December 2016 Recap: Hawaii, NYC, Connecticut

Oh I LOVED December so much! This month I returned to the US for the first time in two years and it was every bit as magical and wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.

First, I flew from Melbourne to Hawaii on a ridiculously cheap flight I booked back in February and spent 12 days wandering around Oahu and Kauai. Anna joined me for the first week and we shopped and dined around Honolulu, then road tripped and camped around Kauai. Driving duties fell to me, as I was the one accustomed to driving on the right (and correct ;) side of the road and I WAS SO NERVOUS about it. I was trying to remember when the last time I drove was and I think it was over 3 years ago when I rented a car for my DIY wine tour in Canada. I’ve always been a shaky driver, but after several years of not-driving I had more than a little trepidation about this road trip. But like most things we worry about, it was for nothing – I loved driving again! I didn’t even want to turn in our car at the end ‘cause I wanted to keep on cruising.

camping kauai

My last few days in Hawaii were spent hiking the famous Kalalau Trail. I’m still not over it, that’s how incredible this bucket list item was for me. I highly recommend it to experienced hikers – and for less experienced hikers, I recommend getting experienced and then taking this trek on. It’s pretty scary at times, but well worth the terror and effort for the sensational views of the Na Pali Coast and getting to camp at Kalalau Beach.

I then foolishly made my way home to Connecticut via two consecutive red eye flights. The first one delivered me to Seattle, where I had 12 hours to kill before the second one. In typical Lindsay fashion, I had pretty casual plans to do some work in a cafe and then spend the afternoon wandering around with my camera. However, I was in no way prepared for the winter freeze that had descended on Seattle. Walking even just for a couple minutes in 20-degree weather without proper winter layers was extremely painful – so much so that I only managed to shuffle from cafe to restaurant to cafe, all within a 2-block radius. I am such a wuss.

hawaii christmas
Christmas vibes in Honolulu.

Coming home felt SO GOOD. I wish I’d had more time to spend in NYC, though – I was there for 4 days, but unfortunately spent most of the time catching up on all the work I didn’t do the first half of the month while gallivanting around Hawaii. Plus, you know, the cold freeze made me want to stay indoors at basically all times. I got to meet up with a few friends though and spent 2 nights at my old Brooklyn apartment with my old roomie and cat.

Mostly I hibernated at my parents’ house in Connecticut, working and hanging out with the family and cats. The whole reason I booked a ticket home in December was to experience a proper Christmas again – because after two years of low key tropical Christmases in Australia, I just couldn’t take a third one.

hawaii sunset

Then on New Years Eve, Jamie and I flew to Cancun for an impromptu sisters trip to the Yucatan Peninsula! As you do. We were total grannies and stayed in that night trying to stay awake for midnight while the whole town partied all night right outside our window. I swear we made up for it the next day, but that’s not technically December so you won’t hear about it here!

honolulu sunset

December 2016 Numbers

1 day in Melbourne, Australia
29 days in USA
   – 12 days in Hawaii
   – 5 days in NYC
   – 12 days in Connecticut
1 day in Mexico

Erm, well, I may have splashed out a bit at the end of the year. Expensive things like flights halfway around the world, scenic helicopter tours, and a fancy hotel stay blew my budget to smithereens. I also bought a bunch of stuff when I returned home to either replace items I’ve been holding onto for way too long, or to take advantage of the cheap prices in the US (e.g. I finally upgraded from an iPhone 4s to a 6 and bought a refurbished one off Amazon).

Total Spent: US$4143 ($92 Australia + $2501 Hawaii + $1375 NY/CT + $175 Mexico)
   + $740 for student loans
   + $90 for business expenses

kauai beaches
Salt Pond Beach Park, Kauai.

Total 2016 Numbers

Days: 366

Total Spent (Day to Day): US$21,065

   + $8880 for student loans
   + $1038 for business expenses
   + $792 for tech/camera gear
   + $335 for travel insurance
   + $2422 for visa-related nonsense

Total Spent Overall: $34,532

Average Spent (Day to Day): US$57.50/day

Total Earned: US$44,319

Total Saved / Freebies: ~$10.500

kauai waterfalls
A waterfall on Kauai.

December 2016 Highlights

The Kauai Road Trip

Road tripping is basically my favorite thing in the world to do, especially on a beautiful island like Kauai. I was completely in my element driving around aimlessly and pitching my tent on the beach every night. I especially loved sleeping in the gorgeous dunes at Polihale Beach, chasing rainbows at Waimea Canyon, and sampling the island’s best smoothie bowls. Full Kauai road trip post coming soon!

waimea canyon rainbow
Rainbow over Waimea Canyon.

Staying At The Luxurious St. Regis Princeville

I cashed in a Webjet voucher I had and Anna and I split the cost of a night in the (painfully expensive) St. Regis Princeville. We took full advantage of the near-24 hours we had at the hotel, lounging around in bathrobes in our room, indulging in fancy cocktails by the pool, and hot tubbing it up – all with insane views of Hanalei Bay.

Oh dear, I fear I might be turning into one of those travelers who loves to stay in luxury hotels. Now that I’ve had a taste of 5 star living, I know what I’ve been missing. But equally, I love roughing it in a tent. I feel like both make for incredible experiences, while most everything in-between is just sort of lackluster.

st. regis princeville kauai

kalalau trailhead

Hiking The Kalalau Trail

This month I achieved more bucket list glory by conquering the Kalalau Trail: supposedly one of the world’s most dangerous (and beautiful) hikes. I got really lucky with the weather with zero rain on any of my 4 days on the trail. Even so, it was an absolute mudbath! My brand-new Merrell hiking boots got completely slathered in mud, turning an irreparable shade of brown. Well worth it for the epic views of the Na Pali Coast, though.

And Kalauau Beach, my god, take me back immediately. I’ve spent time on an absurd number of beaches in my life and can honestly say that Kalalau is one of the most peaceful spots I’ve enjoyed. Simply MAGICAL.

kalalau beach

My Return To NYC

I honestly haven’t missed NYC much at all since I moved away in December 2014, but I was definitely looking forward to revisiting my old stomping grounds and friends!

As I mentioned, I didn’t get to see as many people or do as many New Yorky things as I’d have liked because I had to be a good girl and catch up on work. The one note-worthy thing I did manage to do was visit One World Observatory – definitely recommend for killer views over the city. I also managed to dine at two of my favorite Latin restaurants (Caracas and Bogota), indulge in a Shake Shack burger not once but twice while waiting for my train at Grand Central, and work on my laptop at Toby’s Estate.

nyc skyline one world observatory

Reuniting With My Cats

It’s been a long two years without the regular presence of a feline friend. Occasionally I was lucky enough to live with one while house sitting, but for the most part I’ve been severely deprived.

I was absolutely convinced that my old kitty Chibbers wouldn’t remember me. She never paid me that much attention when we lived together anyway. But she greeted me with meows and sniffs and fell back into the old bad habits she had before I left (like climbing on the counter and knocking down the bins). AND… she even slept with me! She almost never used to sleep with me before, so I was absolutely shocked when she opted to stay on the couch with me at night.

chibbers
Chibbers!

My family has always had a constant string of 4-6 cats living in the house at any given time. I’m not particularly close with any of the current ones since I haven’t lived at home in many years, but OMG Bunny is so cute and perfect and all she does is purr and loaf around waiting for someone to turn the bathroom faucet on for her to drink out of. She also slept with me every night at home :)

Seriously, I need to live with a cat again. If they bring me this much joy, it just seems silly not to adopt one here in Sydney. TBA!

bunny cat
Bunny!

Registering as a Democrat

I had to endure the heinous DMV in order to swap my old NY drivers license for a CT license before it expired (total time spent waiting: 3 hours). On the plus side, I ended up with a semi-decent license photo (nevermind that I was looking UP in it – ugh!).

As I was paying for it, they asked if I wanted to register to vote in the state of CT. Um, yes please! And on a complete whim, I checked the Democrat box under political party affiliation. I’ve been registered as an Independent since I was 16, due mostly to my political apathy and disdain for being labelled.

But you know what? Let’s call a spade a spade here. I identify with so many of the Democratic beliefs and don’t see myself voting Republican anytime in the foreseeable future (or if I’m honest, any time ever). Now more than ever, it’s time to commit and show my solidarity!

SUP yoga honolulu
SUP yoga in Honolulu.

Family Time + Christmas Time

See, Christmas was a big deal in our house – my parents always managed to make it the most magical time of year for us, so I’ve got lots of warm fuzzies associated with this time of year. I indulged in Christmas tunes, movies, cookies, and glogg just like the old days and soaked up all the holiday vibes and it was GLORIOUS.

christmas 2016

hawaii waterfalls

December 2016 Lowlights

Not Having Enough Time in NYC

The week before Christmas probably wasn’t the most convenient time to arrange mini-reunions with old friends from NYC, so not surprisingly there were a few people who weren’t able to meet up with me. Not only that, but I was way too busy catching up on work that even if they were around, I probably couldn’t have afforded the time to hang out.

It’s looking like I’ll be back in July though, so if that comes to fruition then I’m going to make sure I allow enough time in New York – both for meet ups and New Yorky things, neither of which I did much of this time around.

brooklyn street art
Street art in Brooklyn.

Getting Sick

I definitely set myself up for this one. Going from hot weather to freezing weather after almost zero sleep and two red eye flights was far from my brightest idea. My body put me in its place within a day of returning home and I succumbed to a terrible cold that lasted nearly a week. (Filed under: Things I Haven’t Missed Since Moving To Australia)

kauai camping
Camping at Polihale Beach in Kauai.

What’s Next in January 2017

I’m kicking off 2017 in Mexico, hopping from Isla Mujeres to Playa del Carmen to Tulum from Jan 1-12.

After that, I’m returning to Australia on the 15th to finally LIVE! No more house sitting or airbnb-ing – I’m finally settling down in Sydney and renting a room, hopefully in or around Bondi. I can’t wait to start a new life here! Finding housing is my first priority this month; after that, I want to get back into a fitness routine of sorts and start making more friends here. Excitement!

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She’s a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond.

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