Traveling Solo, Turning 30 & Other Unpopular Activities I Highly Recommend

solo travel

“You’re doing WHAT?!”

That was the most common reaction I received upon sharing my 30th birthday plans. (ICYMI, I did a – gasp – solo mystery vacay via Pack Up + Go!)

But it wasn’t the surprise part that startled most, it was the solo part.

Most people gazed at me with sympathetic eyes, ready to whip out their violins and throw me a pity party because they thought it was such a tragedy that I’d have to go somewhere by my little lonesome. Like it was automatically assumed that I must be sad and alone if I had to travel by myself.

In a world that preaches self-love and acceptance – why is it so unfathomable that one would want to spend time alone? I actually like spending time with myself and I think it’s a concept that should be more widely embraced.

Let me assure you, I have friends. I have a core group of besties that I would die for. I have the best parents in the entire world, a little brother I adore more than anything, and a husband of almost 7 years – all of whom most definitely would have gone with me if I had asked them to. But I didn’t.

For my 30th birthday, I wanted to go on an adventure and have an experience that was solely mine. If you’ve never traveled solo, I could see how this might sound crazy. But I’ve had some of the absolute best experiences of my life all by myself. Hear me out.

Four years ago I took my first solo trip (to LA). My travel companion was supposed to be my husband, but he found himself suddenly unable to go. Instead of canceling the trip, I had the craziest idea. What if I went by myself? And instead of doing all of the couple-focused activities I had on the itinerary… What if I went solo and did whatever the hell I wanted?

So I did. I stayed in beautiful historic downtown Pasadena where I walked everywhere to take in (and fall in love with) the scenery. I attended the IMATS for the first time. I got my makeup and hair professionally done just for the hell of it. I swam naked at a spa with a bunch of strangers. I ate what I wanted to and I drank what I wanted to and I didn’t consult any other soul about where to go and what to do.

It was one of the most liberating experiences of my entire life and I will forever cherish the memory of that trip… and the fire it lit within me. That trip empowered me to be fearless. It proved to me that I can do whatever I want without anyone holding my hand or telling me how. Forever after that trip, I stood a little taller and spoke a little louder and took solace in knowing that I am in complete control of my own happiness.

Since then I’ve embarked on over a dozen solo trips, each one of them exciting, empowering, and enlightening in their own way. And my most recent was no different.

On my solo 30th trip to Denver, I ignored my phone (not completely, but more than I usually do). I wandered with no particular place to go, staring at the mountains and breathing in the mile-high air. I ate elk hotdogs and drank multiple bottles of Champagne. I got a Vichy shower (Google it). I ate pot gummies (legally!), blasted Amy Winehouse and danced around my haunted hotel room in a plushy robe. It was cozy and relaxing and everything I wanted to be. These moments were not only perfect, but completely my own, with no one around to effect my energy. (Except the ghosts.)

Throughout it all, I reflected on the 30 years of beautiful life I’ve been blessed to live. I normally reserve my use of the term “blessed” for sarcastic hashtagging purposes, but in this case, I truly mean it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go on trips with people you love. Do that! I do it too. I’m just saying that if one of those people you love happens to be you and you decide to travel alone, you might just discover a new part of yourself and have the best time of your life.

I know I did.

Pack Up + Go Review

Pack Up and Go Review

I did something a little unorthodox to celebrate my 30th birthday.

After struggling to decide what to do to commemorate this milestone, I chose to escape on a solo surprise vacay via Pack Up + Go!

What is Pack Up + Go, you ask? Cliff’s Notes version: Think of them as a surprise travel agency that specializes in three-day weekend trips. The kicker is that you don’t know where you’re going until the day you leave. Yes, you read that right.

I literally told anyone who would listen about it and got quite a reaction. Read on to hear more about my experience and the answers to FAQ’s from everyone I blabbed to…

How does it work?

Nearly everyone I talked to about this, online and otherwise, was like, “Wait, WHAT? How do they know where to send you?”

An excellent question! You start the process by filling out a basic questionnaire that asks for some insight about your travel preferences (and allows you to express areas you don’t want to travel to). 

The survey asks whether you prefer action or relaxation and also prompts you to check off hobbies and interests. See below for a snapshot of the survey:

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In mine, I checked off basically anything having to do with food/alcohol and spas, relaxation, and nature. I skipped all of the fitness and outdoor sports options. (#yolo)

I noted that I did not want to go to Austin or Nashville as I had just traveled to both places within the last couple months. I also requested that I not be sent to Florida, LA, and Vegas as I travel fairly often to all three. 

What is the cost?

The beauty of this service is that you pick your own budget. Full disclosure – I set a fairly high budget for my trip ($1,000) because it was for my 30th birthday and I didn’t mind forking over a little more cash than I normally would.

You could set a budget as low as $400 – it would just mean that you’d likely be traveling by car to a nearish destination vs. flying across a country to stay in a luxury hotel.

How do you know what to pack?

A week prior to my departure, I got an email giving me a heads up on the weather so I would have an idea of what to pack. They gave me the forecast and tips like to bring walking shoes (“you’ll be covering a lot of ground”) and an empty stomach (“this place has some seriously good food – and drinks”).

The email also included necessary information about my departure for planning purposes – “go to LaGuardia airport, terminal B, at 6:45 a.m.” 

Were you afraid you’d hate your destination?

Strangely, no. I trusted that they wouldn’t send me somewhere terrible. I’m also kind of an adventure junkie, so I figured that I’d be able to find something to do no matter where they sent me. If all else failed, my plan was to find a bar and make a memory no matter what.

However, right before I left I did suddenly I have all these panicky thoughts flooding my brain about the travel portion of my trip. What if the flight they book for me doesn’t match my picky travel preferences? What if I have a million layovers? Oh god, what if they fly me on Spirit?! (Spoiler alert: None of that happened.) 

When did you find out your destination?

The morning of my departure! They send you an envelope with your destination and an itinerary inside about five days before you leave with the direction not to open the envelope until the day you leave. Of course, you can cheat and open it early, but I didn’t want to. 

Where did they send you?!

Denver, CO! It was absolutely incredible. Keep an eye out for my love letter to Denver in a future post as it’s too much to write here. 😉

Was it worth it?

The answer – without hesitation – is YAAAAS. I want to do it again! Like, as soon as possible.

Would you recommend this for everyone?

This is a tricky question. Did I love it? Abso-freaking-lutely. Is it for everyone? Maybe not everyone.

If you are a control freak, this may not be for you. Due to the nature of the service, you can’t plan anything ahead. Example: The hottest dinner spot in your destination city might be completely booked since you couldn’t reserve in advance (because you didn’t even know you’d be going there.)

So, you really have to be the type of person that is willing to give up full control and go with the flow.

If you are that person, I recommend it 100%. And btw, if you book a trip, be sure to mention you heard about it from me! :)

Happy 60th Anniversary, Dove!

Dove 2

Dove has been a staple in my beauty routine for as long as I can remember. In fact, I think the classic Dove beauty bar might have been the very first beauty product I ever used! That’s why I’m so thrilled to partner with my friends at Dove to help celebrate their 60th Anniversary.

For generations, Dove has been not just a bar of soap or a shampoo, but a source of confidence, too. Through both their products and their campaigns, they’ve helped women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look.

You all know how I’m a huge proponent of body positivity and all that Dove stands for, so I hope you’ll all join me to celebrate each other with a brand that empowers us!

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To commemorate the 60th anniversary, I stopped by my local CVS to stock up on some of my favorite Dove hair and skin products. It’s winter and my skin and hair need serious hydrating, so I picked up the Deep Moisture body wash, Daily Moisture shampoo, Advanced Care deodorant, and I even snagged a limited edition beauty bar for myself!

Their skin products are gentle, give me softer smoother skin and are dermatologist recommended. The Daily Moisture shampoo nourishes my hair leaving it silky and manageable, too.

These are great affordable additions to add to your bag next time you’re at CVS! In fact, CVS is hosting a BOGO deal today through March 11th on select Dove products! You can also buy 2 and get $3 ExtraBucks rewards. It’s a good time to go shopping.

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And to further celebrate Dove’s 60th anniversary, I am hosting a gift card giveaway! To enter, take a photo explaining how you #RaiseTheBeautyBar, tag me (@martinisandmascara) and post it to your Instagram feed. Winners will receive a $50 dollar CVS gift card, so you can purchase all the Dove products you want! Read the official rules here.

I can’t wait to see all of your great posts and celebrate with you, so don’t forget to tag #RaiseTheBeautyBar, #CVS, and #Sweepstakes in your posts. Good luck, beauties!

[Post sponsored by Mirum Shopper. Opinions are 100% my own.]

The Best Products To Save Your Skin In Winter

[Today’s post was written by a guest contributor.]

Winter scene

Winter can be unbearably brutal to your skin. Between the strong winds, dry weather and frigid temperatures, skin takes a real beating during this time of year.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to upgrade your skincare routine in order to beat these winter woes. These four products will keep your skin looking soft, dewy and healthy throughout the chilly winter months.

Rich Moisturizer

Your everyday lotion just won’t cut it in dry, cold temperatures. Instead, opt for a thick, creamy moisturizer that soaks into the skin. You should make sure that this moisturizer doesn’t use any synthetic fragrances as these can irritate skin that is already inflamed.

It’s important to moisturize twice a day during the winter, even if you have oily skin. Skin that is too dry will overcompensate with excess oils that can cause acne.

Healing Lip Balm

One of the worst parts of winter is dry, chapped and cracked lips. If you want to keep lips healthy and moisturized during the cold winter months, invest in a lip balm that’s renowned for its deeply hydrating properties.

Pick a brand like EOS Lip Balm. This brand uses natural ingredients like shea butter to deliver serious moisture to parched lips.

Coconut Oil

Winter weather doesn’t just affect our faces. During cold months, our hands, feet and the rest of our bodies can get dry and cracked. That’s why it’s wise to invest in a large jar of coconut oil.

Coconut oil is one of those miracle oils that can make even the driest skin feel supple and soft in seconds. Select a coconut oil that is raw and unrefined so that it contains the most healing benefits. Whenever your hands or feet feel dry, massage them liberally with a tablespoon or so of coconut oil. Your skin will be moisturized beyond belief and will smell like delicious coconuts.

Facial Brush

Dry skin will produce an excess of dead skin cells that can clog your pores. That’s why it’s a good idea to purchase a facial brush. These brushes have soft bristles that won’t damage your pores. Instead, they will gently remove dead skin cells that are lodged deep beneath your skin’s surface.

By investing in these products, your skin will glow during the dreaded winter months.

How to Stay Fresh and Stress Free

Secret Deodorant

I live in New York City and I’m constantly running a million miles an hour on a mission to get things done. In this environment it’s easy to morph into a gigantic ball of stress. From juggling my many side hustles to the regular stresses of everyday life, I sometimes forget to slow down and breathe.

To avoid becoming that ball of stress, I get by with a little help from some of my favorite products! I discovered the below thanks to my friends at Secret Deodorant and Babbleboxx! Secret is already one of my go-to products for staying fresh and ready to face the day – so I was thrilled to partner with them and receive this custom curated box of goodies.

Read on for more info on what I depend on to keep me cool, calm, and collected during my busiest moments:

Secret Deodorant Fresh Collection

Already my favorite deodorant brand, Secret has recently launched some amazing new scents (and technology!) to keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. The new Secret Fresh Collection features a brand new patented Fade Resistant Scent Technology, which has been shown to combat nose-blindness and provide long-lasting fragrance benefits for up to 48 hour-protection. It’s specially designed to last throughout your day, providing you with unstoppable freshness and reassurance that your deodorant is working as hard as you do. It’s AMAZING. And I’m equally excited about the new Cool Waterlily fragrance as I am about the confidence boost it gives me!

Floral bouquets from FTD

Flowers are one of life’s special pleasures. FTD creates moments that lets your loved ones know how much you care. And sometimes, it’s totally ok if that loved one is yourself! I think filling my life (and my apartment) full of flowers helps me to feel happier instantly – and I have always been a firm believer of never waiting around for someone else to send you flowers.

La Fresh Limited Edition Waterproof Makeup Remover Wipes

There is something endlessly relaxing about a perfectly fresh and clean face. When I’m in chill mode, I reach for wipes like these wipes to get the job done. They are perfectly effective on the most stubborn makeup yet, gentle enough for all skin types. And you’re in luck! If you’d like to buy your own, you can get 25% off your first purchase using coupon code: BabbleBoxx.

Tree Hut Bare Moisturizing Shave Oil

Tree Hut Bare Moisturizing Shave Oil pampers skin with soothing essential oils like Jojoba Oil and Grape Seed Oil, which helps seal in moisture and promote healthy skin. The oil is uniquely formulated to provide enhanced contact between the razor and your skin for a smooth shave without nicks or cuts. It can also be used to enhance smoothness between shaves.

21 Drops Detox Essential Oil Blend

I LOVE 21 Drops! The brand has pioneered the modern experience in essential oil therapy, offering you a healthier way of living every day. Each 21 drops solution is pre-blended with distinct essential oils that come together in organic jojoba oil to uniquely treat a particular concern or aspiration. The Detox Essential Oil Blend fuses the 100% natural essential oils of Cardamom (to refresh), Geranium (to purify and support), Juniper (to flush out toxins), and Lavender (to soothe nerves).

[This post was sponsored by Secret, but all opinions are my own.]