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Wanderlust

My Work, Wanderlust, Writing

The Introvert’s Travel Guide – for Travel Latina

May 7, 2018

I wrote about the way I’ve molded my personal travel routine to better fit my introverted personality; a major change that has improved my traveling experience immeasurably. Though, if I had to measure it, I could probably measure the reduction in stress plus the physical and emotional wearing down brought on by the typical hectic travel plans.

I also shared the new method for traveling I use that cuts down the cost of accommodations to nearly zero! Reject the cookie-cutter model of travel and learn more about tailoring your trips to fit your personality from my featured piece on Travel Latina.

Have you experienced travel burn out? In my article I argue that feeling worn down stems from planning our trips using a one-trip-fits-all mentality that ignores our personal needs. What are some ways you keep travel exhaustion from interfering with your travels? Let me know in the comments or on social media here and here!

Salomé 

*Looking for a travel story to read while you procrastinate? This one might almost make you feel slightly less guilty about that procrastination. Have an interest in personal growth and travel is just one tool in your self-development kit? This thought-experiment is all you

Wanderlust

How I Travel (Mostly) for Free

March 15, 2018

Traveling is really my hobby at this point; I do it every chance I get and it brings me joy every time whether in the form of a lovely experience or a challenging one that helps me grow. It’s something I can’t recommend enough for other people to do if they’re hoping to develop as an individual because it’s the fastest way to become aware of your subconscious worldviews and comfort zone, things that are major obstacles when trying to improve as a person. 

Naturally, something so beneficial and enjoyable isn’t easily accessible. I’m not wealthy by any means, but I’ve been able to do more traveling than most people my age or in my situation. There absolutely are ways to help you afford traveling at least slightly more than you currently do. 

In this video, I explain the one thing I use that completely cuts out the most expensive aspect of traveling: accommodations.

Let me know if you have any questions and what you think of my method in the comments or here and here on social media!

Salomé

My Work, Photography, Wanderlust, Writing

A Country Named Mother – (For La Liga Zine)

March 8, 2018

I finally took a trip I’d been planning for years. I knew it would be a different kind of trip, more serious and personal. In some countries more than others, maintaining contact with family is difficult. Historically, Cuba has been one of the more difficult countries, as home phones were a luxury shared between several neighbors and communications are still monitored and intercepted as seen fit. Through a burgeoning access to the internet, my own family, now living in Miami, was able to make contact with family members still living in Cuba, after 30 years of silence. 

Staying in the home of family members I had only known through my mother’s stories felt like watching figures of the past come alive. In the short week I spent on this tiny island with a massive world presence, I came to know myself through knowing the many women of my family who call this country mother. 

I’ve written one of my most personal essays yet for La Liga Zine. You can read it here. 

A Country Called Mother

The niece of my abuela, my “new abuela.”

La calle my family lives on in La Habana

Cuban art with Cuban resources

Staying vegetarian in Cuba was much easier than one might imagine!

Land of the mamoncillo

The iconic Flamboyan trees of the Caribbean

The most photographer-friendly country I’ve been to

These photos and this essay are extremely close to me and as such are that much more important for me to share. I know the feeling of being part of a diaspora and tracing your lineage isn’t exclusive to Cuba, so I’d love to hear how you personally relate to this experience! I’d also love to hear any and all feelings A Country Named Mother brought you, so please share either in the comments or on social media here and here!

Salomé

*If you enjoyed this essay about Latin American identity, you’ll probably want to know about this problem facing indigenous South Americans.

My Work, Photography, Wanderlust

A Week in Naples (The Other Naples)

June 28, 2017

NaplesI took a road trip by myself to Naples, where I stayed in a house that came with a little dog who, albeit suspiciously, tolerated my company. The house was tucked into a quiet gated community, where I quickly blended into everyday life, taking out the trash and walking the dog as if I wasn’t actually from the chaotic North Caribbean metropolis that is Miami.

NaplesThough it’s only about an hours drive away, Naples and Miami share mostly physical geography and that’s about it. The first sign that I was not in Hialeah anymore was the abundance of those simple flashing lights that save lives: turn signals. People actually used turn signals and moved out of the left lane after passing! I quickly got used to this foreign cultural custom. Now when I talk about visiting Naples, I always mention the regular use of turn signals as if it’s some famous local monument you have to see. Driving on the Palmetto just changes a person.

NaplesIn many ways, Naples is your stereotypical Florida beach town; lots of old people and postcard worthy beaches. It’s quiet, shiny and sandy, making it a popular vacation spot amongst Floridians. Naples has a strange secret though; it’s actually one of the richest cities in the entire United States. Little old Naples with it’s population of less than 30,000 people holds 6th place in highest per capita income and a lot of those 30,000 residents are living in some of the most expensive homes in the country, with some houses selling for upwards of $40 million. Now I understand why everybody seems so pleasant here.

NaplesReally though, the people of Naples are extremely nice and at the most basic level, they actually seem to give a shit about you. Being a semi-introverted inhabitant of a major city, friendliness beyond the reach of general social niceties makes me a little nervous. The people here were so outgoing and chatty it started to ware down my anti-social armor and I found myself being…friendly. I even caught myself stopping to help a family take a vacation photo. Luckily I had progressed to this serious stage only by my last day there and a quick drive through Miami Dade county restored my callous exterior.

NaplesNaples is a strange mix of money, Florida and tranquility. The beach and sunset demand you take the time to really observe the gorgeous shows they put on everyday. My stay in Naples was so peaceful and the openness people exhibited towards me brought me to reevaluate how few words I use in my everyday interactions with others. Things move slower in Naples. At least, the people definitely do. Naples

Have you been to Naples before or are you thinking about going? Let me know what your impression of the town was or why you’re planning to visit in the comments! Start your search for the perfect Airbnb away from home here.

Salomé

Wanderlust

Travel Guide: 5 Things To Do In Chicago

October 11, 2016

things to do in chicago

Cleaner than NYC and less polluted than LA, Chicago is a beautiful city with a rich and unique culture that deserves a little more recognition. If Chicago wasn’t lovingly referred to as Chiberia during the winter, I would seriously consider living there. There’s no shortage of things to do in Chicago. The brick buildings remind you of it’s history as one of the first major industrial towns in the US. Chicago has everything a city needs to make a trip worth it; great food, famous museums and tons of entertainment. I put together a list of my top 5 things to do in Chicago so you can enjoy the city as much as I did. Plus, as Kanye’s hometown, how could I not show Chi-town some love. chicago

things to do in chicago things to do in chicago

Niu Japanese Fusion Lounge

No, I’m not recommending a Chicago style pizza place for your restaurant pick, I’ll leave that to another writer that actually likes that style of pizza (no offense don’t come for me!). What I will recommend though is possibly the best sushi in the city, plus some perfectly crafted drinks. Niu offers a dish I’m still searching for back in Miami; sweet potato tempura rolls. Everything I ordered was delicious including all three types of mojitos they serve. The location is perfect; you can grab something to eat and easily get somewhere else in the city afterwards. They have a beautifully decorated upscale interior as well as an outdoor patio that’s a prime people watching spot. You really can’t go wrong eating at Niu. 

things to do in chicagothings to do in chicagothings to do in chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the oldest museums in the US. The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection spans over 5,000 years, containing African and Amerindian pieces to modern pieces by Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollock. One of the largest museums in the US, it has about 300,000 pieces housed in eight buildings that cover almost one million square feet; so wear comfy shoes and be prepared to spend plenty of time during your visit. 

things to do in chicagothings to do in chicago

Navy Pier

 Navy Pier is on the Chicago shoreline over looking Lake Michigan and makes for a gorgeous spot to catch the sunset. I almost wanted to find a random date just to take advantage of the scenery. After nightfall the city lights reflect off the water and there’s usually live music at the outdoor cafe. I spent my last night in Chicago watching an amazing fireworks show that’s put on during the summer every Friday totally free. Yes Chicago is in major debt but free fireworks shows are a totally legitimate use of tax dollars in my opinion.

things to do in chicago

 Taste of Chicago Festival

 Luckily my trip happened to coincide with the Taste of Chicago and though I didn’t get to spend much time checking it out, it’s a great idea to plan your trip to overlap with this festival or some of Chicago’s other awesome events like Lollapalooza or Pitchfork Music Festival. It really feels like you get the most out of your trip if you also get to see an artist you’re into while you’re there. Spending my first day in Chicago watching The Roots perform was the perfect start to my trip.

chicago

things to do in chicago things to do in chicago

Chicago’s Architecture

 Chicago is full of interesting architecture from the mid to late 1800s to now. Even if you’re not that interested in architecture it’s impossible not to notice and appreciate the unique styles of buildings throughout downtown. You’re visiting the perfect city to get introduced to the beauty of building, so take advantage of it. Here’s an awesome list of buildings that deserve some attention.

things to do in chicago

Do you have any of your own lesser known recommendations for things do to in Chicago? I had such a great time visiting the city and I feel like it’s honestly an underrated trip. Even though I’ve been several times because I have family there, each time is better than the last. I’m already excited to plan my next trip to Chicago!

Salomé

Fashion Files, Wanderlust

Caribbean Classic

November 17, 2015

Maxi Skirt

I had to sneak one more photoshoot into my time in Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico because this beautiful city left such an impact on me. Maxi Skirtmaxi skirtmaxi skirtmaxi skirtMaxi SkirtMaxi SkirtMaxi SkirtFashion Blogmaxi skirtmaxi skirtmaxi skirt

Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico – This is my second post from Viejo San Juan, but I’m no less in love with this city. It’s a different kind of vacation when you visit a place that shares aspects of your own culture. I felt right at home with my cafecito and ocean views. It’s funny to think that such a beautiful and unique place is no more than 3 hours away from my home; it’s true that adventure doesn’t always have to be found on the other side of the world.

Get The Look
Forever 21 top – similar pieces (X) (X) (X)
DailyLook polka dot maxi skirt – (X)
DailyLook heels & some dupes til they restock – (X) (X) (X) (X)
Gold bangles – similar piece (X)
Stacked gold ring – similar pieces (X) (X)
Brows – Urban Decay
Lip color – Maybelline in Red Revival

As a shorty, wearing clothing like long skirts and even jeans is always a process. I had to have this skirt tailored, but it fit beautifully afterwards. I always try to pair my long pieces with any shoe that has at least a small heel. How do you like to style your longer clothing? Share your short girl hacks in the comments!

Salomé

Fashion Files, Wanderlust

Island Goddess

September 10, 2015

Romper FashionBringing my island girl roots to center stage with this look.
Romper Fashionromper fashionRomper FashionCurly Hairwedge heelsromper fashionromper fashionromper fashioncurly hair styles

The Caribbean island of Dominica – as much as I adore the fall (it’s even my birthday season) I’m always a little sad to see summer come to an end. I’ve been staying in the Caribbean for the last 2 months, so I definitely got a memorable summer. As a Cuban-American, it’s important to me to represent my Latina heritage; one way I do so is by letting my thick natural curls be free, and yes, a little wild too. I had damaged my hair so much when I was younger by trying to wear it straight every day. Now I’m learning that my voluminous curls are unique to my identity, so I try to cut back on the heat styling and embrace them. So with my hair doing it’s thing, I threw in some classic hoop earrings to finish off this very Summer Island Goddess look.

Get The Look
Chiffon romper – (X)
DailyLook heels & some dupes til they restock – (X) (X) (X) (X)
Gold hoop earrings – (X)
Lip liner in LBB and lipstick in Blood from Colourpop 
+Tropical flower tucked in your hair 

What unique parts of yourself are you learning to love? Let me know in the comments and share some of your favorite summer goddess style tips!

Salomé

My Work, Photography, Wanderlust

The Emerald Pool in Dominica

August 26, 2015

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Emerald Pool, Dominica – This tiny island in the Caribbean is full of postcard views and some of the most untouched nature that doesn’t require hours of advanced level hiking to see. The Emerald Pool in Dominica is as magical as its name leads you to imagine. Less than a 30 minute hike (but more like a walk) to and from, this is a great place for visitors with limited mobility. The mid point on the trail is the perfect place to take photos – you’ll have a mountain view from 2,248 ft. If you’re in Dominica, this is a gorgeous sight you shouldn’t miss.

Salomé

My Big Important Opinions, Wanderlust

Hotel El Convento in San Juan – Review

August 5, 2015

San Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelThere’s no missing Hotel El Convento. This San Juan Hotel was first opened as a monastery in 1651, El Convento was, as it’s name suggests, a convent. 252 years later the nuns left and the location began operating as a hotel in 1962. As you enter the hotel and follow the classic black and white tiled hallway further, the courtyard appears before you like a serene and verdant oasis. The open-air hallways on every floor offer a view of the flourishing níspero fruit tree from Spain that’s been growing in their courtyard for 300 years. If it wasn’t a hotel, El Convento would definitely have been on your list of museums to visit; it’s actually the oldest member of Historic Hotels of America. Hotel El Convento has preserved the aesthetic of Old San Juan so that you can live it for yourself…“with all the luxuries of today,” as their motto goes.Hotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoHotel El ConventoThe decor in Hotel El Convento deserves a 5 star review of it’s own. Keeping in line with the Spanish colonial architecture of Old San Juan, El Convento is adorned with mahogany beams, handcrafted decorative tiles that lead you up stairs, luscious tropical plants, dangling vines and richly colored Andalusian tile floors that emanate the comfort of home most hotels lack. For art lovers, the hotel can serve as a miniature gallery where unique pieces remind you of it’s history and one floor to ceiling mural will have you craning your neck around to observe its details. It was refreshing to see one of my personal peeves about the sanitized art often used in hotels fully blown away.Floral Pattern DressHotel El ConventoSan Juan HotelSan Juan HotelI try to keep my surroundings as green as possible, despite my history as a serial plant killer. Hotel El Convento keeps it effortlessly tropical, with plants lining their many paths. I love greenery, but they take it to a whole different level with their in-house herb garden. Located on the second floor, you can wander through the open patio full of aromatic herbs destined for one of the hotel’s three restaurants. Also a prime insta-photo spot; you’re welcome!
Hotel El Convento is the perfect look out tower for Old San Juan and the bay. While their pool is not one you’ll be doing laps in (it’s a plunge pool), it and the jacuzzi are nestled amongst bright yellow flowers and thick shrubbery on a sizable terrace that offers memorable views of the city and San Juan Bay. Without a doubt, this was my favorite place to lounge around. Make sure you take a camera and watch the sunset; it’s a gorgeous sight. San Juan HotelSan Juan HotelSan Juan Hotel

When you travel often, there are a few basic things you need in a hotel room: a comfortable bed, complete silence, and soft towels. Hotel El Convento gave me all of that and way more. The rooms are intricately decorated with handcrafted furniture, marble bathrooms and every room has classic Spanish louver doors that open to Juliet balconies giving a view of either the San Juan bay, the charming city streets or the lively town square. The hotel retains much of it’s original architecture and effortlessly blends modernity into this antique atmosphere. A heavy wooden door opens up to your room, but a second see-through, soundproof door transforms the room into a peaceful and intimate abode, still allowing for the night owls among us (myself included) to hang out in the cozy sitting areas in front of each room on the open air hallway. I can only speak for the “Queen Deluxe” room, but hopefully Hotel El Convento will invite me back to expose the splendor of their Gloria Vanderbilt Suite. Hotel El ConventoSan Juan HotelSan Juan Hotel

✯✯✯✯✯ (5/5)

I’m always looking for gemmes to share with you guys, and Hotel El Convento is definitely one. Not satisfied with simply being included, El Convento was named the premier Small Luxury Hotel in all of Puerto Rico and I doubt any of it’s visitors would disagree. There are many details that make up the perfect trip and where we recuperate from all day exploration and reflect on the experiences we’ve had is an important one. Hotel El Convento not only provides a place to unwind from a trip but actually offers an experience in itself to add to your trip. Check them out; this is the type of hotel you remember, mainly because you’ll be eagerly thinking about the next time you can return.

Salomé

Wanderlust

Mother Prague

July 15, 2015

Traveling to Prague

Prague is like no other city. Before I started traveling, the Czech Republic was not even on my list of places to immediately see. I hadn’t heard much about Prague and was hoping to visit more famous cities like Tokyo and Paris. At the time, my boyfriend was writing a novel set in Prague and needed to do some real life research. So we booked the flight that brought us to the type of city that lingers with you long after you’ve returned home.

Traveling to Prague

Hradčany (Castle) District

Traveling to Prague

The Dancing House

Traveling to Prague

Balcony in the Old Town

Traveling to Prague

The Astrological Clock

Traveling to Prague

Staré Město (Old Town)

We stayed in Nové Město, which is Czech for New Town. While it’s the youngest of the towns that make up Prague’s historic center, there’s plenty of history around should you stay there. Check out Wenceslas Square, the National Museum and Theater and definitely U Fleků beer hall. 

Traveling to Prague

The Original Budweiser

Traveling to Prague

Spa Beerland – unlimited beer

Traveling to Prague

Spa Beerland – hops, malt and brewer’s yeast jacuzzi

Traveling to Prague

The original pilsner style beer

The Clydesdale horses and Labrador puppy version of Budweiser known to most of the world is not actually the original Budweiser. That title belongs to the beer known, or barely known, as Czechvar in the US and Budvar for most other countries…and it’s leaps and bounds beyond what American Budweiser makes. Though my favorite beer of the trip was Pilsner Urquell; another original, it created the beer style of pilsners. Yeah, I really got into beer during this trip, or at least, I jacuzzi-ed in some of the ingredients that make beer?
Enter Spa Beerland – proving that almost everything already exists in some spa related form. Before you start worrying LunaGemme.com is turning into a beer blog, this was basically a “…is that a beer…spa? I have no idea what that is but I’m doing it” occasion.  An hour in a private room with a jacuzzi bubbling with a mixture of malt, hops and brewer’s yeast (supposedly helpful for hair, skin and joints but my insurance doesn’t cover it so moving on) and unlimited beer on tap. Why the hell not? 10/10 recommend. 

Traveling to Prague

Omelets at Kavárna Slavia

Traveling to Prague

Apple strudel at Kavárna Slavia

Traveling to Prague

Palačinky (pancakes) with warm forest berry sauce at Kavárna Slavia

Traveling to Prague

Afghan meal at Kabul Restaurant

Traveling to Prague

Vegan meal at Gopál

Discovering the cuisine of a place is just as much a part of travel as visiting the sites. From farmer’s markets with obscure ingredients to the only Afghan restaurant in a city, the food a new place offers is an adventure. Prague is an intersection of so many cultures, which always yields a foodie’s paradise. I can’t praise the restaurants pictured above enough. 
Kavárna Slavia was my go to breakfast spot, with it’s wide picture windows letting in the lazy morning light. I tried the Czech version of pancakes there, palačinky, which is pancakes topped with a warm forest berry sauce and powdered sugar – I’ve been craving it ever since. For dinner I became a regular at Kabul Restaurant. It’s decorated so thoughtfully, the atmosphere is warm and comfortable, plus the wait staff is so friendly you’ll want them to join your meal. They serve the type of delicious food that can either begin or end your night perfectly (Find my full review of this foodie Gemme). Looking for a vegan meal will lead you to Gopál – an exclusively vegetarian restaurant. Located in a quiet courtyard with mint and pepper flourishing all around, they serve what is comfort food to me – mountainous portions of Indian food.

Traveling to PragueTraveling to PragueTraveling to Prague

One of the cities I genuinely miss, Prague has so much to offer while not overwhelming you by bursting at the seems with hyperstimulation at every corner. Because sometimes you want to spontaneously try out a beer spa and other times you just want to walk off dinner by the quiet, dimly lit Vltava River.

“Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.” –Franz Kafka

Salomé