Don't Miss Seeing a Castle On Your Next Irish Getaway

 Kilkenny Castle.

Kilkenny Castle.

If you plan on traveling to Ireland, castles are a major part of the country’s landscape. Whether they’re roadside ruins, highly preserved landmarks, or hotels where you can kick back and relax, while you’re visiting the country of shamrocks, catch a castle!

On my trip to Ireland, I saw a number of castles, some better preserved than others. But no matter what state the royal stones were in, there was a real magic to knowing how old these places were! Much of Ireland’s castles were constructed between the late 1100s-1500s. It’s powerful to set foot on the grounds of something that ancient and imagine what life was like back then. Not to mention it’s amazing so many are still in existence centuries later! My Game of Thrones thirst at these castles was real.

While in Ireland, my favorite castle toured was the Kilkenny Castle. Kilkenny, located just a short train ride from Dublin, is a medieval town full of historic architecture. Among its ancient buildings sits its crown, the Kilkenny Castle. I arrived at the castle near closing time and was given a major discount on admission but it meant I had to high-tail it through the massive structure fast! The staff were vacuuming for the end of the day close behind me…

First built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke in the 13th century, Kilkenny Castle became the home of the prominent Butler family for over 600 years after Marshal’s death. There are several rooms open to the public, as well as the castle’s ornate courtyard and grounds. The most eye-catching room of all, however, is the Picture Gallery Wing, where the paintings of various Butler family members now reside. The room has wooden floors, a marble fireplace, and a painted timber ceiling. It’s pretty magnificent and where I spent the longest part of my quick tour.

After exiting, I ran around the grounds imagining how crazy it is that someone once called this their backyard. The outside of the castle is a must for those Insta photo opps!

Planning your own Irish getaway? Get a full list of castles to see throughout the country here!

Kauai From the Sky Is the Best Way to Experience the Garden Isle

UPDATE: After the floods in Kauai in April 2018, there is much to be repaired on this beautiful island. Please consider donating to the relief efforts here.

Kauai, the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii, is a very lush island covered in tropical rainforests. Much of the island is protected with the Na Pali Coast State Park and the Waimea Canyon State Park. The island’s origins are volcanic, wild chickens roam freely in city and rural areas, and the island has dozens of waterfalls scattered throughout its mountainous climate. If these reasons still haven’t sold you on why you should adventure in Kauai, just look at these pictures of the Na Pali Coast. You’ll never want to leave its beauty!

 Just before takeoff! 

Just before takeoff! 

Several Hollywood films have used Kauai as a location, including South Pacific, Lilo & Stitch, the first Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost ArkTropic Thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blue Hawaii, and The Descendants. Once you’ve seen this island, it’s easy to see why it’s been a scouted as a tropical paradise so many times!

My favorite way to see as much of the island as possible in a short amount of time is by helicopter, and more specifically, with Kauai’s Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. With business class style seats, two-way communication with your pilot, and a chopper that is mostly glass for your viewing pleasure, explore Kauai in luxury! The ECO Tour, which is the one I did, includes a flight around Hanapepe Valley, Manawaiopuna (also known as Jurassic Park falls!), and Olokele Canyon which eventually opens into the sweeping views of Waimea Canyon. This area is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and it’s breathtaking! My favorite part of the ride was along the Na Pali Coast, where we caught a few rainbows out over the ocean and swooped across the shoreline near the Bali Hai Cliffs and Hanalei Bay. Most tours will even visit Mount Waialeale, which is the old volcano that helped form this island.

 A Na Pali Coast shot from my window. 

A Na Pali Coast shot from my window. 

I had an absolute blast talking to my pilot the entire tour too- he used to fly in the military and now flies the Kauai skies as a private pilot. He was extremely knowledgeable about the island and there was plenty of time for questions on our 45-minute tour. My group felt safe from start to finish in the ECO Star chopper and they even filmed our ride. National Geographic has called Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Kauai premiere helicopter tour company for good reason- they offer a safe, professional, luxury tour of Kauai at a very reasonable price.

Kauai really is the sapphire gem of Hawaii’s crown. It’s one of the wettest places on earth due to its annual rainfall, which makes for some crazy biodiversity in its plant life and the view of it from a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter ride is unreal! Fly in luxury and see all the beauties this island holds- you can book your sky tour here today!

Why You Should Book A Submarine Tour On Your Next Tropical Vacation

 Exploring the deep blue below!

Exploring the deep blue below!

Kona, Hawaii is known for more than just its coffee. In fact, the Big Island’s city boasts National Park access, the historic Hulihee palace, and even Michael Dell’s $64.7 million home. The city has a lush landscape and its boardwalk shops and restaurants along the coast of Kailua-Kona bay make for a great day of just cruising the coastline if you’re looking to keep it more chill.

But if you’re looking for adventure…

Then here’s why an Atlantis Submarine tour is for you!

After checking in right off the bay, you’ll board a mid-size boat which jets you out to the submarines. The subs are far enough off the coast to take you to shipwreck sites and a coral reef. You’ll spend 45 minutes with 48 other passengers sinking to 100 feet below the water’s surface where you can see Kona like no one else can (unless you’ve got your scuba license).

As you climb down the ladder into the submarine, you’ll be seated at your own personal window so that you can really take in everything the ocean’s going to throw your way. You’ll see schools of fish, crabs, sea turtles, and even dolphins if you’re lucky. There is a wide variety of fish to look at and throughout the trip, your guide will educate you on all of the creatures you come across.

But hold on- if you’re thinking squeezing into a sardine can with 48 other people to look at fish sounds like hell- chill! The seats on Atlantis subs are actually roomy enough to keep you comfortable and the ship is air-conditioned. Plus the tour takes you places you really couldn’t otherwise explore. And when else are you going to be able to say you’ve been on a submarine?

When your tour is over, you’ll board the ship back to the bay and Atlantis will drop you off right on the shore. You’ll leave knowing you’ve seen some rare spots in Kona and hum Beatles tunes all the way home (you know the one).

Not trekking to Kona on your next Hawaiian adventure? No worries- Atlantis offers tours in Maui and Waikiki too. Book your underwater adventure today.

Why Skydiving Should Be On Your Bucketlist

 Freefalling.

Freefalling.

Skydiving.

It’s something everyone should do once.

That feeling of shooting through the sky at top speed, looking out over the world… there’s nothing like it!

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or you’re just looking for a new adventure, here are the reasons skydiving has got to be on your bucket list:

1. To conquer your fears.

If dropping out of an airplane at 18000’ above sea level at 130MPH isn’t conquering your fears, I don’t know what is! There is really no rush like skydiving and whether you’re afraid of heights or just the unknown, tackle it with a dive! As a beginner, you’ll always be paired with an experienced tandem jumper, so you’re strapped on to another person when you jump. When I went, my instructor had over 10,000 jumps in his career! I never felt out of control or concerned. And besides, once you’re up and about to jump, there isn’t much time to think anyway. That’s why it’s nice to know you’re with someone who is going to get you to the ground safely.

2. For the rush.

Let’s be honest- if you’re someone who loves adventure or a crazy adrenaline rush, skydiving is definitely going to give you that hit. Especially if it’s your first time. My energy totally heightened when I was standing with my toes at the edge of the airplane door just before the jump. As I looked out over the Rocky Mountains, I couldn’t believe I was about to just blast out into the sky. And then we did. And it was awesome. And you should do it.

3. It’s a whole different view.

Sure, you’ve probably been a passenger in an airplane. But when that’s gone and it’s your face against the sky (with your goggles on of course), the world has a whole different view. During my freefall, there was really just one word that kept repeating in my mind: nirvana. The fall felt like nothing I’d experienced- hurtling toward the ground as the mountains crept closer and closer somehow felt like it’s own strange paradise. I remember looking out across the vastness and considering, “We’re not all as far apart as we think we are.” Somehow being up so high and then coming closer and closer to the earth made me think about how connected humanity is. What will your view be?

4. You may just discover your new favorite hobby.

Remember the guy I mentioned who had more than 10k jumps? Well he had to start somewhere! While jumping out of planes as your pastime might sound crazy, you’ll never know if you’re meant to make it your new hobby until you try it! Most skydiving companies offer the standard tandem beginner jump along with lots of other training programs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that “thing” you’ve been looking for in a dive and end up getting your solo license, or jumping from space. Get out there.

5. It’s a chance to learn something new.

Though skydiving sounds as easy as just stepping off the ledge of an airplane, there’s a little more to it than that. Your guide and the staff where you book will spend some ground time with you going over your gear, how to “fall,” and most importantly, when to pull your parachute! The entire experience is a chance to learn something totally new and different, and doing so will also make you feel a little more in control when it comes time to plunge.

Ready to book? Here’s where I went. Happy jumping!

Colorado University Blockchain Club Hosts First Blockchain Hackathon & Conference

 CU hackers at work.

CU hackers at work.

Colorado University’s Blockchain Club recently hosted a 24-hour hackathon and conference on campus at Idea Forge. Sponsored by key industry partners like Shape Shift, Keep Key, ConsenSys, and Rebel AI, the weekend featured speakers and panelists on topics like “Blockchain in the Advertising Space,” “Exploring Career Options in the Wild World of Crypto,” and “Cryptocurrency and Taxes.” Along with industry speakers like Manny Puentes (Rebel AI), Buff alum Justin Blinco (Shapeshift), and Ked Hodler (Keep Key), students also put together their own presentations for several of the showcased speaking events.

One of the weekend’s highlights was the “Global Women In Blockchain” panel, which featured Lindsey Gallaway (Rebel AI), Amber Hartley (BurstIQ), and Nina Nichols, Mila Popovich, and Diana Lange of Global Women In Blockchain. As students (men and women) asked the panelists about life in crypto after college, the women explained their own success and failure stories while encouraging individuals to network and seek mentorship in the job space and to “go where you are uncomfortable.” Hartley candidly shared a number of her career highlights and low points saying, “A lot of people in this space will tell you being laid off from one [tech] job in their career ended up being the best thing that happened to them.” Said Popovich to attendees, “Ask yourself, ‘What is a life well shared?’ … That’s how you will begin to unravel your own planetary pathfinder.”

Hackers at the event came up with a number of interesting projects as well, from predictive market dApps, to tech that could simplify the nightmare that is currently figuring out your US taxes when you own crypto, to a decentralized event registry that could change event and concert ticket sales.

Overall, the weekend was a wild success for the CU Blockchain’s first summit gathering. The CU Blockchain club meets weekly with about 200 on their Slack and 50 dedicated in-person members. They encourage anyone interested in the space to attend and have plans for more summits and events for next year. Get more information on their Slack and check out their leadership team coordinating events like this on their website.

The Top Five Reasons To Snorkel In Hawaii

 Snorkeling in Hawaii is paradise.

Snorkeling in Hawaii is paradise.

There’s a whole other world underwater, and Hawaii is the place to see it! With black and white sand beaches, some of the clearest waters in the world, and a variety of coral reef and marine life, Hawaii is a snorkeler’s paradise. Here are the top five reasons you should snorkel on your Hawaiian vacation:

1. The animals! Duh!

Snorkeling will open your eyes to all of the amazing sea life that Hawaii has to offer. Coral reefs, turtles, and tons of fish and marine life surround several of the Hawaiian islands and can be explored just off the beach. Some areas also have the added bonus of whale and dolphin watching, letting you see a ton of beautiful creatures in just one day! On my snorkel tours around Molokini crater and Turtle Bay, which I did over the course of one day, I saw coral reefs, fish, sea urchins, plant and marine life, turtles, dolphins, whales, and more! Most animals I saw in Hawaii were on my snorkeling adventures (except for Kauai’s chickens!), so it’s worth getting your hair wet for.

2. Snorkeling is almost free.

I bought my own cheap Target snorkel set a few years ago and it comes with me on all of my tropical adventures. After trips to the Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel, my set has already paid for itself in what would have otherwise been rental fees. But don’t fret if your suitcase can’t handle one more thing! There are plenty of affordable places to rent snorkel gear in Hawaii, from actual snorkel tours to your hotel. Several of the islands have different beach options for snorkeling, so if there isn’t one you can walk to, there’s likely one a short distance away. If you have the funds, splurge on a Molokini Crater snorkel tour with PacWhale Eco-Adventures. It’s a short boat ride from Maui’s shore, but swimming around the volcano crater with Hawaii’s wildlife will be an experience you won’t soon forget. Plus proceeds benefit whale research and your guides are marine biologists who know their stuff!

3. The water is crystal clear.

If you’ve snorkeled in seaweed or dark waters, you know that clear water is a snorkeling MUST. Hawaii’s beaches are full of just that and you can see all the way to the reef floor in some places. In Turtle Bay, I thought I was closer to the reefs than I actually was (which was confirmed by a quick dive down until my ears wouldn’t pop!) just because the water was so clear. You can see so much.

4. The conditions are usually solid year-round.

Yes, Hawaii has seasons even though it’s in the tropics. Winter tends to be rainier; their summer tends to get pretty warm. Wind is really the only factor that will hold you back from a good day of snorkeling though, since it can cause the waves to get choppy and make conditions dangerous. So if you’re spending more than a day or two in Hawaii, it’s likely you’ll have one with snorkel-friendly weather. So get out there!

5. Every island you can visit has a spot.

Most traveling to Hawaii aren’t island-hopping, though the lucky do! Whether you’re staying on The Big Island or jumping between Oahu and Kauai, there are good snorkeling spots at every island. Though the beaches and marine life will vary, there are interesting things to see throughout the state’s waters. Just don’t forget your organic sunscreen- seriously! Choosing organic brands without oxybenzone and other harsh chemicals preserves marine life so check out this list for what to buy.

Time to dive in! Book your Hawaiian vacation today. See more of my snorkel adventures on Instagram.

SALT's Day 4 Crypto Event Helps Onboard Audience Into Crypto & Blockchain Tech

 SALT's CEO Shawn Owen & CD Caleb Slade at d4c.

SALT's CEO Shawn Owen & CD Caleb Slade at d4c.

Anyone involved in blockchain or crypto will tell you that the space needs mass adoption to continue growing and building. And while blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies have seen a huge buzz in the past year, even making the cut for a major feature on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” there is still a long way to go on educating the masses on these pieces of “new” technology. That’s why it’s so important to bring communities together and provide education for entering what many perceive as a daunting space.

Recently, Denver’s blockchain-backed lending firm SALT did just that with their Denver Day 4 Crypto event. The conference featured keynotes by major blockchain players like Peter Vessenes (New Alchemy), Erik Voorhees (Shapeshift), and Shawn Owen (SALT). But instead of focusing on the most emerging pieces of blockchain trends and announcements like many of these conferences do, this day was about onboarding individuals to jump into the crypto space. SALT even gave away some of their own tokens and free Keep Keys to anyone who admitted to not yet having bought any cryptocurrency.

The day had discussions for those just entering the crypto market like “How to Buy and Sell Crypto” and “Value Through Token Economics” but the event still managed to keep those more educated in the space invested with panels on topics like “Charitable Giving in Blockchain” and “The Future of Blockchain.” The day even featured expert discussions on blockchain’s current regulatory environment and the basics of tax reporting. Companies like Polymath, Realblocks, and even meal-delivery blockchain service Nostrum also explored how blockchain is changing their industries.

Overall, SALT did a fantastic job of helping individuals interested in the space learn more, network with key players and companies, and even purchase their first cryptocurrency. The blockchain needs more events like these to connect people to this technology and show them how easy it really can be to setup a crypto wallet and HODL. Cheers to SALT- learn more about their business here.

ETHDenver Proved the Blockchain Community Is a Powerful One

 ETHDenver set the stage for one fanstastic hackathon and conference event.

ETHDenver set the stage for one fanstastic hackathon and conference event.

Shortly after writing a piece for VICE News on blockchain in healthcare, I was invited by OPOLIS' John Paller to ETHDenver. The three-day hackathon and conference event was held at Sports Castle and featured panelists like Joseph Lubin, Erik Voorhees, Dmitry Buterin, and Kevin Owacki. The first annual hackathon was Ethereum’s largest to date, and along with the panels and workshops, there were art installations, a dance party, and hackers from 31 states and 21 countries as far away as Cairo! Companies like Blockgeeks, Consensys, Ox Protocol, DAOstack, Cellarius, Maiden, OPOLIS, and many others sponsored the event, which was free for attendees.

Panel topics for the weekend included “Decentralized Governance, “Token Based Business Models,” “Art on the Blockchain,” and more. Workshops were held nightly on various subjects as well, while hackers worked away on several floors of the six-story building piecing together the newest tech and game ideas for the blockchain. The event even boasted its own currency, the Colorado Coin, which users could use to purchase meals outside of the event at local food trucks.

Regulation of crypto and blockchain tech was a main discussion at various panels at the conference this year, whether it was regarding liquidity and compliance, crypto taxation, or current US legislation on how tokens are defined.

Said Erik Voorhees to a sweep of cheers and applause during one panel, “I’m thankful people have built things without regulatory clarity and you should continue to build things.”

Build they did, and by day three of ETHDenver, seven winning teams presented their various projects, which ranged from using the blockchain to turn on a lightbulb (a marriage between blockchain and the internet of things), a cyberpunk cryptocurrency trading game based on Drugwars, a blockchain-based system to record blood donation in healthcare, and a dApp that splits your private key between trusted friends for safekeeping. Apprentio even had a team of all teens from local high-schools who created “Cryptokicks,” a Yeezy-inspired digital tennis shoe collectible similar to CryptoKitties but made for sneakerheads.

Overall, the weekend proved the blockchain community is a powerful one- powerfully supportive of new ideas, powerfully supportive of blockchain technology, and most of all, powerfully supportive of each other.

Said John Paller of the event, “This has been even more than I expected in every way.”

If only for three days, ETHDenver brought key players together with hackers, industry insiders, and even newbies for one fantastic event. Make sure to keep up with ETHDenver and their plans for next year on Slack.

Feature In VICE News For Blockchain In Healthcare

 Blockchain could give you better ownership of your medial records and data.

Blockchain could give you better ownership of your medial records and data.

After recently attending the Care Coordination & Technology Congress in Atlanta, I was blown away by all of the possibilities panelists discussed on blockchain technology in healthcare. After interviewing industry professionals like Jack Shaw of the American Blockchain Council, blockchain health app MintHealth co-founder and CEO Samir Damani, co-chair of the Internet of Things (IoT) Committee of the American Bar Association Steven Teppler, and executive steward of the ETHDenver Hackathon John Paller, I wrote a feature on blockchain in healthcare.

Featured in VICE News, read "How to Make Millennials Actually Go to the Doctor."