Carmen Varner // Travel Influencer, Blogging Coach, Social Media Consultant

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Anacapa Island Day Trip

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Magic exists in the natural marvels of Channel Islands National Park. Off the coast of Southern California, you'll find five islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, & the smallest of them all, Anacapa Island. Available by boat only, these islands are secluded from the buzzing freeways & cell phone chatter of everyday life. You won't find a Wi-Fi signal out here, but you might find yourself.

Scroll down to learn the answers to: Where is Anacapa Island? How do you get there? What are some things to do on Anacapa Island? Is there camping? Are there hotels in Downtown Oxnard? How can you do an Anacapa Island day trip?


About Carmen

Hello, welcome to my blog! I'm Carmen. I'm a travel writer (also known as a travel blogger or travel influencer). Some of my most popular travel posts are Things to Do at Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, How You Can Visit Central Perk Cafe from Friends, & Your Guide to Oslo, Norway. I prefer black tea over coffee. I've worked with brands & companies such as The French Ministry of Agriculture, KAABOO Del Mar, Queen of the South TV show on USA,  OLLY, & more. You can learn more About Me here.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or my social media platforms, I may make a small commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure.

Dolphins near Anacapa Islands Arch on board the Island Packers Channel Islands National Park
A pod of dolphins followed our Island Packers boat on the return trip from Anacapa Island - near Anacapa Arch.

Where is Anacapa Island?

Part of the Channel Islands National Park, you can find Anacapa Islands off the coast of Oxnard, California. Oxnard is 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles; 38 miles south of Santa Barbara. Anacapa Island has three islets named East, Middle, & West Anacapa Islands. However, you aren't permitted to explore all three of them. It's not like you can walk from one island to the next anyway, that's why you need a boat for transportation.

Other things to do in California: Go skydiving & wine tasting in Lompoc, California

 On the way to Anacapa Island on the Island Packers boat whale watching dolphins
Travel to Anacapa Island on the Island Packers boat.

Transportation Around the Islands

I took a majestic boat ride with Island Packers. Arrive at the Oxnard Harbor. Travel time takes about an hour each way. Fred & I downloaded a few episodes of the Dr. Death podcast so we could listen with headphones from our phone. A layer of clouds protected us from the sun & the waves of the ocean. Apparently, the clearer the skies, the choppier the water. The more you know, right?

As we ventured past the Anacapa arch our way back to Oxnard, we saw a pod of dolphins. They swam right next to us. It was a top life experience. Island Packers offers trips to Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Barbara Island, whale watching, & other exciting options.

Once the Island Packers boat docks, adventurers step onto a ladder at Landing Cove then they corral everyone to cover the essential rules of Anacapa Island. After that, get ready for your quads to burn because you have 157 steps to climb. I felt a bit winded but the view from the top was spectacular, the first time you can see what it looks like from the island. You're really stuck out there on a small blip of land in the middle of the ocean, okay well it's about 10 miles off the coast of Oxnard, California.

Other things to do in California: Beach hopping & meditation in Encinitas, California

Animals on Anacapa Island: Western Gulls, Pelicans, Island Fox
Western Gull mama (probably) & cute little spotted chick.

Animals on Anacapa Island: Western Gulls, Pelicans, Island Fox, Oh My!

Visit Anacapa Island from April through mid-August & you'll run into some seabirds, particularly the Western gull. An annoyed gull pooped on Fred's backpack as we walked by its nest. If you're not a fan of birds, guano (bird poop), possible bird carcasses, loud squawking (literally anytime you walk by a nest or chicks), questionable smells, then avoid voyaging to the island during this time frame. However, if you want to experience an absolutely remarkable natural phenomenon, then mark your calendarbook a ticket. You might spot brown pelicans, cormorants, pigeon guillemots, western gulls, California sea lions, harbor seals. I saw pelicans, Western gulls, sea lions, & dolphins!

Animals on Anacapa Island: Western Gulls, Pelicans, Island Fox, Sea lions Island Packers boat tour whale watching
Sea lions relaxing & making a bunch of noise in a private cove.

Anacapa Island Camping

We only did a day trip on the island, but there are Anacapa Island camping options. We saw several campers already setup from the day before. There were a couple campers who left on the evening boat out for the day. The campsites are "primitive." That's the wording from the National Park Service website, but I'd called them minimal or bare. 

Anacapa Island provides picnic tables, food storage boxes, & pit toilets for use. But ultimately, you need to take all trash with you as there are no rubbish bins. The island has 7 campsites that fit 4-6 people per site. Reservations are required, so you can't just decide you're having a great time staring at the baby Western Gulls & have a sleepover. Check campsite availability on Recreation.com, the official website to make your Anacapa Island camping reservations.

Is There Food, Drink, & Water on Anacapa Island?

No, make sure to bring everything you need with you. There's no food, drink, or water on the island. We brought a couple liters of water, sandwich or pita pockets, chips, fruit, granola bar, & some chocolate in a backpack for our Anacapa Island day trip. You must take all garbage with you; we simply put it in our backpack to throw away once we got back to Oxnard.

Things to Do on Anacapa Island Water Sports   Picnicking   Hiking   Camping   Bird-Watching Historic & Cultural Site Information Site Photography Ranger Station Snorkeling Swimming Visitor Center Wildlife Viewing Water Access Scuba Diving Whale-Watching
Things to Do on Anacapa Island: Hiking, Bird-Watching, Camping.

Things to Do on Anacapa Island

We walked the entire trail around the island, saw the Anacapa Island lighthouse, marveled at the views from Inspiration Point, got pooped on by a Western Gull (well, Fred did at least), picnicked with a panoramic ocean view. Despite the boat full of people we arrived on the island with, we were able to have many private, secluded moments. 

Activities to Do on Anacapa Island

Water Sports 
Picnicking 
Hiking 
Camping 
Bird-Watching
Historic & Cultural Site Information Site 
Photography 
Ranger Station 
Snorkeling 
Swimming 
Visitor Center 
Wildlife Viewing 
Water Access 
Scuba Diving 
Whale-Watching

Ocean view Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort Things to do in Oxnard, California
Our ocean view room from Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard, California.


Where to Stay (Besides Camping on Anacapa Island): Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort

I stayed at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort with a remarkable ocean view. Our spacious two-room suite Mandalay Beach Hotel is a good option for kids, families, & couples.  They have a spa, fitness center, huge pool. I took advantage of Happy Hour by the pool. Just show your wristbands & order your drink. I grabbed the house wine while Fred opted for their beer on tap. We sipped our beverages along with the dozens of other people doing the same thing on a Friday evening. Make sure to eat the made-to-order brekkie at the Coastal Grill in the morning.

Hotels in Oxnard


Take a look at some of the hotels in Downtown Oxnard. You can customize what day you'll arrive/leave & how many people in your group. You can even expand your hotel search to include Oxnard & surrounding areas:


Booking.com

Things to Do in Oxnard, CA

You can spend the entire day or weekend admiring nature in Oxnard. There are endless things to do in Oxnard, California as far as strolls by the beach, kayaking, exploring the Channel Islands National Park, & thriving outside. Visit Oxnard has some fabulous suggestions if you need more inspiration for places to stay, where to dine, things to do, & local events in Oxnard.

Other Fun Stuff

The National Parks Service (NPS) even has a few live camera feeds so you can see what's going on. Take a look at the Bald Eagle Cam.

Have a question? Comment below & I will answer the best I can. Let me know if you've visited Anacapa Island. Would the birds scare you off? :]

Central Perk Cafe From Friends: Warner Bros Studio Tour

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Friends fans can sit on the couch at Central Perk Cafe where Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, & Chandler spent so much of their time. Take a photo in the Friends cafe. Stand where Red Ross played rugby. See where Rachel, Ross, Chandler, & Monica walked down the stairs for prom. The Warner Bros Tour Hollywood is a must-see experience if you like FriendsHarry Potter, Batman, Gilmore Girls, & entertainment in general. 

Is Central Perk real? Can you do a Friends set tour? Where is Central Perk Cafe? Are there cheap hotels in Burbank, CA? Plan your Friends trip & stay up-to-date on everything you need to know about Warner Brothers Studio Tour Los Angeles.


Learn more About Carmen here.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or my social media platforms, I may make a small commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure.



Is Central Perk Cafe From Friends real? Warner Bros Studio Tour Burbank California
Keep reading to learn all about Central Perk Cafe, Lot 48, Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood, & more.

Tell Your Warner Bros Tour Guide You're a Friends Fan

You have to buy Warner Bros Studio tickets! The Warner Bros Studio Tour is located in Burbank, which is part of the greater Los Angeles Area.  There isn't an official Friends set tour, but the Warner Bros Hollywood Tour is customizable based on tour participants, so make sure to specify you're a Friends fan! They'll tell you all the juicy details, show you where certain scenes were filmed, & more! 

You know when Ross played rugby? The piece of grass is TINY! The magic of angles. You can see where Rachel, Ross, Chandler, & Monica walked down the stairs for prom. There were a couple other Friends fans on our tour, but we also had Gilmore Girls fans, Batman fans, Big Bang Theory fans, quite a nice range. Speak up or else your tour guide will talk about what others ask for! 

WB Studios Is Central Perk Cafe Friends real? Warner Bros Studio Tour Burbank California
Explore the guided Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Burbank, California.


Is Central Perk Real?

Yes & no. Warner Bros Tour Hollywood created a real-life Central Perk Cafe where visitors can sit down to enjoy a coffee, located at Stage 48 in Burbank, California. The Central Perk Cafe isn't a replica of the Friends set, but you can still eat a sandwich or pastry in the Friends cafe. Order food at the counter then chose where to eat from the available tables & seats. It was pretty busy at the cafe. Buy a Friends coffee mug, coffee, Friends souvenirs, & any Warner Bros Tour souvenirs your heart desires.

Tip: The Friends cafe does include a replica of the Central Perk sign. There might be a line in front of the sign but it goes quickly. 


Is Central Perk Cafe From Friends real? Warner Bros Studio Tour Burbank California
Don't forget to take a photo in front of the Central Perk Cafe sign on Lot 48 at the end of the Warner Bros Studio Tour.

Is There a Friends Set Tour?

There is no official set tour. The Friends set tour doesn't include Joey, Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, or Phoebe's apartment. However, the Central Perk Cafe is available at the end of the Warner Bros Studio Tour at Stage 48 when your guide drops you off at the gift shop. This is at the end of the tour so there's no guide for this portion.

The self-guided set tour does include a replica of the Central Perk Cafe from Friends that we all know & love, including the couch, counter, tables, Phoebe's guitar, & more! You can look at the inside of Central Perk along with all the other people on the mini set tour from the side of the set. You cannot walk around the Friends cafe set replica.

Central Perk Cafe From Friends: Warner Bros Studio Tour set tour
The Friends set replica on Lot 48 of Warner Bros Tour in Burbank, California looks lonely without our favorite characters.


Tip: Stand in line to get your photo taken on the  Central Perk Cafe set replica. You can pose on the couch with a Friends coffee mug. Don't miss this iconic photo opportunity!


Get your photo taken on the Central Perk Cafe set replica. You can pose on the couch with a Friends coffee mug. Warner Bros Studio Tour
Snap a picture on the Central Perk Cafe couch with a Friends coffee mug.

Where to Stay/Hotels in Burbank, CA

There are a couple Marriott Burbank hotel options: Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport & the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Los Angeles Burbank/Downtown. Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport is less than a mile away from the Burbank Airport. The Marriott Los Angeles Burbank/Downtown is a 15-minute drive from Universal Studios Hollywood & Warner Bros. Studios. Burbank Inn and Suites is 5 miles away from Universal Studios.

Do a quick search for hotels in Burbank, CA. Just add your travel dates to see what's available & what the cost is:

Booking.com

I Cried When Friends Ended on TV

I grew up watching the show over the years & even watched the finale when it aired. I wrote about it in my diary later that night. I mourned for the end of the show & cried at its last moments. I tore up the diary entry & threw it away years later because I was so ashamed at how lame I sounded. I must've been a moody teenager at this point. But it's a fond memory now that I can laugh & reminisce about. I can watch a Friends DVD, the Friends box set, or Netflix when I want my Friends fix; it always reminds me of growing up, much like the characters in the show.

Is Central Perk real? Friends cafe: Warner Bros Studio Tour box dvd
The side of the Friends Central Perk Cafe set with a line of people waiting to take their photo.

Do you have a question about Warner Bros Tour, Central Perk Cafe, or the Friends set tour? Please comment below & I'll answer the best I can. 


Looking for Friends-related gifts?

- Buy your Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood tickets.
- Buy the Friends box set to watch every episode whenever you want.
- Buy a Friends coffee mug to drink all the coffee in the world.

Looking for places to stay in Burbank, CA?

Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Los Angeles Burbank/Downtown
Burbank Inn and Suites
Holiday Inn Burbank

All Friends fans should add the Warner Bros Studio Tour their list of Friends-related things to do. Is Central Perk real? You bet! It's located in Burbank, California. You can visit a replica of the set & even take your photo with a giant Friends coffee mug. I had a blast exploring the WB gift shop & finding out all the juicy behind-the-scenes details from our tour guide. 


What's your favorite TV show? :] Leave a comment!

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Fun Things to Do in Lompoc, California

Friday, June 28, 2019

Are you curious about things to do/what to do in Lompoc? Wondering where is Lompoc, CA? A few people asked me about this! Or perhaps you're trying to find cheap hotels in the Lompoc area? Scroll through this guide to answer your biggest questions, & probably answer some questions you never had at all.

About Carmen

Hi, I'm Carmen. I'm a travel influencer & blogging coach who shares my experiences with my readers & anyone browsing for trip ideas (hey, that's you!). I visited Lompoc, California on a press trip with a handful of journalists, magazine editors, & writers to experience a piece of what Explore Lompoc has to offer. "What is a press trip/familiarization tour?" you ask. I explain it in this post.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or my social media platforms, I may make a small commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure.

Things to Do in Lompoc, CA California Downtown street art and murals
Mural in Downtown Lompoc

How Do You Pronounce Lompoc?

Make sure you pronounce Lompoc properly or you might get corrected by a long-time resident. Say it with me now: LOM-poke. "Poke" as in "Did you just poke me?" Lom-poke. Lom-poke. Lom-poke. Say it 10 times without looking at the word & it helps.

Things to do in California if you're a beach lover: Encinitas, CA

Things to Do in Lompoc, CA California
Woodfired pizza from Valle Eatery + Bar

Where is Lompoc, CA?

Several people sent me messages & comments asking where is Lompoc, CA? I pondered that too until I drove my butt there. Lompoc is located in Santa Barbara County. It's 60 miles south of San Luis Obispo, 55 miles north of Santa Barbara, & 155 miles north of Los Angeles. Lompoc is fresh & fun but not ridiculously out of the way.

Where to Stay in Lompoc, CA?

I stayed at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Lompoc – Central Coast, which has a marvelous breakfast. I nibbled on the made-to-order omelette with fresh vegetables in the morning before heading out for all the things to do in Lompoc, CA. Some of the other journalists on the press trip stayed at Hilton Garden Inn. Don't fret, there are several options for cheap hotels in Lompoc, CA. Don't like hotels? Sign up for Airbnb with my link & get $40 off your booking.

Here's a map:
Booking.com

What to Do in Lompoc? There is a plethora of things to do in Lompoc, California, especially if you're traveling as a couple, with friends, family, children, or solo. 

Things to do in California if you like movie sets: Conejo Valley, CA

Things to do in Lompoc Do a Walking Mural Tour in Downtown Lompoc, CA
T-Rex Mural in Lompoc

Do a Walking Mural Tour in Downtown Lompoc

The Lompoc Mural Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing art to the walls of Lompoc in order to share Lompoc's history, tell the story of ethnic & cultural groups, & bring tourism to the city. They have a mural map with the exact location & details of 36 murals. Print it out or look it up on your phone as you do a walking mural tour. There are many beautiful pieces of art throughout the streets of Downtown Lompoc.

La Purisima Mission State Historic Park

Founded in 1787, the beautifully restored La Purisima Mission shares a glimpse into the past. You can choose guided tours of the buildings & grounds or venture off on your own. Walk through the tranquil mission gardens. Hike La Purisima Mission State Historic Park's 25 miles of trails. Grab a souvenir or hand-crafted item from the Gift Shop. I bought a stunning pink & green shell necklace. La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA even has living history events such as a grape harvest, tortilla making, candle making, rope making, basket weaving, & other cool things to do with the family.


Things to Do in Lompoc, California Go Skydiving at Skydive Santa Barbara
My Skydiving Experience at Skydive Santa Barbara
Check out the Skydiver's Handbook

Go Skydiving at Skydive Santa Barbara

It felt frigid in the tiny airplane on the ride up. I start to shiver. The engine buzzed louder than my thoughts. The first tandem skydivers open the airplane door, scoot to the edge of the plane, lean out, & then vanish like a puff of air. Now it's our turn - my badass female tandem skydiver who has done 8,000+ jumps -  we inch our butts to the edge of the airplane & into the abyss. I brace myself, tilt forward, & oh shittttt we’re outtttttttt of the planeeeeeeeee. Magical. Positively magical. As far as exciting things to do in Lompoc, California, I highly recommend skydiving at Skydive Santa Barbara!

Where to Eat in Lompoc, CA

Sissy's Uptown Cafe, a family-owned business, is the hot-spot in town for pie. The coconut cream pie came so highly recommended but alas, it was sold out by the time we arrived. In fact, they were sold out of almost all their pies. Sissy's pie notoriety might literally leave you wanting more. Hangry & need a quick & casual food in Lompoc? Burrito, pizza, sushi, oh my.  Plenty of options to order, grab, & go. If you want to sit down to eat, try one of Lompoc's full-service restaurants. I ate pad thai at Herb Home Thai Restaurant, sampled desserts & woodfired pizza from Valle Eatery + Bar inside the Hilton Garden Inn.

Things to do in Lompoc, CA Wine Tasting in Lompoc Arcadian Winery to Zotovich Vineyards
Blue nail polish: OPI (similar) // Hair tie ribbons: Kenz Laurenz (similar)
Wine from Dierberg Vineyard

Wine Tasting in Lompoc From A-Z

Choose from 40 wineries on Lompoc's wine trail, from Arcadian Winery to Zotovich Vineyards. The rolling hills & sprawling land make for some pretty scrumptious wine & stunning views. Check out the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, a cluster of wineries in Santa Rita Hills, if you want easy access to multiple wineries. The media crew first met at Dierberg Vineyard for a press trip wine tasting.

Airbnb Accommodations

There are several cheap hotels in Lompoc, CA & affordable options but you can also search for Airbnbs. Sign up for Airbnb with my link & get $40 off your booking. That could be a free night somewhere. I loved my Airbnb in Oslo, Norway, affordable & chic. I made coffee every morning. Ahh, I'm thankful for Airbnb memories. But I loved my Embassy Suites by Hilton Lompoc – Central Coast experience too!

Things to do in Lompoc, CA Lompoc Flower Fields what to do California


If you haven't paid a visit to Lompoc, integrate it into your upcoming travel plans. This buzzing town won't stay unknown for long. Soon people won't ask "where is Lompoc?" they'll say "I had no clue there were so many things to do in Lompoc, California."


Fun Things to Do in Lompoc, California

2 Years Self-Employed: Life as a Blogging Coach, Travel Influencer, Social Media Consultant!

Friday, June 07, 2019

It's official: I've been self-employed for two years! June, although midway through the year, always signifies a fresh start.

I never mentioned this before, but only 10 days after my resignation from my corporate job, I went on my first press trip as a self-employed travel influencer, blogging coach, & social media consultant for small brands. (Yes, I do a bit of everything as a digital influencer. I kind of have to!)

Is it stressful? Oh yes.

There's no boss to blame because I am my boss. Well, I guess I could blame myself, & that does happen from time to time. I'm in charge of what I do, when I do it, & what I earn. While this might sound like the ultimate freedom, this journey comes with a learning curve.

Last year I wrote my one-year self-employment anniversary post after I'd gotten back home from a familiarization tour to El Paso, Texas. The tourism board flew a few journalists, bloggers, & industry leaders to El Paso to see the city in person. It was a whirlwind experience.


Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant.
Downtown San Diego before an event - I was invited to a restaurant opening (September 2018)

Things I Learned

I learned a lot this year as far as SEO (search engine optimization), going outside of my comfort zone, understanding the true meaning of networking/connections (building genuine & authentic relationships with people in which you can mutually help each other but in different ways).

Year 2 as a Travel Influencer

In my second year of self-employment, I explored frequently as a travel influencer. I'm grateful to receive invites to travel influencer press trips to places like Lompoc (where I went skydiving!!!), Long Beach (where I rode in a gondola down the river), & Oxnard (where I slept in an ocean view room at Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach & saw a pod of dolphins off the coast of Anacapa Island).

What is a Press Trip/FAM Tour?

The idea of press trips/FAM tours is to bring awareness of things to do in these California cities, whether that's sharing hotels to stay at, best restaurants, hidden gems, & nature spots. Sometimes you write a blog post, sometimes they prefer social media shares or geolocation tags. I explain more about press trips & familiarization tours on this Instagram photo. The press trip itself always ranges, but the goal is always the same: bring a bit of tourism into the city, a bit of awareness, eyeballs, interest, dollars. 
Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant. Photo of Girona, Spain
Photo from my travels to Girona, Spain (October 2018)

My Own Travels

I'm always thankful that my blog & social media presence allow me travel influencer/travel blogging opportunities because most of the time I plan & purchase trips myself. I visited Mexico on three different occasions since I live less than one hour away from Mexico. I explored some Tijuana breweries. I stared at the stunning pastels of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato & Peña De Bernal, Queretaro. I went to Oslo, Norway; Berlin, Germany; & Barcelona, Spain.

Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant. Photo of Pismo Beach, California
Pelicans in Pismo Beach, California (May 2019)

Life as a California Blogger & San Diego Blogger

There are many places to visit & things to do in California. As a San Diego blogger, I traveled all over the County & I mean all over. I'm talking about Balboa Park, Cardiff, Carlsbad, Clairemont Village, Coronado, Encinitas, Escondido, La Jolla, Normal Heights, Oceanside, Old Town, San Marcos, Solana Beach, Vista.

Looking for things to do in California? I also explored other parts of California such as Hesperia, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, Ventura. As a digital influencer, I share visual stories online with my audience about each place.

Sponsored Blog Posts & Campaigns with Brands

During my second year fully working remotely, I partnered with some cool brands for sponsored posts & campaigns on my blog such as iWi (a vegan omega-3 supplement) & Nurx (affordable female health care like birth control & HPV testing). I did an affiliate campaign with Soo Jin, a clothing company.

Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant. Vista Library, California
A partnership with Soo Jin, a clothing company (September 2018)

Life as an Instagram Influencer 

On my Instagram digital influencer platform, I had sponsored posts with Subway & Wallaby Yogurt. The Subway campaign was a local San Diego campaign. Here's the Subway campaign photo on Instagram. I didn't do too many sponsored posts in my second year of self-employment.

Compared to Year 1, my sponsored blog post & sponsored social media opportunities went down for two reasons. 

1) I was pickier with the brands I worked with.
2) Brands shifted toward social media marketing vs. blog marketing.

Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant. Instagram influencer campaign with Wallaby Yogurt
My campaign with Wallaby Yogurt (September 2018)

Trends for 2019 - 2020 

Brands didn't focus as heavily on blogging or SEO, they were really focused on social media content. For example, both the Subway & Wallaby campaign required two Instagram posts within a short period. It would benefit to have longterm campaigns so an audience can get introduced & acquainted to a brand over a longer period of time. But that's just me. :]

The Instagram influencer trend is already changing. SEO is a gamechanger if you do it strategically. I've noticed a difference in 2019 for myself & my clients. I work one-on-one with people as a blogging coach & I work with brands as a social media consultant. These two segments are separate but they absolutely benefit each other.

Year 2 as a Social Media Consultant

I recently refocused on this aspect of my business. I wasn't as enamored with the digital influencer life because it's financially unstable. You never know how the month will go. In November 2018 I landed a new social media client, writing SEO-friendly product descriptions on their Shopify e-commerce website, writing blog posts with SEO keywords, & creating all their online ads (Google, Facebook, Instagram). Then a few weeks later I onboarded my second client. Those two social media clients have been steady, while others come & go. Some require short-term projects, some don't have budgets for continuous work.

Downtown San Diego Travel influencer and California blogger shares her self-employment journey as a blogging coach, social media consultant. Instagram influencer travel blogger at Chichen Itza Mexico
Exploring Chichen Itza, Mexico (December 2018)


My Intentions & Goals for Year 3

My intention is to shift some of my focus toward actively finding social media consultation clients, small businesses & brands looking for assistance over longer periods of time. I'm always open as a blog coach, but I'll let people find me who want to me to coach them, rather than me seek people out. If that's you, hey!!! :] So I want to have more social media management clients. I want to focus on being a travel influencer & creating fun digital content. I'd like to also create long-term relationships with people in the industry in a way that we each work together to help each other.

Are you a brand or small business interested in social media management, content creation, community engagement, reputation management, SEO, copywriting? Please fill out my Discovery Questionnaire & I will email you within 48 hours.


Are you an individual who has questions about social media, how to start blogging, how to find your voice/audience, working with brands, how to get invited to press events as a blogger influencer? Please fill out my Discovery Questionnaire for Coaching.


Have a question?? Please leave a comment! :]

My Favorite Kombucha Brands + What Is Kombucha?!!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Kombucha has been around for 2,000 years. It originated in 220 B.C. China where it was consumed for its detoxifying & energizing properties. That makes me about 1,999 years late to the kombucha party, but I'm a fan now. How about you?

Most people, like me, wonder what is kombucha? What's it made from? What's the alcohol content of kombucha? Where to buy kombucha tea? Can you buy a kombucha starter online? Well, my friend. I answer all these questions & more. Why? Because I had the same questions! Keep reading to find out about kombucha.


* This post may contain affiliate links.

But what is kombucha?

At its core, kombucha is a beverage created by fermenting tea with a culture of yeast & bacteria. It looks a bit like an at-home science experiment, which it basically is. I mean, you can literally buy kombucha starter kits online. Kombucha is lightly effervescent. Think of it as a sparkling tea-based juice drink with a bit of bubbly goodness. Kombucha tends to have some alcohol content, some brands have more & some have less.

GT's Third Eye Chai, Euphoria, & Rose kombucha flavors

What other fermented food & drinks can I try?

Kombucha, kefir, kimchi, kvass, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles, yogurt are popular fermented food & drink. Each has its own unique flavors, properties, & gut health benefits.

San Diego Kombucha Options

As a San Diego-based blogger & digital influencer, I'm happy to report there are many kombucha options in the area. Many of these establishments have kombucha that contains alcohol content, so it's an excellent alternative to heading to a brewery, bar, or distillery. There isn't much kombucha in North County San Diego yet, but perhaps in the foreseeable future.  ~*~ just putting those vibes out there, you know? ~*~

Where to buy kombucha tea in San Diego?


GT's kombucha flavors

My Favorite Kombuchas

GT's Kombucha - Love, love, love this brand. My all-time favorite is GT's Rose kombucha. It has rose hips, rose water, rose petals, as well as their organic & raw kombucha. It's what dreams are made of. It has 4% alcohol content. I usually split up drinking this over 2-3 days.

Health-Ade Kombucha - My coworker a few years ago used to do promotional work with Health-Ade so she gave me a few bottles to try. It was my very first dabble with kombucha. They have a variety of flavors like cherry berry, ginger lemon, & pink lady apple.

JuneShine - JuneShine is a local San Diego kombucha brand. Their kombucha is made with green tea, as opposed to black tea. JuneShine kombuchas have 6% alcohol content with flavors like Honey Ginger Lemon & Midnight Painkiller (charcoal, pineapple, coconut, orange, & nutmeg).

The GT's Rose kombucha is my favorite flavor of all-time

Can you buy kombucha starter kits online?

Why yes, you can buy a kombucha starter online! Gotta love being able to shop from the comfort of your own home! Whether you want San Diego kombucha or perhaps kombucha with alcohol, there is an option to suit your needs.

What's your favorite kombucha? Leave a comment if you have a suggestion, a thought, or a question. 

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or my social media platforms, I may make a commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure.

18 Things to Do in Oslo, Norway

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Nude beach. Food halls. Viking ships. Breathtaking views. Oslo, the metropolitan capital of Norway, sits at the head of Oslofjord. Oslo has cold winters as well as warm sunny days by the fjord. The Norwegian capital has Michelin star restaurants, nature parks, museums, & whatever you want to do. If you're endlessly researching for the essential list of things to do in Oslo, Norway, this list has 18 top activities in Oslo all year round.

About Carmen

If you came here because you searched for things to do in Oslo, Norway, you probably don't know much about me. Hey, I'm Carmen, a travel influencer & blog coach from San Diego, California. I've traveled to 20 countries. I started my blog in 2011. One of my greatest hobbies is finding bargain flight tickets. These are some of the best things to do in Oslo. I traveled to Norway end of October/early November, so there's still a lot of things to do in Oslo during autumn & winter.

The Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway is a free thing to do in Oslo in winter
At the highest point of The Vigeland Park
Researching hotels in Oslo? Browse here:
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The Vigeland Park

Separate from the Vigeland Museum, The Vigeland Park at Frogner Park contains over 200 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland. The sculpture park consists of the Monolith, the bridge, & the fountain. The Monolith shows 121 human figures holding onto each other in various positions. The bridge shows 58 sculptures of men, women, & children, while the fountain depicts a group of men holding a vessel with water spilling out. The fountain wasn't running while I was there, so it looked like a bunch of dudes holding a bowl. Did I mention all the figures are naked? Tip: Vigeland Park is free to enter every day, 24 hours a day (or night).

The view from Akerhaus Fortress on a rainy day in Oslo, Norway
Akerhaus Fortress on a rainy day

Akershus Fortress

Akershus Fortress also called Akershus Castle was completed in the 1300s. Entrance to the fortress grounds is free to walk around, which is the ideal option for anyone on a budget. The clear skies & green grass against the stone castle look beautiful in the summertime, but the Akershus festning (that's the Norwegian name) is pretty romantic on a rainy autumn/winter day. Tip: Akershus Fortress makes an excellent sunset vista point; look out at the fjord with the city lights glistening as it gets dark.


Aker Brygge

Walk along the boardwalk of Aker Brygge, a strip of eateries by the water. It's pretty small. I walked by it during a wintery evening. This is the ideal spot to wine & dine with friends, loved ones, & of course, alone. This place is buzzing during the summertime, but there wasn't much happening when I walked by on a November night.

Oslo Cathedral at nighttime in Norway
Oslo Cathedral at night

Oslo Cathedral

Why not pop in the cathedral while you're checking off free things to do in Oslo, Norway? I was walking by the Oslo Cathedral (Oslo domkirke) & ended up making it for part of an evening service. The chorus echoing in the cathedral will ring in my ears forever.

Street art at Ingens Gate in Oslo
Stumbled upon the street art at Ingens Gate

Street Art at Ingens Gate

Make sure this magical alleyway filled with street art is on your free things to do in Oslo list. Oslo has quite a lot of art throughout the city, but Ingens gate is located in the Grünerløkka neighborhood near the Akerselva River. Walk under the magnificent chandelier; the dangling charms sound soothing when the wind hits it ever so gently. Drop by Ingens gate alley for an array of artwork. It's small & charming, but you won't be disappointed.

Mathallen Oslo has Tex Mex, Asian Tapas, & more good food options
People eating at Mathallen Oslo food hall  


Mathallen Oslo

Food halls are one of my favorite ways to eat in Oslo other than stopping inside a grocery store for munchies. Mathallen Oslo offers a tempting range of food from Asian tapas, Tex Mex, fresh seafood, & more. This is the perfect spot to stock up on cheese, meat, veggies, & yummy baked goods. Oh, & Mathallen Oslo is conveniently located near the street art at Ingens gate! Tip: Walk up to the second story to see a bird's eye view of the hall & see if the boutiques are open. 

Eat yummy food at Vippa Oslo near the Port of Oslo
Grab a bite to eat at Vippa Oslo near the Port of Oslo

Vippa Oslo

Another food hall? Why yes. I wouldn't have it any other way. Food halls are a convenient, affordable way to grab a bite to eat or satisfy multiple food personalities, rather than your typical sit-down restaurant. Come to Vippa for multicultural food stands & a stunning view of the Port of Oslo.

Go to the nude beach at inner islands Oslo Fjord
The Inner islands of Oslo Fjord offer many summertime activities

Islands of Inner Oslo Fjord

Spend the day exploring the Oslo Fjord, a 68 miles/100 kilometers long with many islands freckled. The islands are a hub during the warmer months with everyone swimming, hiking, & having fun outside. On the island of Hovedøya, there are monastery ruins from the Middle Ages. Drop your knickers because Langøyene island has a nudist beach on the southern tip.

Gokstad & Oseberg Viking Ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo
One of the large ships at the Viking Ship Museum

Viking Ship Museum

As the name suggests, the museum contains the beautifully restored Gokstad & Oseberg Viking Ships. These ships were used in burial rituals for rich Vikings. The ships are positively massive & you can walk up a couple steps to a second story to see inside the ship. If you're looking for a souvenir, the Viking Ship Museum has a cool gift shop too. Tip: Stay around for the Vikings Alive visual journey projected onto the walls of the museum. I enjoyed the music & animation as an entertaining way to learn about the Viking Age.

Norwegian Folk Museum

Located at Bygdøy in Oslo, the Norwegian Folk Museum (Norsk Folkemuseum) is the optimal place to learn about Norwegian folk art, folk costumes, the Sami culture, & people I knew nothing about prior to visiting the museum. Don't forget to also the Open Air Museum, which is part of the Norwegian Folk Museum.

Oslo, Norway's cutest thing to do is the Open Air Museum
Just a small corner of the Open Air Museum at the Norwegian Folk Museum

Open Air Museum (at Norwegian Folk Museum)

The Open Air Museum turned out to be a hidden gem that I can't recommend enough, easily one of my favorite parts of Oslo! If you enjoy the outdoors, quaint villages, old towns with history, this is the place for you. The Open Air Museum displays Norwegian rural & urban buildings from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century. Visit the Old Town, the countryside, the Setesdal farmstead, & Tip: Find the barn to see cows, pigs, chickens, & rabbits up close! 

Things to do in Oslo, Norway: National Gallery
Posing next to "The Scream" by Edvard Munch

Munch Museum

The Munch Museum (Munchmuseet) houses the work of Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter. You might recognize his most famous piece, "The Scream." Munch was raised in Christiania, which is modern-day Oslo. "The Scream," however, isn't located at the Munch Museum; it's at the National Gallery. We had some trouble locating the museum as it was under construction due to a planned expansion of the museum. Upon his death, Munch donated over 1,000 paintings to the government & that's when the country built the Munch Museum.

National Gallery

Note: The National Gallery is closed until 2020 while they move to a new museum location.

The National Gallery (Nasjonalmuseet) in Oslo, Norway houses Edvard Munch's "The Scream" & "Madonna" as well as other notable Norwegian artists, such as J.C. Dahl, Thomas Fearnley, & Harald Sohlberg. Together The National Gallery & the Norwegian Museum of Architecture comprise the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design.

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern (Astrup Fearnley Museet) contains collections of contemporary art with a focus on acquiring pieces that push boundaries, & perhaps even comfort zones. The building design itself aims to welcome visitors to look out at the boats on the fjord. Some popular pieces included: "God Alone Knows" by Damien Hirst, "Michael Jackson" & "Bubbles" by Jeff Koons.

Oslo City Hall City Council
The brick exterior of the Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall

We walked by Oslo City Hall (Oslo rådhus) many times. You can't miss its big, beautiful, brick exterior. The City Hall is home to Oslo's administrative body as well as their City Council. Guided tours of City Hall are available all year long.

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park by Salvador Dalí Venus de Milo aux tiroirs, 1936.
Salvador Dalí's Venus de Milo aux tiroirs at Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

Ekebergparken is essentially an outdoor art gallery with sculptures from Salvador Dalí, Auguste Rodin (I went to the Rodin Museum in Paris), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Sean Henry, & other magnificent artists. You could spend hours here finding fun things to do as you stroll through the woods & spot artwork along the way. Tip: Check out the spectacular views of Oslo during sunset; the city lights up at night. Bonus Tip: They host a free tour of the Skyspace on Sundays.


Best things to do in Oslo, Norway - Oslo Opera House
The remarkable view from the roof of the Oslo Opera House


Opera House

The Oslo Opera House is home to the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. Stay entertained with internationally acclaimed opera & ballet performers, or head to the roof for plays, concerts, & other events throughout the year. The architecture of the building is meant to be accessible & open. Tip: It's free to walk up the roof of the Opera House, so head there for an epic view. Add this freebie to your things to do in Oslo list!

King & Queen of Norway live at the Royal Palace in Oslo
The Oslo, Norway Royal Palace 

Royal Palace

Want to stand near royalty? Well, the King & Queen of Norway live right here at the Royal Palace in Oslo. A lot of royal meetings & official dinners take place here. Foreign heads of state don't stay at Airbnb, like me, they stay at the Palace! The Royal Palace is open to the public during the summer months, yet another experience I missed out on because I visited Oslo, Norway in November.

Things to do in Oslo, Norway bingo


Where to Stay in Oslo, Norway

I stayed in an Airbnb whilst in Oslo. I shared a room with my boyfriend, our Airbnb host, & his dog. We had an amazing experience. If you're interested in creating an Airbnb account, please use my *affiliate link* to receive a $30 credit toward your account.

* Disclaimer: If you click &/or make a purchase through my Airbnb link, I make a commission when you sign up. It's at no additional cost to you, in fact, you should receive $30 toward your account. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Got a question? Leave a comment & I will answer it.
Did I miss something? Comment your favorite things to do in Oslo, Norway.


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