Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

Exploring the Great Barrier Reef has been near the top of my Bucket List for a long time. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World. According to GreatBarrierReef.org it is comprised of over 900 islands, spanning 133,000 square miles... making it larger than the Great Wall of China... or about half the size of Texas. The Great Barrier Reef is so big it can even be viewed from outer space! The Great Barrier Reef is ancient... perhaps 20 million years old. Today, a whole host of modern medicines are being developed from its plants and animals - Medicines to treat cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimers, etc. Countless communities depend upon the Great Barrier Reef for economic reasons. Tourism to the reef generates billions of dollars a year. Of course the actual fish provide food and livelihoods for residents as well. More than 1,500 fish species call the Great Barrier Reef home. About 10% of the globe's total fish species can be found within its boundaries.

It is easy to see why the Great Barrier Reef is considered a Natural Wonder!  I can't believe I just crossed it off my Bucket List.... Tick!!  I hope you enjoy my pictures, videos, and thoughts from this awesome adventure. 

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Visiting the Australian Capital Territory

Since moving to Australia, I've been trying to see and do as much as I can. While in the USA I love spending time in Washington, DC so of course Canberra was on my list here. My husband and I visited the Australian Capital Territory last weekend and had such a great experience. We took a fun 4 hour road trip from Sydney on Saturday morning and arrived to our hotel around lunchtime. We had delicious grilled chicken sandwiches (chicken burgers as they say in Oz) in the casual lobby restaurant at the the Crowne Plaza Canberra. We then headed to our first stop, the Australian War Memorial.

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Vivid Sydney Breaks World Record and Lights Up Australia

There is so  much buzz in Oz right now around Vivid Sydney. I had to check it out and share how cool it is! And just so you can begin to understand the enormity of this event... I'll let you in on a secret! Vivid Sydney is now in the Guinness World Records as the globe's largest festival of light, music, and ideas! They actually broke their own record! How many lights did it take... to take the cake as largest interactive lighting display?!? 124,128! The events run from 26 May to 17 June, 2017.

Make sure you take a look at the YouTube video I put together from my experiences at Vivid Sydney. I took the ferry from Rose Bay to Circular Quay... met my husband for a yummy Thai dinner... and then strolled around the light show eating gelato. It was such a fun night. In the video I've posted above... you'll see projections of space, sea creatures, animals, and trippy psychedelic images illuminating iconic landmarks throughout Sydney including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Taronga Zoo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. At the end of the video you'll see Darling Harbour’s Magicians of the Mist. It's a 50 meter high water fountain that features 40 meter high projections, lasers, fireworks, and flames. As with many of the displays, a dramatic soundtrack tells the light story in perfect sync. I have to say this is one of the best events I've been to since moving to Australia! I enjoyed it more than the fireworks on New Year's Eve! Although that display is even more iconic... the crowds are more manageable at Vivid Sydney.

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10 Tips to Survive Long Haul Travel

Is there somewhere you've always wanted to travel that requires a lot of time in the air? A cool town in Europe, Asia, or Australia? A place you've been dreaming about? What's stopping you? Are you thinking something like this? "I can't bear to do that flight... it's a long haul. It's too overwhelming. I'll stay home. I can't do it!" Well.... I say.... "YES you can! And here's how!"

1. Load up on the H2O... Take it easy on the alcohol. It's always fun when the food and beverage cart comes by on long flights... and you might be extra excited that you don't have to pay for beer and wine.... But I advise against drinking too many booze.  It's easy to get dehydrated on these epic journeys in the air. Alcohol adds to that likelihood. 

2. Keep your toiletry bag handy. It's nice to be able to brush your teeth, wipe your face down, etc... I like to put wet wipes or hand sanitizer in there too. The other must have for your magic sack? Moisturizer? Your skin will likely get very dry while you're up in the air. Lotion will keep you comfortable. I recommend bringing a moisturizer suitable for your face and body.

3. Invest in a pair of compression socksBut buy them before you get to the airport. I forgot mine this trip and ended up spending about three times what I would have if I'd planned better! Compression socks are often recommended by physicians because they keep the blood flowing on long flights. They prevent achey legs and feet that can be associated with cramped seating. 

4. Walk Around. Even if you don't need to use the restroom... Get up! Get moving every so often. I leave my seat every two hours or so. Just like using compression socks... walking around keeps the blood flowing and decreases chances of deep vein thrombosis.

5. Check the back of the plane for free fruit and snacks. I have found that on most long haul flights the airlines will keep apples or some sort of fruit in a couple areas accessible by passengers between meals. 

6. Bring a shaker cup and protein powder. I like to bring the individual packs... and pick a blend that also includes some vitamins and minerals. This won't take up much space in your carry-on... and will be great to have if you don't get enough to eat or you don't like the meal you were served. Drinking a protein shake along the way will also ensure you are getting proper nutrition. Again, it also encourages you to drink more H2O!

7. Bring healthy crunchy snacks. I like to bring split pea snacks, dried chickpeas, or edamame. These are great between airline meals. The salt and crunch often gives me a little pick-me-up if I'm feeling motion sick or lethargic. 

8. Pack a compressible, comfy, and cozy jacket or sweater. Sometimes these flights get cold. I mean COLD. The airlines will provide a light blanket, but sometimes that's not enough for me. This is a biggie... don't forget!

9. Fight jet lag by getting on your destination's time zone ahead of time... Here's what I mean... Even if it is mid-morning in your departure city... if it happens to be evening in your destination city... imagine the meal you are about to eat is your DINNER... not your breakfast or lunch... sometimes you can really fool yourself.

10. Consider eye masks and melatonin to help you sleep. A lot of folks like to take sleeping pills, whether over the counter or prescription. But I prefer to do things in more natural ways when possible. Eye masks (similar to headphones) can help tune out the foreign environment around you. Melatonin can help get your circadian rhythms on track for your new 'bedtime.' It is said to reduce the time needed to fall asleep.

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5 Warm Weather Adventure Getaways

Australia! Puerto Rico! Dominican Republic! Jamaica! Hawaii!

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Koala Cuddles and Kangaroo Kisses at Sydney's Taronga Zoo

It's a zoo... with a view! An incredible view at that. The Taronga Zoo overlooks the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walking into the park we are greeted by giraffes grazing in the sunshine. They are a real crowd favorite. But my main reason for coming to Taronga? Koalas and kangaroos. The zookeepers are giving us an incredible experience. You ready for this!? A meet and greet with some of their animal ambassadors. It's feeding time for not just the koalas and kangaroos... but the emus... swamp wallabies... and quokkas. They are all feeling 'snacky' too! ;-) We're in for a real treat! Check out the above video to see what it's like to interact with these unique animals!

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Fairy Tales and Castles! Become a Princess in Portugal

Sintra (not to be confused with Sinatra ;-)) is a fantastical small town not too far from the bustling city of Lisbon, Portugal. Easy trip. So hop on a train for less than 20 miles... and soon you will feel like a fairy tale princess! Seriously... I felt like I was in a Disney movie... just call me Jasmine. ;-) I would recommend blocking out about half a day for this trip. I imagine you will want to see the National Palace, Moorish Castle, and Pena Palace. 

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Wine Tasting and Biking the Tuscan Hills

Spend just a few moments in Tuscany.. particularly at sunrise or sunset... and it's easy to see why these smooth Italians have been inspiring, artists, photographers, poets, and lovers for ages. The tall, slender, green cypress trees and shrubs lining the road's and property pathways are synonymous with the region. And the sun's rays bouncing off grape vines and olive trees all in perfect symmetry is breathtaking. Oh... and the wine ain't bad to sip on either! ;-)  

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What Makes Chianti Classico Such a Special Wine?

My first trip to Tuscany is one I'll never forget. It got me hooked on Chianti Classico wine. The Chianti region is in the center of Tuscany... which is also in the center of Italy. I spent a few days in a villa enjoying the greens, oranges, and yellows of the landscape... and of course the tasty wine the area produces. Chianti wines were originally known for their traditional squatty bottles encased with straw... today they display a special seal of approval. Wines that exhibit the famous black rooster symbol are also certified as 'Chianti Classico' because they contain 80% Sangiovese grapes (the common red grape of the area) and 20% of other grapes native to the region or international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.


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Learn to Kick Like a NYC Rockette

Legs for days! These Radio City Rockettes are world renown for their annual Christmas Spectacular! People travel from all over the globe to New York City to see them. The ladies tell me the tradition has been around since 1933. For many of these dancin’ machines… it’s been a dream to be part of the team since they were little girls.

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Anna Kooiman Travel Philosophy

I've learned a lot of travel hacks from being on the road for breaking news and fun, road trip feature stories around the US, I also have a tremendous itch for world travel. I'll share long haul travel tips too. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

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