A New York 24 Hours

I travel for work A LOT. The production company I produce for has an office in Manhattan so I’m in and out of NYC pretty regularly. However, I’m always working so it’s all work and no play. However when I scored an amazing flight deal to Iceland out of NYC I took advantage of being able to work from Manhattan and decided to treat myself to a mini pre-vacation in the Big Apple.

How I got there: 

Flying in to Newark the most economical way to get to Manhattan is the Newark Airport Shuttle. You can book one way or round trip for just $30, a taxi or Uber depending on the time of day could cost double or triple that.

Where I stayed:

Pod 39

I LOVE this little hotel. For it’s location it was very reasonably priced. I cashed in some of my hotels.com  rewards and managed to snag a room for less then $100 a night. If you’re looking for an amazing park avenue suite, bell boy and in room jacuzzi. This is NOT the hotel for you. The rooms are super tiny, but very clean and modern. I loved that each bunk bed had it’s own little TV. It was exactly what I need to rest after a busy day in the city. Plus there’s an amazing Mexican bar/restaurant downstairs.

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After checking in the hotel I headed down stairs to Salvation Taco . Which is a cool cantina attached to the hotel. I had TWO spicy margaritas and some delicious tacos before tipsy strolling to the subway to get to my broadway shot at 8pm.

By the way, being tipsy in Time Square is AMAZING. However being tipsy at the start of your favorite broadway musical is a recipe for an unnecessary amount of tears during the opening number.

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I’ve been singing the Waitress soundtrack non-stop for the past six months. So when I had a free night in NYC I had to go and  get front row seats. The perk of seeing a show solo is that tickets are so much cheaper. Instead of getting my front row isle seats for double the cost, one ticket was only $175 (instead of two for $250). Another bonus of “Treat-yo-self” to broadway solo is you can do whatever the F*!k you want. I got there early, had a drink at the bar and bought myself a key lime pie. It was magical. I laughed, cried and hummed along. PLUS Jason Mraz was headlining that night! Which was an unexpected surprise.


The next morning I joined the hoards of commuters on the subway and begrudgingly went to work. After a few ours of office work (AKA chatting with my best co-worker friend) I decided to head out to the city to shoot some “B-roll” footage (AKA explore).

Of all the time I’ve spent in the city I’ve never been to Ellis island or the Statue of Liberty! So that was the days mission.

First stop Battery Park. I HATE HATE HATE talking to ticketing agents. So I’d did the millennial introvert route, bought my ferry tickets online. Roughly $30 for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

I happened to get there just as a ferry was boarding so I had no wait. The cruise over to the Statue of Liberty was very nice, even in November we had great weather. The Statue of Liberty was much more impressive from a far. Visiting the island itself was underwhelming. I was more excited to visit Ellis Island.

I’ve always loved “coming to America” books and movies. So I was super interested in visiting Ellis Island and its museum. There’s so much to see at Ellis Island you probably could spend a whole day there. But I only had a hour to kill so I sped through each exhibit. The Island has so much history, historical impact and culture attached to it that the stories are never ending. I loved hearing and seeing how immigrants passed through customs and the trials they faced.

After speeding through I grabbed a hotdog and re-boarded the ferry back to Manhattan.

In total my round trip took about 3 hours, but I really feel like I saw everything. Plus I got my Instagram’s and that’s what matters most right?

Fearing I’d miss my bus back to Newark I basically sprinted back to my office to collect my suitcase and get to the bus stop. As predicted the Newark Airport Express was exactly on time and I made it by an inch. I squeezed in my bus seat next to a very loud Indian couple and settled in for the 45 min ride back to Newark Airport. Next stop, Iceland!

 

 

 

Grecian Days with Becky

Two years ago while traveling South East Asia a rooming mishap led me to meeting my soul sister, Becky J.

Ever since our teary goodbye in Vietnam Becky and I have been planning our next adventure together. My fluctuating job security caused me to cancel our trip together to Peru, which was absolutely devastating for me. But in the long run a good choice financially. Becky still went and I lived vicariously through her. Luckily just a few months later I landed a full-time position as video producer and we were able to start planning for our reunion trip. The top of both our lists? Greece!

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Becky and Becca reunited in Athens!

Somehow I managed to secure two whole weeks of consecutive paid vacation (unheard of at my job) so our plan was to spend a whirlwind three days in Athens before I embarked on a solo tour with Contiki Tours.

Becky was flying from London and I from NYC so we met up at the airport in Athens. From there we took the very easy to use metro into the city. We got off at our station Agios Ioannis where our very friendly AirBnB host met and guided us to her flat. Becky had a lot of previous experience with AirBnb but this was my first. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience, host or apartment.

Here’s where we stayed: Agios Ioannis Cozy Apartment 

Our host Lydia provided us with detailed maps, snacks and AIR CONDITIONING (which we were very grateful for).

As soon as we could we slung our luggage down and headed out to begin our Grecian adventure.

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First stop: Temple of Olympian Zeus

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From the Temple of Olympian we able to catch the
I love riding the sight-seeing buses. They’re a great way to get your bearings on a new city and easily get around without having to navigate public transportation.
During our loop of the cities we saw the Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium, National Archaeology Museum and so much more.
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After a full loop of Athens we decided to hop of at Agora. Before exploring the ancient city of Agora we sampled some of the most delicious ice-cream either of us had ever had.
Looking back, Agora was my favorite part of Athens.
Yes, yes, yes the Acropolis is nice. But it’s so crowded and their’s construction everywhere.
We entered Agora late in the afternoon. So it was nice a cool and we were practically the only people there. It was quite, calm and magical. There were so many nooks and hidden buildings to see that we really felt like explorers. You can not go to Athens without exploring Agora.
Tired and hungry we plopped ourselves down at the first restaurant we could and feasted on some well…subpar Greek chicken. It was underwelming, but we were so exhausted we didn’t really mind.
DAY 2
Good morning Athens!
This morning we decided to grab pastries from the bakery near our AirBnb. Which sounds simple, but when we entered the bakery they had very little left to choose from. Not wanting to seem rude, we both selected the easiest thing to point to. Which turned out to be sort of stale tasting bread. Life lesson, when in Greece make sure to go to the Bakeries very very early in the morning.
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After just one day we were Greek metro experts. So we hopped aboard the subway and then returned to the City Sight Seeing bus stop. Our first stop of the day was the must see changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown sodlier. The Greek military have very unique uniforms and marching style. So this ceremony is a treat to see. I highly reccomend camping out and watching this hourly event. 14322387_10154266910020813_4042692386468058701_n.jpg
After that we continued on the bus to the foot of the Acropolis near the Acropolis museum. We stumbled upon the most charming little street with cute little cafes and decided we should probably eat lunch before our hike up Acropolis. That’s when we discoved Arcadia resturaunt (Makrigianni 27, Athina 117 42, Greece). We had the most amazing Kebabs, taziki sauce and fries. So good we went back to the same restuarnt the third day. When I think back on Greek food I remember this restuarunt. What a gem.
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So fresh and colorful. 

Next stop The Acropolis.
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Here’s my mandatory picture with the Acropolis. 

Like I said before, yes the Acropolis is important to see. But it’s not the most amazing thing in Greece or Athens. It is very very very crowded and when I went big chuncks of it were under construction. Worth the time and energy to get to? Yes. Would I go again? No. (I actually did go twice because it was included in my Contiki tour).
Hint to my future finace, don’t propose to me at the Acropolis. lol I a tad bit bitter about this UNESCO sight, if you can’t tell.
On the plus side of the Acropolis. There are tons of kitties around!
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Remeber that amazing ice cream I raved about earlier? We went back again. I wish I could remember the name of this place. I guess you’ll have to wonder around Agroa and find it for yourself!

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Butterscotch 

Day 3:

Travel Advice: If you want to book an excursion do it in advance. We learned this the hard way after trying and failing to book a trip to see the ancient theater Epidaurus. However, we decided to take advantage of our extra day in Athens and have a beach day!

For alot of people Athens is all about the ruins and city life. But actually Athen’s sits just on the edge of beautiful beaches. Today Becky and I decided to venture outside the city to Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni.

We purchased an upgraded ticket with the City Sight Seeing bus and used their Athens – Piraeus – Beach – Riviera line.

If you’re lucky enough to have a half day extra to spend in Athens I highly reccomend taking a trip to spend a few hours at Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni. This freshwater lake is said to have mystical healing powers, so it’s the perfect way to unwind after several days of hiking through busy city streets. The lake is privately owned and operated. So you have to pay to get in. I think it was around $20 USD to enter and then if you want a locker its a little bit more. There are sun bathing chairs, tables, a restuaunt and bar. We managed to snag to prime realestate chairs right on the waters edge. We spent several magical hours floating in the lake and having our toes nibbled on by little fishes (which was weird at first but then soothing). It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind Greacian advenure.

After working on our tans we relunctantly boarded the bus back to the city, packed our suitcases and treked through Athens. Becky was ending her trip while I was preparing for a second part. So she and I hiked to my new hotel where we then said teary goodbyes.

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While I love the adventure of traveling solo, traveling with a compainion (exspecially someone you are so intune with like Becky) is so much more satisfying. It’s nice to know that there’s another person I can reminise with. Someone who has shared in my adventures and misadventures. I will never forget my Rasberry Chocolate Ice Cream and our waiter friend at that one resturaunt. Thank you Becky for being my traveling soul sister! I can’t wait until our next adventure.

New Years in Cancun

I love Contiki trips but they jam so much adventure, fun and culture into such short periods that when your done you need a vacation from your vacation! Luckily we decided to extend our trip one more day so that we could relax and enjoy the white sand beaches of Cancun.

We wasted away the final day of 2015 on a white sand beach in Cancun.

After some well deserved rest we got guzzied up and ready to ring in the new year Cancun style!

We headed to a massive beach party and concert. Chelsea and Sarah were leaving on an early bird flight that morning so we took advantage of the few hours we had left and danced the night away. At one point we even made it into the VIP section thanks to some fancy Mexican VIPs. We stole their SWAG and some free drinks then ran away from them. After the ball dropped I said my goodbyes to Chelsea and Sarah who had to get to the airport. I stayed and danced with the other Contiki people who were there too. Around 4am the party was still going hard but I was ready to go. drunkenly I thought it was a good idea to walk home alone…but somehow I managed to make it. I fell asleep on the bathroom floor and woke up the next morning feeling very hung over. But it was worth it. It always is.

I spent my last morning in Cancun sweating off a hangover in a beach chair eating tacos. Good vacation? Yes. Oh yes.

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Yucatan Highlights – Day 5 & 6

I don’t have any photos from day five of my Mexican adventure because we went zip lining and cave diving and I wasn’t going to risk brining my phone. But here’s a video that is axactly what we did!

Zip lining was so much fun and flying into the caves was exhilarating (and refreshing). However, repelling into the cave to terrifying! I’m glad I did it though. The whole adventure was physically exhausting and we all passed out on the ride back.

Dinner on night 5 was less than exciting. A majority of our group was really sick with the Mexican flu (don’t drink the water). Plus our dinner was not very good. But it was relaxing and nice to catch up with the few who felt like hanging out.

 

Cure for Hangover – Yucatan Highlights Day 4

It was rough going this morning as our group met up. Many people decided to sit today’s excursion out due to mixture of hangover and the Mexican flu. Although I would’ve been happy staying in bed all morning I rallied and made sure to catch the bus to Tulum!

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Tulum is a Mayan archaeological that overlooks the sea. It’s cliff top fortress is absolutely breathtaking and the ocean breeze was welcoming under the hot Mexican sun. We even got to see where the sea turtles nest on the beach (we couldn’t go near it, but we could see).

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Next stop Playa del Carmen for some much needed rest and sun bathing.

 

 

 

Cancun goes hard

If you’ve been following my blog then you know I LOVE TO DRINK. After all alcohol is universal, so I always make a point to sample local spirits everywhere I go. Cancun is a party city. The club and bar options are endless.

For our first night in Cancun we started it off at the loudest, silliest, wildest restaurant I’ve ever been Carlos and Charlies. The atmosphere was great. But maybe if the staff spent less time dancing and telling jokes are food would’ve come faster? Or maybe they delay the food so you’ll buy more drinks and shots? The food was so so but the drinks were excellent. I had a mile high margarita and a variety of shots bought by our table.

 

Feeling nice and warmed up we walked just across the street to the famous Mandala Disco. Our group decided to be VIP. So we paid a flat fee and had open bottle service and boy did we take advantage of that! We free poured our own screwdrivers, rum and cokes and what ever else we could get our hands on. The bottles were literally flowing. We danced and danced. Every now and then they would have free shots on the stage. So of course we bummed rushed to get those as well. Towards the end of the night when things were getting a little blurry they had a stripping contest. That was an eye full. But hey, it’s Cancun! I actually don’t remember how we got home that night, but somehow we managed. But not before everyone accidentally drank the mexican tap water….

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Merida, Mexico -Yucatan Highlights Day 2

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Up early for our flight from Mexico City to Merida!

We arrived around 10am and headed right out for Brunch at La Chaya Maya. Our tour manager recommended a Mexican specialty dish. For life of me I can’t remember what is was or was called. I do remember it being horrible. Luckily one of my friends order something else and we all shared hers while we  sipped mysterious green aloe drinks.

After our group brunch we were able to drop our bags at the hotel and then had free time. So Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to walk to the zoo. The Merida zoo is free and actually very cool (although if they probably do not meet most animals rights groups terms for animal capitvity). They had soooo many tigers. I think maybe 100, in all different shapes, colors and sizes.

 

After a few hours, several bottles of water and pounds of sweat we headed back to the hotel and freshened up for dinner.

We met our tour guide and walked to the city center for a short historical tour. We saw the famous cathedral of Merida and expereinced the busy and vibrant marketplace.

Then in groups of four we boarded horse drawn carriages for a bumpey ride towards our resturant.

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Dinner at El Refugio Fonda was probably the best meal I had in mexico. There was free sangria and a buffet that featured Merida specialties like Tortilla Lime soup and Mole. 

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Plate stacked high.

 

 

 

Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

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Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

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Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

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Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

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Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

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She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

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Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

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On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

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Contiki Day Songs; Travel and feel good music mega mix

Every morning on a Contiki tour when you bored the coach your tour manager will play a “Day Song”. A day song is meant as a welcome the group. It is intended to lift spirits, put you in a great mood and create a bond amongst tourmates. After my Contiki trips when ever I shuffle onto one of my “Day Songs” I immiedatly return to that time and place. Day songs really inspire life long memories.

Every tour has a different “Day Song”. They are choose by the tour managers and vary depending on country, activites, style and taste. But they all have a singular theme “live life”. Contiki’s moto is “No Regrets”. So it’s fitting that their “Day Songs” are about living, travel, love, life and friends.

I’ve reached out across the internet and polled fellow Contiki travelers about the “Day Song” from their tours in order to compile an epic playlist!

Here’s what I have so far:

  • Roll Out by Ludacris (USA Eastern Discovery 2015)
  • Raise a Glass by Pink (Simply Italy March 2011)
  • Galway Girl by Steve Earle (Ireland May 2012)
  • Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West (Great Britain & Ireland May 2010)
  • Runaway by Galantis (Mexico Grande December 2015)
  • What’s Up  by 4 Non Blondes (European Adventurer June 1995)
  • Over & Over by Smallpools (European Escapade June 2015)
  • It’s Nice to Be Alive by Ball Park City (Big Indochina Oct 2014)
  • Best Day of My Life by American Authors (Eastern Road Jul 2014)
  • The Only Place by Best Coast (California Highlights Aug 2013)
  • On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons (European Panorama 2013)
  • Gente Che Spera by Articlo 15 (Simply Italy Dec 2015)
  • Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars (Asian Adventure March 2015)
  • Fly Away by Lenny Kravist (London, Paris, Rome 2010)
  • In Colour by Shapeshifter (NZ Sweet as South 2014)
  • I gotta a Feelin by Black Eyed Peas (European Spirit 2009)
  • Thunderstuck by ACDC (North by Northeast 2010)
  • Hangover by Taoi Cruz (NZ Grand Explorer 2011)
  • Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry (Ultimate European 2013)
  • Rather Be by Clean Bandit (Big Tiki NZ 2014)
  • Life is Beautiful by Time McMorris (Eastern Road 2015)
  • Happy by Pharrell (European Discovery April 2014)
  • Waves by Mr. Probz (European Highlights June 2014)
  • Waka Waka by Shakira (Argentina & Brazil 2012)
  • En Italia by Fabri (Simply Italy Mar 2013)
  • Let’s Live For Today by The Grass Roots (European Escapade 2013)
  • I lived by One Republic (European Experience 2014)
  • Glad You Came by The Wanted (NIGHT SONG) (European Experience 2014)
  • Gypsy by Lady Gaga (Greek Islands 2014)
  • Pompeii by Bastille (Simply Italy June 2013)
  • American by Lana Del Rey (Grand Southern USA 2015)
  • Good Time by Carly Rae Jepsen (California Highlights 2014)
  • Good Life by One Republic (London to Rome April 2013)
  • It’s Time by Imagine Dragons (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • Pursuit of Happiness (NIGHT SONG) (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • We are Young by Fun (Best of Europe 2014)
  • Time of our Lives (NIGHT SONG) (Best of Europe 2014)
  • This is How We Do by Katy Perry (California Highlights 2014)
  • In a World Like This by Backstreet Boys (Wild Western 2015)
  • The Night is Still Young by Niki Manaj (NIGHT SONG) (Wild Western 2015)
  • Mykonos by Fleet Foxes (Greek Island Hopper 2010)
  • Great Day by Lonley Island (Walkabout Aug 2013)
  • Pause by Plain White T’s (Eastern Escapade June 2015)
  • 1901 by Phoenix (Grand Southern July 2011)
  • Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty (NZ 1994)
  • One Life by Hedley (European Inspiration)
  • Mad Caddies by Leavin
  • If Today was your Last Day by Nickle Back
  • Island in the Sun by Weezer (Thai Island Hopper 2010)
  • Pass Out by Tiny Tempah (European Escapade 2011)
  • You Get What you Give by New Radicals (Ult.European 2001)
  • Give me Everything Tongith by Pitbull (Road to Athens 2011)
  • 5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale (2013)
  • You Only Live Once by Strokes (Eastern Escape Dec 2010)
  • Holiday by Dizzee Rascall (European Escapade April 2011)
  • Sandstorm by Darude (Berlin, Vienna, Prague July 2007)
  • Nothing Really Matters by David Guetta (Winter Discovery 2012)
  • Live While We’re Young by One Direction (Eastern Road 2014)
  • I Was Here by Beyonce (Grand Southern June 2013)
  • Victoria by The Kooks (England & Scottland Dec 2010)
  • Show Me Everything You’ve Got by The Rocket Summer (NZ Sweet as South 2009)
  • Brand New Day by Ryan Star (Rome to London Dec 2012)
  • Jump Right In by Zac Brown Band (Grand Southern 2010)
  • Living in The Moment (Thai Island Hopper East 2013)
  • Our Time is Now by Plain White T’s (Eastern Discovery 2010)
  • Slow Down by Selena Gomez (NIGHT SONG) (Road to Rome March 2015)
  • This Moment by Katy Perry (Asian Adventure 2015)
  • YOLO by Lonley Island (USA 2015)
  • Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (Grand Souther April 2013)
  • Paperplanes by MIA (London, Scottland, Ireland 2009)
  • Born to be Wild by Stepphenwolf (Walkabout AU 1995)
  • Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers (West Coast USA 2008)
  • Traveling by Paper Lions (Best of Europe June 2008)
  • Ticket To Ride by The Beatles (London, Paris, Amsterdam 2010)
  • Califonia by Phantom Planet (California Highlights May 2007)
  • One Day Baby We’ll be Old by Asaf Avidan (Spanish Spree April 2015)
  • Trip The Light by Alicia Lemke (Croatian Island Hopper 2012)
  • Machu Pichu by The Strokes (Peru Uncovered  2010)
  • Applejack by The Triangles (Spanish Spree Aug 2012)
  • Viva La Vida by Cold Play (European Encounter November 2009)
  • Stay by James Blunt (Western Adventure June 2012)

Have one to add? Please comment and I will add it to the epic playlist!