5 nature photos to inspire your next trip

Geological rocks of Meteora

What captures your attention and provides the optimal sensory elements that help shape and define your greatest trip memories?  Is it the food, the architecture, the local art and culture, music and nightlife, or the people you meet? And, including some or all of the above, are you also besotted with dramatic landscapes and the opportunity to leave with beautiful nature photos destined to be framed as your next prized pieces of wall art?

My sister CJ (and best travel buddy) will be the first to tell you “impressive man-made structures have their place, and they’re several iconic landmarks scattered all over the world matching that description.” But for her, the pièces de résistance, the vacation takeaway masterpieces so to speak, always lie in nature.

We’ve been to more than a dozen countries together and she inevitably comes back with images of landscapes, seascapes, clouds, plants and animals. She takes other pictures too, of course, but her beloved nature photos far outnumber anything else.

So for this post, I asked her to help us see the world through her Samsung Galaxy 6 lens and describe what drew her eyes to each scene.

Jamaica

Jamaican countryside

Nestled in the hills of St. Elizabeth there is freedom.  Freedom from the trappings of commercialization and bustling streets that create a cacophony of intrusive noises.  This lone home, enveloped by lush vegetation and surrounded by lung-friendly, pollution-free air, sits atop a hill like a beacon.  Untouched land, friendly people, and rich culture showcased Jamaica at its finest.

South Africa

insects in south africa

Cape Town is steeped in history and known for its popular V&A Waterfront as well as prominent landmarks, but one of my favorite places to visit, other than my safari and Robben Island tours, was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.  Found on the eastern side of the famous Table Mountain, it is home to several spectacular species of flora and fauna and the immaculately groomed grounds are presided over by a bust of Nelson Mandela, which is near the entrance.

The aromatic and abundant plant life is a potent elixir for the cutest insects. This little fellow was oblivious to all the tourists milling around as he hung out all by his adobrable and lonesome self.  Clearly, there was sonly one thing on his mind…”Gotta get the pollen! Gotta get the pollen!”

Greece

Meteora rock cliff

Taking a bus tour can often be mundane and long, but when that trip is transporting you from Athens through the northern highlands to Meteora, there are beautiful natural landscapes and geological sites to behold.  The feeling of catching your first glimpse of the giant monolithic rocks on which several monasteries were built is not something that’s easily described. It is an emotion best experienced in person.

Mexico

Paradise Beach_Tulum Mexico

Tulum, Tulum, Tulum. What’s not to love about Tulum?  Found in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico, the area is home to the ruins of the Mayan walled city, and it once served as a port for Coba.  Today it is a treasured UNESCO Heritage Site. 

I’ve been around beaches all my life, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of this gorgeous shoreline bordered on either side by turquoise waters and craggy rocks. Not only do you get to stroll through the impressive ruins, you can kick off your shoes and dip your toes in the soft, squishy sand if you are not short on time,

Southwest Florida

PineIsland Sound_Florida

Famous for its shell-lined beaches, Southwest Florida is also known for absolutely amazing sunsets.  No two light shows are ever alike because they were ‘painted’ by the greatest artist ever known. He is Elohim.  It was a perfect evening when the lone bird took flight and a few, friendly dolphins frolicked in the ocean below.    

Those are some of my sister’s top picks. Do you have any tips on other cool spots for beautiful nature photos that you’d like to share? Please drop their names in the comment section below.

5 Nature Photos to inspire your next trip

My 2017 Best Nine Instagram Posts

I began last year with Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the US Virgin Islands at the top of my travel wish list, but for various reasons ranging from passport delays to hurricane devastation, I didn’t get to visit ANY of those places. Despite the setbacks, I’ll borrow a phrase from The Travelocity Gnome and say I’m grateful I still managed to ‘wander wisely’.

In 2017, I visited three new countries (Mexico, Belgium and Greece), one new city (Montreal), and made new discoveries in old favorites (The Dominican Republic, and my homeland of Jamaica). Not too shabby considering these destinations weren’t on my initial radar, eh? According to the popular  #2017BestNine site, these were my nine most liked IG snaps.

9. Kingston, Jamaica 

8. Jamaica…again!

7. La Romana Province, The Dominican Republic (DR)

Salty air, sun-kissed hair Ah…the endless summer Take me there. 🌴

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6. Montreal, Canada

Au revoir, Montreal. You were dreamy!

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5. The DR..take two!

Leisurely beach walks can be so cathartic and magical! Thanks to the app #Plotagraph and tips from ace travel blogger Alyssa Ramos (@mylifesatravelmovie), I learned to animate photos y'all! Do you see the clouds and water moving? Oh yeah, I'm so excited about that. Alyssa and Gloria Atanmo (@glographics) just wrapped up their first Blogger Bootcamp in Bali and the group's IG stories and posts gave me all kinds of feels. If you're not following either of these ladies yet, you should be.  I've been a fan of their content since 2016. (See link in my bio to a post that included them on a list of inspirational IG feeds.) ________ PSA to Droid loyalists like me: A mobile version of Plotagraph isn't available for Android, but I worked with the app on my PC and figured out how to use it with the help of another online tutorial.  Check it out!

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4. Sanibel, Florida

3. A Providenciales, Turks and Caicos throwback.

 2. Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

1. Irish Town, .Jamaica

Cloud 9 kinda tings.🇯🇲

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I’m totally stoked that Jamaica made three out of the nine images in this compilation, because as Tinga Stewart so famously said, “when yuh check it out lawd, no weh no betta dan yaad, oh no.”

What would YOU (my blog readers) like to see, or see more of, in 2018?

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#2017BestNine

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Hey, I went to Mexico and I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”!

A lot has been said about Mexico and Mexicans in U.S. news lately, and very little of the rhetoric  has been positive. Unfortunately, there’s been a broad and sweeping perpetuation of negative stereotypes that paint the country and its people as a mass exporter of drug dealers, rapists, and savage murderers. Sure, every country has some rotten eggs in the bunch (mine, and this one included), but guess what? I just got back from a trip to Playa del Carmen, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”.

Mexican sombreros
Trying on colorful sombreros on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Well, to be 100% percent honest, I am deliberately not counting the crusty heeled and dusty feet guy standing outside one of the Yucatan’s most famous ruins who approached women telling them in halting English, “In America, people would call me a gigolo.” Oh, and get this, he listed the cost of his “services”  as 500 pesos a day. In my mind, I was like, dude, please. You better go wash those unpleasant looking feet! LOL. (No, I am not kidding.)

But seriously, in dire contrast to the ugly caricature being portrayed about an entire nation, I met some great people and had a fantastic time on my mini vacation.

So, what exactly did I do and see?

I shimmied my hips with friendly and gregarious men dressed in tribal costume while they chanted to a hypnotic drum beat.

I gobbled up freshly made tapas, delicious tasting tacos, and drank refreshing sangria  whenever I could.

Mayan woman making tapas in a traditional hut.

I wandered happily and aimlessly through the streets surrounding the popular Avenida Quinta (Fifth Avenue) area looking for souvenirs, admiring the facades of buildings, and observing the interactions between the locals and tourists.

Shopping in Avenida Quinta, Mexico
Browsing the stalls on the busy Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue).

I checked out the trendiest beach clubs, where sun-worshippers and beach goers have access to lively music, drinks, food, and even massages for a fee.

Trendy beach club
Zenzi Beach Club, Playa del Carmen

I had interesting conversations with hard-working people like hotel front desk agent Belén, whose name is the Spanish version of Bethlehem (the place in Judah where King David and Jesus were born). Plus, I listened keenly to our day trip driver, Sergio, as he told me about his family, and their plans for expanding his small transportation business with help from his multi-lingual daughter who is scheduled to graduate from college very soon.

Tour driver in Mexico
Meet Sergio Ramirez, proud owner of his own transfer and tour company.

I also visited underwater and above-ground swimming pools (cenotes) that were all naturally formed when limestone bedrock collapsed to expose the groundwater underneath.

Many cenotes are in underground caves, but quite a few can be accessed above ground as well.

Due to the constant exposure to the sun, the water in the open-air sink holes are believed to have blue green algae that is rich in nutrients, making it an excellent source of minerals that nourish and protect the skin.

Zacil-Ha cenote
Admiring the crystal, light blue waters of the Zacil-Ha cenote

The water in the underground caves? Nah, that’s just COLD. (Men, extra long dips have been known to result in shriveled body parts. My female counterparts, local folklore declares that we look five years younger after a swim).

Mutl-Tun-Ha cenote
Inside the Mul-Tun-Ha cenote

And.. I wandered spell-bound through the ancient ruins of Coba, Tulum and Chichén Itzá, three cities that were at the center of the Mayan empire at different times. I’ll write a more detailed post on those ruins soon (with tips included).

Cona Ruins, Mexico
One section of Coba’s impressive ruins

El Castillo at Tulum
The remains of El Castillo at Tulum

Main pyramid in the Chichen Itza complex.

What was I reminded of with this trip? Sometimes things are not what others make them seem. It’s always best to explore for yourself so that you gain experiences and form impressions of your own.

Have you been to Mexico?  If so, tell me which part, and what you thought about it.