexico:

Post-Surgery Pain Management in Mexico

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

Have you had spinal surgery in Mexico? If so, please feel free to share about your experience in the comments section below.

SUBSCRIBE & STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH OUR ADVENTURES:

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK:

*Protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy & Carbon Monoxide Detectors *

{ 35 comments }
Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

Maybe it’s that the Italian and Mexican flags share the same colors, just in the opposite order…

Maybe it’s that my husband is half Italian…or because when I was in my 20’s I floated down a Venice canal in a gondola and it left me longing for more southern-European adventures in this boot-shaped peninsula .

While Mexico has been home to us for the past six years, we O’Gradys also have our wanderlust sights on many other countries–Italy being just one of them–not only for family travel, but also for a potential relocation when our teenage twins are in college…something that seems to be just around the corner with time traveling like the speed of light!

All great plans begin with an idea, and lots and lots of research!

We have decided to partner with some reputable travel brands as part of our own process of discovery and will be sharing some of the information with you all– just in case you too might get an inkling to explore beyond!

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

If you interested in Italy and curious about which areas to visit, here are some of the top must-see tourist destinations:

Florence

Florence or Firenze is one of the most important Renaissance art and architectural centers of Italy. Its Baptistery and Duomo are magnificent and many tourists are coming here to marvel at their large piazzas. This city has multiple excellent museums where you can see some of the famous sculptures and paintings including Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and Michelangelo’s “David”. You can also see Medici gardens and palaces here.

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

Venice

Venice or Venezia is an unusual city which is built on water in the center of a lagoon. It is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities of Italy. Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice where you can see its magnificent church, the Saint Mark’s Basilica. There are many places, churches, and museums to wander and visit along the canals of Venice as well.

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

Sorrento

Popular for its limoncello and lemons, Sorrento has a lot of things to offer for its visitors, and this place makes a great base to explore the region. One of the famous places that can be seen here is the Cathedral of Sorrento, the Duomo. The Cathedral of Sorrento can be easily seen due to its gorgeous clock tower, and it is also located centrally in Corso Italia which is the heart of Sorrento.

Aside from the Duomo, the Old Sorrento is a beautiful place to wander around in its alleyways and narrow streets and is home to some beautiful villas. In this place, you can see multiple quaint trattorias and colorful shops. It is also the home of many historical buildings namely the San Francesco’s complex and Sant’Antonio Basilica.

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

Milan

Milan or Milano is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. It is popular for its stylish galleries, restaurants, and shops. This city also has rich cultural and artistic heritage. You can see the Gothic Duomo here with its magnificent marble façade. One of its top attractions is the “The Last Supper” of Da Vinci and one of the most popular opera houses in the world, the “La Scala” can also be seen here.

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

Rome

Rome is the capital of Italy and a famous tourist destination for those who are interested in history, good food, and art. There are many beautiful places that you can explore here and various different tours that run throughout the city. One tourist attraction that must be explored is the Colosseum, this big oval amphitheater is considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Aside from the Colosseum, you could also visit the Fori Romani. It is located in the center of Rome. You can see a series of monumental public squares or “foro” here. Another must-see place here in Rome is the Trevi Fountain. It is a baroque statue with 49-meters width and 26-meters height.

Must See Italian Destinations to Explore by Foot

These are just a few of the many must-see places in Italy.

Here’s to exploring the beauty of this country with family, friends and loved ones…enjoying their food, magnificent art, and unforgettable history.

~Viva I’Talia

SUBSCRIBE & STAY UP-TO-DATE:

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK:

 

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM

*Don’t become a statistic. Protect yourself and your loved ones with a Carbon Monoxide Detector for both home and travel.

 

{ 3 comments }
error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)