Crystal Bui is an award-winning TV news reporter and former middle school English teacher. She’s the avid female solo traveler and travel blog writer for Adventures With Crystal. Crystal has traveled to many countries by herself while also moving to six different states alone: Massachusetts, Hawaii, Washington State, Rhode Island, New York. Away from the camera, she loves exploring new adventures including traveling and trying new food!
What inspired you to start traveling?
Fear. I’ve traveled a lot and lived in many different states, but up until last year, I had never traveled alone to a foreign country. I’m not sure what the reason was, that, in a way, it’s no different than a road trip, where the landscape is just as unknown. I knew it was a fear I wanted to get over, and I figure.. what was ACTUALLY the worst that could happen? I felt I had enough street smarts that I would keep myself out of danger, in the same way, I do at home. So I decided to go for it. I booked my ticket to Costa Rica, mainly cause I saw a great deal, with little context to Costa Rica. And I decided I would just chart my own path along the way. I’m so happy I did.
What do you pack first?
My bathing suit, a sunhat, and sunglasses. Essential, for a nice trip exploring, while leaving room for relaxing and soul searching.
Where do you go for the best view?
There’s a place on the Big Island in Hawaii at the very tip of the island. You can actually hike down from the modest cliff to the ocean, and it only takes about 20 minutes to get down to the sand and the valley. It’s breathtaking to me to look at the ocean, and to feel like I’m on the edge of the earth.. well, at least the edge the southernmost tips of the United States.
What’s your fave foodie destination?
Without hesitation, Vancouver, Canada. People don’t realize that Canada is just as much of a melting pot, if not more so than the United States. It seemed everywhere we went, there was some amazing restaurant or a gem of a mom-and-pop place to eat at.
I’ve never had such amazing, authentic Indian and Korean food. Korean BBQ is one of my favorites, and the Indian food was a curry, stuffed pepper. And I hate peppers. And yet, I could have binged eaten this pepper. Even the chocolate and pastries were so unique, I wish I stashed some in my car when we drove back to Seattle. That good.
Name a place that most lived up to the hype.
A lot of people told me about how beautiful Costa Rica is who travel there often, once they heard I booked my trip. But, I had never read about Costa Rica as one of the “hot destinations” in my reading. Once I arrived, I couldn’t think of any place with more amazing natural beauty and culture, the perfect fit for my first solo travel.
Name a place that least lived up to the hype.
I heard a lot about Bermuda from my coworkers in New York City, namely because it’s an easy flight. People don’t know, but Bermuda parallels South Carolina, so it was less than a 2-hour flight to get there! Although I thought the beaches and the views were incredibly beautiful, the island was small. I drove around the island in a scooter going 50 MPH in a little less than four hours. I was glad I only booked a 4-day trip, because I know I would have slowly run out of more things to do.
If I had a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
This may be shocking, but I wouldn’t leave New York City. Now, if you have some free round-trip tickets, I have a whole list of places to check out. New York City is full of life. The Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Concrete Jungle. There is something here for everyone!
Whether it’s checking out beautiful Central Park, seeing amazing art from one-of-a-kind museums, walking through all the distinct neighborhoods, or catching a Broadway play, I joke that this is both the best city to be single and the best city to be in a relationship. I also enjoy stumbling into some famous figures, finding hidden street art, and even accidentally walking through a movie set!
Tell us about a great little place you know?
There’s a restaurant in Rhode Island that’s extremely hidden, and almost looks run-down or abandoned on the outside. You walk in Los Andes, and it’s one of the most exceptional Peruvian restaurants I’ve ever been to. There’s a bit of flare on the dishes, and the chefs change up the menu, that no visit is boring. The thing is, whenever the plate is dropped, I dive in too quickly, that I haven’t taken proper photos!
Where in the world have you felt happiest?
Definitely, while whale watching in Hawaii. There’s something meditative about parking along a cliff, hearing the wind and also listening to the crashing waves. You have to even relax your gaze a little bit so that you can spot the difference between a whale breaching in the air, and a good wave crash. But once you spot a whale seemingly flying through the air, it’s almost like catching a shooting star.
Any horror/funny stories while traveling?
I think this is more of an adventurous story, although a funny one. The roads in Costa Rica have informal names, so they’re not always clearly marked by street signs. And there aren’t always the best directions on Waze, although that meant it was trial by error and I also found some cool spots along the way. At one point, a local hotel manager told me a shortcut to get into town that would save me 30 minutes. How to do it? I DROVE THROUGH A RIVER. The river wasn’t particularly deep and I was in a sturdy car with All Wheel Drive, but I was actually terrified driving slowly and carefully across the river. The great news? I actually did save 30 minutes!
What places have you planned for 2019?
On my list, Iceland and New Zealand. Although I’m still monitoring prices and waiting to just make the leap!