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Go away with ... Lexi Hensler

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When Lexi Hensler created HUGZ (https://givehugz.co/), it was with the intent to provide comfort for those suffering from depression. As someone who was bullied as a child, she knew how difficult it could be to feel alone. A portion of her line of weighted stuffed animals benefits nonprofit organizations that concentrate on mental health initiatives. Now 25, the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and content creator has made it her mission to live each day to the fullest. She chronicles her life and adventures on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/lexihensler/).

Q: You have a bucket list with 50 items. How many have you completed?

A: Over 25, which has absolutely blown me away! I have skydived out of a plane as well as a hot air balloon, swam with sharks many times, flew a helicopter, slept in a glass igloo in northern Finland, met the beautiful native Sami people and their reindeer. I stayed in an underwater hotel in the Maldives. My advice to anyone would be to not need a near-death experience to start their bucket list and to make the most of every day.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?

A: Maldives! From Los Angeles, it takes about 25 hours to get there, but it is well worth it. I am a self-proclaimed workaholic, so I love taking a vacation somewhere where I can fully relax and unwind. The Maldives hit every high mark for me. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. The sunsets are next level. The Maldivians take such great care of the land and oceans as well. I got to snorkel in a thriving coral reef and see types of fish that I had never seen before. It is a very relaxing place and pretty much all the activities are water based.

Q: What untapped destination should people know about?

A: I am absolutely obsessed with Bermuda, which is just a short two-hour flight from the East Coast. Growing up, I had heard about the Bermuda Triangle and did not think that I could ever travel there. In 2021, I was invited on a business trip to Bermuda. I have to admit that I was a little leery of flying right into the Bermuda Triangle, but I am so glad that I made the trip. It is much less touristy than other places like the Bahamas.

Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?

A: It may sound ironic, but through traveling I’ve learned how important it is to travel. When you travel, you learn so much about other cultures, traditions, and ways of life. In some countries, they highly encourage their people to travel and find the best ideas and bring them back to implement into their own country. I’ve been blessed to meet so many wonderful people from across the world, who have shared their culture with me and helped me grow as a person.

Q: If you could only pick one place to eat, would you prefer a food truck or fine dining?

A: I am a food truck girl all the way. I actually don’t enjoy fine dining very much. I think the only part that I am a fan of is getting dressed up. There’s nothing better than local, good food from a favorite hole-in-the-wall spot. I guess that I’m a cheap date.

Q: What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A: Before I leave for an international trip, I always start by researching the country that I will be visiting. I want to be as respectful as possible to a country’s traditions and customs. In addition, it is important to look up any visa requirements, recommended vaccinations, currency information, as well as the contact information for the U.S. Embassy. I also go online to the State Department's website to obtain more information on the place that I intend to visit, as well as register my trip with the State Department in case of emergency. I like to map out the location of my hotel to the various activities. Through research, I like to look up the must-see spots and food places. However, I have found that the best way to find a bite to eat is by asking a local for their recommendations.

Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A: I travel so much that I am continuously trying to perfect my packing list. I keep a running checklist in my phone notes app so that I never forget a thing. My must-have items include important documents, medications, packing cubes to keep things organized in my suitcase, sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes, shoe covers, and a laundry bag for dirty clothes. I am totally the person who needs a neck pillow on a long flight and I sometimes bring a travel blanket since I run cold. I always pack a mini luggage scale to weigh my bag because I love shopping and I want to make sure my bag isn’t overweight when trying to come home. And don’t forget your adapter if you’re traveling out of the country.

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

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