Traveling for Free

While I am not paid to travel (yet); nor do I travel completely for free– there are several tips, tricks, and hacks that make it feel as though I travel for free. We will start with rather small and simple executions working our way to the larger ones.

One of the biggest complaints is the cost of food and beverages in the airport, especially water; you’re telling me I can’t even bring my own water?! No, but you can bring your own water bottle…empty. Genius! After passing through security, fill that 32oz bottle up and hydrate before the flight.


If you are like me; I constantly check flight prices and destinations, but did you know the prices will go up for you just because you keep checking a certain location? My two go-to flight booking websites are Skyscanner and Momondo –with both however; be sure to turn on “Private Browsing.” If you are un-aware how to do this, just go to: File– New Incognito Window. Travel sites can record your visits by installing cookies on your browser, which can cause the prices you’re shown to rise simply because you’ve searched for those flights before!

Don’t pay overage fees for luggage; learn how to roll! My Nana taught me this strategy at a young age; but I never implemented it until traveling internationally. Rather than folding your clothes, roll them up into a little tube. This will save a ton of space and stop creases and wrinkles as a bonus point.

This doesn’t really save you money; but when time is money, I guess it balances out– plus it’s pretty cool! Did you know you can download an app called FlightBoard onto your phone and experience personal virtual arrival and departure board at your finger tips? –well now you do!

If you don’t have pressing plans to be at a certain place at a very specific time; then this one is for you. Often when flights are overbooked; if you give up your seat, you will be compensated with freebees and upgrades. Free food, beverages, and upgrades to Business class sounds comparable to me; just don’t offer up the karma on your way to your Sister’s wedding–she may not be excited by your extra leg room a day after the ceremony.

Do you travel often? Maybe you (and I) should consider being a market researcher. Why not get paid for something you will be doing already anyways? Companies all over the world are looking for people to try out their accommodations and give feedback.

Frequent flyer miles are another investment worth being aware of; by saving up these points you can book a trip and fly business class even for less than you would have flown in economy, pennies on the dollar!

Did you think Airport lounges are for the rich and famous? Think again, what if I told you I know how to get into these little oasis hidden in the walls of an airport? There are a few ways to get free massages, food, alcohol, showers, and more while waiting on your layover. The first would be purchasing a Priority Pass membership which can cost anywhere from $89–$359 annually with access to 1200 lounges worldwide. But you may say; well that’s not free! Sure, you can look at it two ways; it’s not–but if you travel often how much would all the food, alcohol, coffee, beverages, showers, sleep stations, and massages run you? Exactly. The other hack would be applying for a credit card such as Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum which includes Priority Pass as one of the perks as well as travel points, and travel allowance.

It never hurts to ask; I’ve found this beneficial in a few of my most recent bookings. What do you offer? We all offer something we can share with the world, most people will pay your services or trade compensation. Such as the destination wedding I will be shooting in Greece in September of this year, or the 28 days I’ll be in Thailand composing videos of training Muay Thai– not to mention Costa Rica in January 2019, who knows what will come up before that!

Safe travels my friend; maybe we will catch each other in the Al Mourjan Lounge in Qatar one day!

The Power of Routine

Routine is key; not everyone’s will LOOK the same, it’s about finding what works for you. But, there are many rituals reiterated time and time again:

  • Read. Read, and then Read some more
  • Exercise of some sort. Physical activity
  • Nutrition and healthy lifestyle
  • Meditation (in whatever form that looks like for YOU)
  • SLEEP, breaks, and rest/naps
  • Nature and getting outside


The list goes on, in many forms; but these things seem true to living the BEST life that you can live. So what does my typical ritual look like?

  1. Wake up at 5am
  2. Listen to Joyce Meyer
  3. Get up at 5:45
  4. Listen to ipod with “Morning Mix”
  5. Make my Green Smoothie (click for recipe if you missed that article)
  6. 6am Train fitness client
  7. 7am Drink smoothie, read daily devotion from The Daily Stoic Read chapter book
  8. Dishes OR laundry
  9. 8am write, and schedule upcoming blogposts
  10. 9am Turn cellphone on, respond/initiate any texts or e-mails
  11. 10am Meal #2 (usually eggs of some sort)
  12. Social Media/Blog sharing/Vlog sharing
  13. 11am Gym
  14. 12:30 Meditate
  15. 1pm Meal #3
  16. Graphic design, Photography, video work
  17. 4pm Meal #4
  18. 7pm Meal #5
  19. 10pm Turn phone on airplane mode
  20. Netflix documentaries/vlogs on YouTube/Editing video/vlogs
  21. Read
  22. 11-12pm Bed

Now, things come up; travel happens, special plans, etc. so not everyday may look like this exactly. For example –some nights I may go to muay thai training, maybe I don’t go to the gym, maybe I go on a hike, or a friend’s pool, or out to lunch with a friend. BUT, most days; I try to certainly follow from 5am–9am as closely as I can and then all else is fair game.

I’ve never been a morning person…doesn’t matter if I was getting up at 4am to go snowboarding, or 3am to fly to Thailand. Morning is not my jam…I’m a peanut butter girl (no idea what that analogy has to do with anything.)

For me not being a morning person; (you may say, “you sure seem like a morning person if you wake up at 5am and get up at 5:45!”) I find this morning ritual extremely important. Everything helps ease me into my day. Just because I wake up at 5am doesn’t mean I am bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to meet the world…God, no! Half asleep with one eye squinted open I roll over to my laptop and try to type in “YouTube” half of the time with my eyes still closed. I listen to Joyce Meyer sometimes in and out of consciousness. My morning Mix consists of John Mayer, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, Iron and Wine, and so forth– not to mention my first client is my Mom, which I train from home, outside. So you can see how each event rolls me into the next slowly easing me into a productive day.

But why do I drink a green smoothie every morning? The answer is simple…
It makes me FEEL amazing. Not short term like the 5 minute endorphin spike I get with junk food, and later regret with a sugar crash–but long term; mentally and physically.

I love devoting the nourishing food I choose for my body over the occasional junk BINGE. The great part about this awareness?
The junk is slowly moving out of my lifestyle, and less impulses to indulge are arising. I never want to preach something I do not practice; I will not sit here and deny I didn’t have graham central station ice cream from J. Foster in Avon, CT this past weekend, I did.

But! And that’s a big BUT, that– is part of the process. Do not beat yourself up. Do not tell yourself you cannot have something. And do not feel defeated. Competing taught me in a negative way to associate food with accomplishment and celebration (something I never struggled with before.)

Time and time again we are told we are what we eat; and that is certainly true! Instead of thinking of taking away certain foods, think about just adding more and more healthy options IN.

Daily, we have to choose what we want to fuel our bodies with, it is a process, not an end goal. EVERYDAY choose YOU. And just like the balance of everything else…celebrate with chocolate every now and again to remind yourself you are human!

Growing up I was never a bookworm; I didn’t particularly like reading, and I sure didn’t like school. NOW, I can’t get enough of reading and knowledge! Constantly trying to evolve and learn through growth inside and out. Don’t let the pattern of what you’re used to; and your thoughts, keep you from evolving and changing. If there is one thing for certain; it’s change!

No matter the activity; working on my laptop, eating meals, working out, reading– I try to implement them all outdoors. I try to get outside as much as possible, I am happier outside, and I feel more justified staring at a computer screen for hours when I can hear the birds chirping, and the sun slightly kissing my skin.

Too many people seem to LIVE for the weekend…

Burning themselves out during the week; at a job they don’t find fulfilling, surrounded by miserable people, counting down the hours until 5pm on Friday.

Only then; are they too mentally drained and exhausted to do much other than spend their time “relaxing” mindlessly in front of the television…draining more of their energy –without even realizing it.

My goal, is to be oblivious to the day; for it does not matter–
when you do the same thing everyday.

To build a life in the long run that I don’t have to look forward to the weekend, be inspired by my work, and help others stop spending mindless money on things that are not fulfilling!


Sugar Addiction | Vegan Donuts

Artisanal donuts and cupcakes are the newest trend; starting only a few years back now, with words like “vegan” and “gluten free” they are more acceptable– but are they healthy?

While these sweets are admittedly delicious; choosing a dairy, egg, and/or wheat-free donut doesn’t necessarily make it any healthier! Dang, just when I felt better about the indulgence I just had…twice.


Each donut could cost you up to 300 calories which is the same in a regular glazed donut; so while like most things it is important to remember balance, nothing holds more true than indulgences. One donut will not make you fat; just like a salad for lunch every day will not make you skinny.

When I do choose to indulge in donuts, cupcakes, baked goods, and galore; I am sure to choose quality (often pricey) options that I know are not filled with vegetable or canola oils, refined sugars, and other low grade ingredients.

There’s nothing healthy about a fried donut, no matter how much matcha and wheat grass are in it! Baking donuts also just another step towards a more health conscious treat, rather than frying in oil.

I must admit; being a foodie, I’d live close to a miserable life with these certain indulgences removed completely from my lifestyle. While most statements like “Just live a little, it won’t kill you; it’s just one!” are somewhat true; it seems people always find a way to rationalize, be the exception, and most of all– consciously oblivious. They know things are harmful for their bodies, they know they are addictive and only a temporary state of bliss; but they don’t know how to stop.

The key is slowly, and not taking it away; but rather introducing more healthy options. The more healthy conscious lifestyle changes you add into your day, the less likely your old un-healthy habits will return. Remember they are not gone forever though; I still some nights struggle with thinking about devouring an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a jar of Skippy peanut butter– I reach for Teddie Natural peanut butter instead; happier in the long run knowing the few ingredients, rather than temporary happiness that hydrogenated oils provide us.

So once a month; on an early Sunday morning, get up before the rest of the house–turn the oven on, and start baking some sweet treats to remind us of life’s sweet precious moments!

Basic Recipe:

  • 50 g (¼ cup) vegan margarine
  • 120 mL (½ cup) almond/coconut milk unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 250 g (2 cups) gluten-free all purpose baking mix
  • 100 g (½ cup) caster sugar (or Stevia)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Appalachian Trail Interview

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.    –John Muir

About a month ago; an e-mail popped up in my inbox, Olivia stated:

Hi Ashlee,

Thanks again so much for answering these questions! If you could have your answers back to me by May 7th at the latest, that would be fantastic, as the story is due shortly after that.


So what were the interview questions and answers, you may ask!?

How old were you when you hiked the AT?
What town were you living in at the time? where do you live now?

1. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2014; starting just a few days after my 25th birthday (March 31st is my birthday and I started the trail April 7th.) At the time; I was living back at home, in South Windsor, Connecticut after my lease expired in my previous apartment in Hamden, Connecticut. Today; I am still living in South Windsor, as I will be traveling to Asia for the second time in two years.

How did you decide to hike the AT: Did you have a previous background in hiking/was it always a goal of yours, or was it something you stumbled upon accidentally?

2. This was the first thing in my life I felt like I had to do. Prior to this; I had accomplished “everything you are supposed to do” as a young adult. I graduated high school in 2007, received my Bachelor’s Degree in 2011, and my Master’s Degree in 2013; starting my career in Graphic Design upon graduation. I worked as a Graphic Designer for just shy of a year when I got the notion that I needed to hike the Appalachian Trail. I had never backpacked before; never-mind long distance, I had car-camped, as well as day-hiked. I wouldn’t say it was always a goal of mine, no; but, once I got the idea of doing it there was no turning back. I watched many documentaries on Netflix; and one was Mile… Mile & a Half this was the night I remember vividly, after watching this documentary about the JMT (John Muir Trail) that I decided to hike The Appalachian Trail.

My boyfriend of (7 years) at the time; decided that he was going to come and hike it with me “I’ll bring a box from work and we will just put it in the corner and fill it with cash to save up.” he said to me. I knew I needed a plan B just incase; and well, my gut instincts are always right. As he was not by my side when it came down to it.

What was the preparation like for your thru-hike: To a non-hiker it seems like a very daunting task, is that how it felt for you?

3. From the pivotal decision point; I read every article, memoir, gear review, and blog I could get my hands on during my lunch-break at work, after work, and every minute in-between. I started purchasing gear slowly, and even breaking in my boots at work. I didn’t do any overnight “trials” though; for sure it is a very daunting task, but the type of personality and dedication I have is: all or nothing. From the moment of deciding; there was no going back.

Where did you start your hike, how many miles did you hike in total and where did you end your hike? How many states did you hike through? How long did you hike take you to complete?

4. I started my hike at the official Southern Terminus Springer Mountain in Georgia (I did not start at the approach trail at Amicalola Falls, which consists of 604 metal steps right off the bat, and then another 8 miles before reaching Springer Mountain!) However, I did go to Amicalola Falls, and have a photo taken in front of the famous archway (you can read about this early adventure getting to the trail in my book that will be coming out!) From year to year the overall mileage changes due to trail maintenance and re-routing. In 2014 the official length was 2,185.3 miles from Georgia to Maine. However; as my book title is “My Way Thru” I did not walk every .1 of 2,185.3 miles. I am recognized as a “2,000 miler” however, which is good enough for me after spending 180 days (6 months) in the woods! I hiked through all 14 states from Georgia to Maine (GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, ME)

Did you hike the trail alone or with a group? Also, did you meet any other thru-hikers along the way? Talk to me about the friendships and bonds that develop while you’re hiking the AT, if you hiked with others. If you hiked alone, talk to me about that experience and why you chose to go solo

5. I traveled down to Georgia with a high school friend of mine that took off a week of work to settle me in; we met up with an acquaintance that I had met on the “class of 2014” AT Facebook page who happened to be hiking the same time as I decided to start, so we decided to start together. The three of us started as one, and on the second night we met three others that became our “group.” A woman in her late forties (whom I became closest to, and still keep contact via phone calls about once a month.) A man in his early twenties, and a man in his thirties. To say I met many thru-hikers along the way would be an understatement; especially in the early miles (as you can assume after a few hundred miles, many people drop out.) One of the most magical, and special things about thru-hiking is the camaraderie. We all have the common goal of making it to the end; we share the hardships, the feelings, the joy-us memories, and the hiker smell that ties anyone from every walk of life together. I trusted, and became close friends with people in sometimes only a few days; that some may take lifetimes to build. As much to say; that when I took a road-trip out West, I stayed with two “hiker friends” I had met briefly while on the trail, and even did another road trip with someone I had met in the Smoky Mountains (both were a year later in 2015.)

I was considered a solo hiker; even though I spent a lot of my time with the woman in her late forties, and some time with the male in his young twenties. There were times when I was completely alone, a month that I “slack packed” (Leaving most of your pack to another person. You are then able to hike without the burden of your full weight, meaning that you have the potential to hike more miles at a faster rate.) While my grandparents followed me in their RV and I slept and ate with them and had a day pack with me easily completing 20 miles before 3pm. It was really tough when they left me; and I had to go back to the realities of a thru-hiker, and the full weight of my pack which at some times was 45 pounds (I am 5’2″ and I weighed 110 pounds at the time for perspective.) I ended my journey solo as well during the 100 Mile Wilderness; which I wouldn’t have had any other way, I won’t give away the surprise ending though– that you will have to wait until my book is published!

Talk to me about your ‘trail nickname’ if you had one: how does that name come about? Was it given to you?

6. I started the trail nameless; in hopes to receive my trail name as opposed to create one myself. Inevitably it became a blend of the two options. Growing up; my Mom always called me “Chi” pronounced “Chee” as a tribute to her, and all of her love and support I identified with that while shortly after the woman I hiked most of the trail with anointed me “Cheeky” hence my final official trail name of Cheeky Chi.

What was your favorite part of your hike: Did you have a favorite state to hike through or favorite story from the trail?

7. I think my favorite part of the hike would be the 100 Mile Wilderness; for many reasons that you may not expect. Sure it is remote and absolutely gorgeous up there so theres that, plus it was October so the Fall leaves were beautiful and vibrant. But, being alone; during this time of reflection, after every day looking for the end was irreplaceable. I was not the same girl I was back at Springer Mountain; I knew a little bit more about myself, I had more confidence, and I was comfortable with being alone. I would say my favorite state was Tennessee; it was gorgeous, the trail towns were fun, and the Southern people very hospitable! I think one of my favorite stories would be:

“I reach the road crossing at Dick’s Creek Gap. The rain is now steady, and there are three hikers waiting on the other side of the road; wishful thinking I was hoping they too were headed to the hostel, but instead they were trying to go 12 miles into town.

The other downside of this rainy situation, as if there needs to be one; there is no cell service on the road either meaning I couldn’t contact the Blueberry Patch hostel where I was intended to be. Quickly looking left and right; left I went, down the road, towards the hostel in my crocs, alone, in the rain. Soon after, I hear a car coming up behind me, I throw out my thumb, I’ve never hitchhiked in my life; but anything seems better than walking in the rain (or so I thought.)

To my surprise; it sped passed me, on I walked. My socks started to soak through and my toes got itchy, my spirits drained, and now the count was at 38 cars passing my thumb. But then, I see a a silver pickup truck pass, slam on his brakes, throw it in reverse, and hit the guard rail. Let me repeat, he slammed his truck in reverse into the guard rail.

So, I walked over and asked if he knew how to get to Blueberry Patch Hostel; but he didn’t. So, I chose the logical thing to do after watching a pick up truck hit a guard rail; I said, “you mind trying to find it with me?” Just as I was about to hop in the passenger door and close off my fate to God knows what, a Jeep pulled in and parked ahead of the Jeep blocking us in.

The driver asked if “I was the girl he was supposed to pickup?” The hell if I know? I answered or better yet, asked in confusion, “for Blueberry?” He responded, “Lynn sent me.” Right then, and there; I knew someone was watching over me. I thanked the man in the pick up truck, and hopped in with Gary the Blueberry Patch hostel owner.”

(An excerpt from the draft of my book)

What was your least favorite part of the hike or the hardest thing you had to overcome while hiking the trail?

8. The first day/night was the most horrible day; but, the great thing about horrible starts is you can only get better from there. The second day was a million times better. The hardest part for me was injuries; my boots wore sores on my ankles, blisters, two knee braces, taped ankles, shin splints, and some kind of GI irritation in the White Mountains. There were many hardships for something I chose to do daily; and cried at least once the majority of the days.

Do you have any advice for people who may be thinking about taking up hiking or possibly even hiking the AT? What do you wish someone had told you before you set out on the trail yourself?

9. Do it. Especially after my last statement in the previous question. I state thru-hiking as the hardest, most rewarding thing I have ever done. I hated most days, but in the end; there is nothing like it. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. You can read as much as you can read, and hike as many miles in a day on a weekend; but until you actually get out in the woods, for 4-6 months straight and hike the hike–there’s nothing that compares to the act of doing.

That Ziplock brand freezer quart bags fit perfectly into a JetBoil stove which means you never have to clean your pot…please note: DO NOT BOIL with Ziplock inside. I guess this is me telling you not to make the same mistake I did; melting plastic to the bottom of your pot, ruining your dinner, and having to clean the pot regardless. Boil the water in the JetBoil and pour into the Ziplock of (pasta, rice, Mountain House meals, etc.) and then put the bag back into the pot folding over the edges and enjoy! Also, it’s not as peaceful and joyous as some of the blogs and video logs on YouTube make it out to be; embrace the suck, because it will suck. But the feeling you have when the Katahdin sign is in sight is like no other feeling.

Talk to me about your transition back into the ‘real world’ after being on the trail: what did you miss about home, what do you miss about the AT now that you have officially completed your thru-hike?

11. I would say that society and civilization changes us; out in the woods– I wasn’t reserved, I was raw, and real, myself, and happy even on the bad days. I had no need to filter, or feel judged while hiking that the modern world puts limitations and expectations on us. The two things I was most grateful for when returning would be running water (not having to filter to drink, clean, and the ability to shower daily) as well as fresh fruit and vegetables (after eating processed and packaged food for the majority of my days.) One of the hardest things would actually be having to find a bathroom! When you are in the woods, the moment you think “I have to pee” you move to the side of the trail, behind a tree, squat down, and carry on. Bladder control was very difficult having to re-wire my body that just because my mind thought “I need to go now” doesn’t mean I can!

I missed mostly my family, and my bed; I left when my little sister was 6 months old, and didn’t physically see her again until Pennsylvania– when my Mom drove down for the weekend. From PA on, I would see them every weekend (my Mom or grandfather) would drive an hour or two to pick me up; bring me home for the weekend, and then drop me back at the trailhead Monday morning. This went on until Vermont, and then I didn’t see them until my final day at Katahdin. I miss the simplicity; I had one job, wake up and walk. I didn’t have to think about what to wear, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, social media, dreading work Monday morning; I just had to make it to the next campsite, over, and over, again.

Any future plans to hike the AT again?

12. No, well; assuming you mean thru-hike it. Day hikes, section hikes; yes. I would love to go back to the Shenandoah Valley and spend the day with the wild ponies, as well as other spots along the trail that I took for granted and rushed through, during the time. It’s funny the things you take for granted and wish are over; until they are and in the end you then start thinking of the beginning.

What is your favorite local hiking spot in CT?

13. I don’t particularly care for the section of AT in CT; not to mention it is just as far as sections in MA from where I live. I think my favorite local hiking spot would be the trails in Granby/East Granby (Metacomet Trail runs through a lot of CT) Penwood, Wentworth Falls, Valley Falls, the list goes on and on!
What is your favorite local hiking spot in CT?

I’d like to close saying the thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was a pivotal moment in my life where I started living the life I wanted to live and becoming the person I was meant to be. Nature calms me; when I find my head foggy, and the World closing in on me, I go for a walk…minimum of 4 hours, it is my reset button, my “breath of fresh air” no pun intended. At any moment we can change who we were, and be anyone that we want to be.

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

PS. Don’t forget to look for my book in the future for the full story! It is still in the drafting stages; but I am hoping to have my first draft by Fall! Which then means on to editors, publishers, and marketing publicity!

My Way Thru

Chasing Dreams & Facing Fears From Hiking Boots to High Heels
Written by: Ashlee Elia “Cheeky Chi”

You Want Me to Drink That?!

Breakfast to me has always been one thing; eggs. I will admit though; starting my mornings at 5:30am, green smoothie at 7:00am– still allows for eggs by 10:00am!

I love, love, love now starting my morning with a nutrition dense shake that helps fuel and kickstart my day. Not to mention by 7:30am I’ve already had a cup of green leafy spinach and kale which are nutrient dense in vitamins A, C, E and K, contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants which protect cells and may play roles in blocking early stages of cancer. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. But let’s not stop there…


My smoothie also contains half a cup of fruit which typically is high in potassiumdietary fibervitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure which is always a plus!

Next on the list that goes in is carrots; they are rich in betacarotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, biotinvitamin Kpotassium as well as vitamin B6.

If you don’t love peanut butter; I am pretty sure you are not human (jokes aside) I add peanuts to my morning shakes not only for the flavor. Peanuts are abundant in niacinfolate, pantothenic acidthiaminriboflavin, choline, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E and rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassiumzincironcoppermanganese and selenium – basically a superfood in my eyes, no but really I just love the taste!

If you’re not like me; and don’t find it exuberating to drink apple cider vinegar out of the bottle, I have the solution for you! (Rather my Nana brought it up the other day, and I thought; “yeah! great idea for people who don’t care for the taste.”) But anyways; a shot of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (BACV) goes into the smoothie which gives it a little fizzle and light and airiness to your morning shake. But why would you want to put vinegar in your smoothie you may ask; well not just any vinegar, it has to have “the mother” which are strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria to keep your gut happy and healthy. Let’s not stop there though; it can help kill pathogens, including bad bacteria, lowers blood sugar levels and helps fight diabetes, reduced fat and promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, improves heart health, and many other positive attributes.

Cinnamon; more than just a spice added to pies and cookies, it is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols, reduces inflammation, which reduction in the body is incredibly important. It helps the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. May have beneficial effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types.)

I am not dairy intolerant; because I am pretty sure cheese and Greek yogurt make up a food group for me, however: I do find it fascinating approximately 70 percent of African Americans, 90 percent of Asian Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 74 percent of Native Americans were lactose intolerant– so I choose unsweetened Almond/Coconut milk blend for these reasons! Plus it tastes amazing to me, almond milk alone is high in Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that fights against free radical damage. There is also 50% more calcium in fortified almond milk than dairy milk, and it is known to help aid in weight loss. Coconut milk is helpful in nourishing the digestive lining, helping to improve gut health, and well just delicious to me.

Quality protein powder; again I am not dairy intolerant so I choose Celzius Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream flavor for my whey protein of choice; it is grass fed, sweetened with Stevia, with added amino acids (BCAA.) you can find it here: My Protein  You can even use the coupon code: ELIA20 to recieve 20% off your order!

I think that sums it up for most mornings! Sometimes I will add fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, or anything else fresh I have left over, sometimes flaxseed, or chia seeds, but most mornings it is kept the same:


Rough Estimate Macros:
29g/16g/35g :: 384 calories


  • 1 cup frozen organic spinach/kale mix
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed fruit (mine is strawberry, peach, mango, red grape)
  • 1 scoop protein powder I use @celziusnutrition vanilla ice cream flavor
  • Handful salted peanuts (1/4c)
  • 1 carrot chopped up
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Silk almond/coconut milk blend unsweetened
  • Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar


You really can be as creative, or simple with smoothie recipes; that is what makes them so versatile, quick and easy! Just throw what you like in a blender and enjoy! (Please refrain from sticking donuts, cakes, beer, and wine in and blending – it won’t be as satisfying as you may think throwing your favorite things all together!)



So You Want to Plan A Thru-Hike?

First of all; “What the heck is a thru-hike?!” A thru-hike is embarking on a long-distance trail within one season, from start to finish. The most common in the United states being  associated with the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and for me I am referring to the Appalachian Trail (AT.)


Starting my journey at Springer Mountain in Georgia on April 7, 2014; it wouldn’t be until October 3, 2014 when I would arrive at the Northern terminus of the trail, Mount Katahdin 180 days later. I may not remember every step that I took; but I do remember every hardship and horrible day, as well as every overcoming which turned into an amazing day along the way. Often I explain my experience as “the hardest, most rewarding thing I have ever done.” Stays true; till this day, even 4 years later.

So you want to find out first hand if you have what it takes; what’s next? First and foremost; start saving! Mind you, I didn’t have any backpacking gear prior to hiking the AT; so my costs may be a bit higher–but at least $5,000 was spent on gear and preparation alone (not to mention added cost of hostels/motels along the way– which can cost anywhere from $10–$100, trail food along the way, town food (and beer), transportation, and any other side adventure that can and will come up along the way!)

What was in my bag?

(note: prices are as of 2018; could have been more expensive even in 2014)

  1. Osprey Women’s Ariel 65 Backpack
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  2. Solomon Quest GTX Hiking Boots (I would later send these home )
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  3. Crocs Classic Clog
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  4. Merrell Mix Master Move Glide Trail-Running Shoes
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  5. Dollar General Reebok Sneakers
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  6. Sea to Summit eVent Compression Bag
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  7. Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks
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  8. Jetboil Cooking System
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  9. SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS (plus cost of subscription)
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  10. MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter
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  11. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 Tent
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  12. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad
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  13. Osprey UltraLight Pack Raincover
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  14. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
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  15. Gerber Basic Fixed Blade Serrated Knife
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  16. Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork
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  17. EMS Simmer Down 0° Sleeping Bag
  18. Down Hugger 900 #2 25deg
  19. Down Hugger 900 #5 40deg
  20. Sea To Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner
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  21. Nalgene Tritan 32oz Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle
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  22. Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
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  23. Jetboil Jetpower Fuel
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  24. Not to mention all of the clothes, shin compression sleeves, knee braces, shoe guards, hats, handkerchief, Purell, toilet paper, food, protein powder, Carnation breakfast, powdered Gatorade, bug spray, paracord, toothbrush, soap, duct tape, medical kit, Neosporin, tea, ginger chews, baby wipes, deodorant, etc!


So Now that you have all this gear…

To test your limits short term or not? With no backpacking background; I chose to omit a trial or testing period and just throw myself full-blown into a thru-hike. Sure, I had been car camping and loved it, sure I had been on day hikes; but I assure you–both of those are extremely different than long distance backpacking. I believe with all of my heart; had I done a trial period of a week or so, I wouldn’t have decided to go through with the feat of that week repeated for the next 180 days.

…BUT, I do agree with testing your gear

This means wear those boots around the office and as much as you can to break them in (I ended up sending mine home because they wore blisters on my ankle even after wearing them around the office beforehand!) Make sure you know how to set up your tent, how to work your stove, your water filter/purifier, where things “go” in your pack–because let’s face it; there’s a lot to store in a little amount of space, not to mention you will be carrying this daily.

Training beforehand, is there such a thing?

I wouldn’t say I “trained” per say before the trail; I worked until “Friday” left for Georgia on Saturday, and was on the AT come Monday morning. I did however go on day hikes here and there as it was already an enjoyable activity in my life, as well as I was excited to carry my pack around–you know, because it was still new and not smelly, and well I hadn’t been carrying it for the past 167 days and counting yet!

Do you need permits beforehand?

Luckily, on the AT the only permit you need is for the Smoky Mountains; and that is easily obtainable while on the trail. Unlike while hiking say the PCT you need some months beforehand and there are limited slots for certain seasons!

Will you be flying with your gear?

I live in Connecticut; and had an awesome friend who was not only willing to drive me down to Georgia, but also spend a week getting me acclimated to trail life. Then, I had an awesome family who drove up to Maine to pick me up; needless to say my support system was amazing–and being on the East Coast I did not have to worry about flights. However; a lot of people I met along the way were not in-fact from the East Coast, which meant they did have to travel with their gear. Be sure to check your pack in a duffel back with any sharp objects such as knives, lighters, stove, etc. Carry on your boots, electronics, lithium batteries, and anything valuable or fragile. DO NOT bring stove fuel or bear spray, you will need to buy when you arrive.

The last thing I can say at this time, and leave you with is…

You are about to start a journey of a lifetime; remember, just one foot in front of the other (easier said than done, trust me.) There will be hardships, injuries, sickness, loneliness, friendships, relationships, frustration, sadness, and unbelievable views, and helpful people along the way–embrace it all. Because before you know it; it will be over, the hardships will fade from your memory, and you will be left for that longing to do it all over again…

“For the five years from 2011 to 2015, the reported completion rate was remarkably steady and hovered within a narrow two-point range of between 25 and 27 percent. So roughly one in four hikers who attempted a thru-hike successfully made it to the end and reported it.” –AMC AT Statistics

Eating for Energy

The best way to lose weight FAST is to jump on a fad diet.

…True. but it is not sustainable; you will be miserable and constantly feel deprived like you are missing out, eventually you will gain back if not all, sometime more weight than you started with making the experience temporary– and not a healthy lifestyle.

The unhealthy cycle:

  • Your initial motivation then wears off
  • Rebel, Revert, Binge
  • Gain even more weight
  • Depression and unhappiness


    So what can you do about this?

    Don’t fall into the trap! The understanding of the elimination of either carb or fat; comes down to the process of elimination. As long as your calories IN, are less than the calories out (being burned through exercise and daily energy) you will start to see change in your overall body composition and loss of body fat.

    This is why it is important to be aware of what you are putting into your mouth; common thinking patterns are; “I can’t go out to dinner with friends because everything at a restaurants is unhealthy.” While these days; this statement is more correct than not, it certainly is not true.

    Choosing lean protein options in restaurants such as chicken, fish, eggs, quality lean beef/bison is possible! Don’t be ashamed to request your meal to be to be cooked in olive oil over vegetable oils or butter. Every restaurant has a vegetable or salad option (the key is to how it is prepared, again asking to be cooked in olive oil or steamed. Dressings are the other calorie dense, highly processed additives to be mindful of.)

    Unprocessed foods take longer to digest which means a steady flow of energy (glucose) through the day. Ever wonder why “everyone is so tired” these days?
    What you put in; doubles what you get out! Food for thought, literally: It takes your stomach at least 15 minutes to tell your brain that it’s full. In a Western world; especially America, where faster is better and meals are eaten on the go, in the car, and as fast as humanly possible– it’s no wonder we can’t listen to our bodies when they tell us we are content to stop eating.

    A few of my favorite types of cuisines are Asian, South American, and Mediterranean. The options are endless with ingredients like fresh vegetables, quality protein, healthy fats like avocados and olives! Truly food of the Gods; I feel amazing picking on a little of this, and a little of that, as opposed to stuffing my face to the feeling of discontent. Fruit pairings with cheese are one of my favorite snacks! I will be the first to admit; I love indulgence, I love food, and hate how my body feels after.

    A perfect example of this would be last weekend when I went to the local Greek Festival; I had an amazing day with family, you can see it vlogged here: The Announcement You’ve Been Waiting For but to say that I overate is an understatement. The food was AMAZING; I had everything from spanakopita, grilled octopus, gyro, and more…to baklava, cookies, and Greek Coffee which is the same as Turkish Coffee (much like our espresso here in the states.) The coffee is served with the grounds. I opted to have mine unsweetened, or sketos (pronounced SKEH-tohss.)

    The moral of the story is; on the car ride home the food coma was induced, and my consciousness began to dissipate. To the point of when I got home, at around 7:00pm I took a nap! My body just couldn’t handle all of the sodium and sugar intake and it went into recovery mode. Now I understand why siestas (an afternoon rest, or nap) are so common!

    I realize in my photos above; flour tortillas are pictured, and while recently I have made the effort to eliminate almost all processed food– I am still at the stage of occasionally making an exception. For the reason stated earlier of balance. I am stubborn; I want what I can’t have, and if I tell my body I can’t have chocolate–suddenly I am dreaming of swimming in a chocolate fountain. Likewise; with any other ingredients–if I quickly claim “I no longer eat refined white flour” I will be the first one in line for a cupcake. However; through reputable Netflix documentaries, reading nutrition based articles, and really meditating on the idea of what these processed foods have begun negatively effecting our minds and bodies– I see myself slowly, naturally, making these changes.

Plant the seed; and watch it grow, with anything in your life–Knowledge and understanding is the first step towards change. Don’t jump into anything health related; make small changes daily until you are closer to the place you want to be.

First Time Traveling Alone Out of Country

Prior to Thailand; I had only flown to St. Lucia (a short 7 hour flight– that at the time, I thought was close to my least favorite thing), not to mention I was accompanied by my boyfriend at the time. A few things you should know and consider before taking the trek anywhere alone.

The question I was asked most frequently; “Are you nervous, or excited?” The honest answer was, I was ready. Sure I was both excited, and nervous; but I had packed my bags a week ago, and was longing to just be there already!


So you’ve decided to up and go; somewhere, anywhere but here –and are now second guessing your purchase of a singular round-trip plane ticket. Don’t!

And here’s why…

When you travel alone; you travel on your terms. You don’t have to compensate an experience because your travel buddy is stuck in the hotel or hostel with digestive issues. However; you still have the option of meeting new people and making friends, some lifelong friends!

After traveling to Thailand; I met two individuals who I have kept contact through the internet with for a year now. Consequently enough, I will be flying out to visit and stay with them in their home country of Malaysia next month. That is the beauty of meeting new people and connecting through travel, you create new bonds you may have not otherwise.

“I’ve been a thousand places, and shook a million hands; I don’t know where I’m going–But I know just where I’ve been. I’ve flown a million miles, and I’ve rode so many more; every day, a castaway.”

First and foremost; pack LIGHT. It may be difficult at first, wanting to bring every scenario of items you may need; but chances are you never will use. Plus, most items are easily obtainable; and for a much cheaper cost than the added airfare cost of overweight baggage!

Next, consider using a VPN for travel to protect your identity while using public WiFi. Here is a detailed link to walk you through step by step how to do so: VPN Step-by-Step Guide

As hard as it may be in the situation; be patient, adapt, and be open-minded. “It is, what it is.” is my favorite mantra these days. I learned this quickly after a few mind altering events; one of which was water damage to my iPhone while in Koh Tao snorkeling with still 3 nights and 4 days upon returning back home! I will admit; for about 15 minutes, my mind raced. Negative thoughts, anger, frustration, fear, “There goes all of my photos.” And then I took a look around, I was standing on the top deck of a snorkeling boat, in the middle of no where in Thailand; the sun was shining, below there was a buffet of all the fruit and coffee you could consume, music playing, and the water was the most gorgeous teal color. I had nothing to be upset about. Whether my phone turned back on or not, was out of my control; there was no sense in putting my energy in worrying about it. “It is, what it is.
(Even after submerging in rice, and days later; it still did not turn on. But, I enjoyed my experiences and surroundings in the NOW. Then, when I got home; I purchased a new iPhone.)

Don’t cause unwanted attention to yourself; this means stay low-key, leave your fancy jewelry and accessories at home– and submerse yourself in the local culture. More times than not; there is only a language barrier when us “Westerners” believe to be superior to those around us. A smile goes a long way; even if you do not understand the language, make an effort to learn some of the most basic words to the region of which you will be visiting. “Hello” “Please” “Thank you” “Toilet” are some of the most basic, yet staple phrases to be familiar with.

Don’t isolate yourself; and I don’t necessarily mean for safety reasons (though that is a good point too.) I mean, just because you are traveling alone; doesn’t mean your experience has to be a lonely one. Create a routine, bring a book, visit local cafes and coffee shops, opt to stay at a hostel or AirBnB over a secluded hotel room, start a conversation, prompt communal meals, get out of your comfort zone, and use common sense and be aware of your surroundings without being anxious and paranoid.

I have to remind myself from time to time, some of these quick tips to eliminate fear and second guessing. Traveling is a virtue; whether solo, with a loved one, or a group– learn to embrace the un-comfortable. With that being said; only a month until I board the plane again to Asia!

Training Muay Thai in Thailand Your First Time

Right then and there I knew I had to go, but how? Didn’t matter. My mind was racing a mile a minute; I am a passionate person, I give all or nothing, 150% or 0. When I get an idea in my mind, I create the reality. So it shouldn’t surprise my friends, family, and readers; that when I decided to train Muay Thai I go to Thailand to do so.

Yes. In fact I am saying, prior to training in Thailand; I only crammed in a few sessions here back home to get some of the basics–and bruises before I flew out.


Honestly, I think this is what shaped my love and respect for Muay Thai (I only noticed this once returning back home to the states.)

Training in Thailand is hard. The climate is as you would expect; tropical, hot, and humid–always. And then it downpours. The beauty of this; whether you are standing outside, or training for 2 hours straight…you are sweating just the same. The gyms are located outside, meaning sure there is a cover over the top of you such as a roof; but there are no walls.

Which leads me to reward number 1: Training outside in a beautiful location makes the “suck” a little less…well, sucky! I can remember my body being in pain, tired, sweaty, and wondering when the session would end; leaning over the cement wall at NSN (Namsaknoi’s former gym in Koh Phangan, Thailand) catching my breath before the next round on the bag reminded me of the beauty around me. It beats four walls inclosed any day.

The next best thing about training in Thailand is the passion and the respect. The trainers have incredible patience for you; even when we don’t speak the same language. Which in turn amplifies my obedience and concentration. I have found that Muay Thai is the only thing in my life in which I am 100% present in. I never have my phone, my thoughts don’t wander, and stick to the task at hand, the outside world is obsolete until the session is over. When I step on the mats here, or there; my mind flips to focus. I am not there to socialize, mess around, or half-ass anything. I listen with anticipation of what to do next; and keep on practicing through the frustration.

“It is said that the hardest part of any journey is taking the first step; in this case I’m throwing the first kick…”

Within my first hour of training in Thailand; I tore open the bottom of my big toe, the sting of the skin being ripped away was nauseating. I quickly went into the office where Angie wrapped me up and taped my toe to prevent any further tearing–and back out I went, to continue training. Every day I would have to wrap my toe with new tape and train through the pain in hopes of keeping it clean enough and dry enough to avoid infection and staph (which is a very common infection given the high humidity.)

It is important to try and shower as soon as possible after training, as well as rinse or clean your clothes and gear. Leaving them out in the sun will naturally disinfect; however, prolonged exposure will shorten the life of the equipment.

Seems with every meal is rice or noodles; how do you not gain 30 pounds?! With the intensity of training; 2 hours one to two times a day, it is easy to burn through these carb loaded calories. It is true that abs are built in the kitchen, but with explosive HIIT like training sessions the “fighter body” is typically a mean, lean– shredded machine!


Looking to travel to Thailand,
Try Muay Thai for the first time,
or take your training to the next level?

There’s no better way than a training camp!

Submerse yourself in the experience with likeminded people, and exploration of the world! Not only Thailand camps are available, but also Greece, and Costa Rica (the possibilities are endless, chances are as the months pass by only more locations will be available for camps soon enough, as the list keeps growing!)

Raw Food Diet | What Can I Eat?

If it is ripe and editable than eat it! Think uncooked, unprocessed, mostly organic foods. Your staples: raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. Be my guest and consume raw eggs, meat, and fish…but I wouldn’t! Well, with the exception of the fish…I do love sushi.

Generally speaking; you would then try and avoid foods that have been pasteurized, produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents or chemical food additives.

  • All fresh fruits
  • All raw vegetables
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Raw grains and legumes, sprouted or soaked
  • Dried fruits and meats
  • Nut milks
  • Raw nut butters
  • Cold-pressed olive and coconut oils
  • Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
  • Seaweed
  • Sprouts
  • Raw eggs or dairy (if desired)
  • Raw meat or fish (if desired)


I find that even my body reacts differently to blending certain foods, such as frozen kale or spinach in a smoothie; the blending process acts like the replacement job of your digestion process in turn speeding up the elimination function from the body.

Which is why a Raw Food Diet discourages cooking; it is believed that cooking destroys the natural enzymes in foods, resulting in loss of nutrients.

High heat does cause most enzymes to denature; however, many enzymes denature in the acidic conditions of the stomach anyway.

Which leads me to…is a Raw Diet really beneficial?

Like anything I advocate; balance is key, no too extremes are prevalent in my lifestyle. It is true that following guidelines of a Raw Diet make you consume more fruits and vegetables, which means more nutrients and fiber– which is great! So that is a plus. It also almost instantly promotes weight loss because it is low in calories, and detoxifies the body.

One study found that people following a raw vegan diet had low protein, calcium and vitamin D intakes (13).


Sample Raw Diet Meal Plan:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie
  • Snack: Banana and raw nut butter
  • Lunch: Salad with avocado and fruit
  • Snack: Orange slices and nuts
  • Dinner: Sashimi
  • Snack: Apple and berries