The Truth About Traveling and My Tips to Make it Easier

When you think about traveling you probably imagine an exotic white sand beach in South America or a cobblestone road somewhere in the European countryside, trying the local food and exploring the area while adapting to the culture. Sure, this is part of it, and it’s the good part – it’s what makes the not so fun parts of traveling all worth it. Before you plan your next big trip make sure you know the sometimes ugly truth about what traveling really entails.

First of all, I want to point out that there is a major difference between going on vacation and traveling. Being on vacation is great. You usually get to relax or partake in some fun activities while avoiding your job or your kids or whatever else. You might have someone waiting on you or cleaning up after you. Traveling (or at least my kind of traveling) involves plane, train, car, boat etc. rides to different locations with everything on your back with no real downtime.

I travel a lot. Just this past month I’ve been to Sarasota, FL and Austin, TX and I am taking off to Sedona, AZ in a few weeks. This is what life looks like as a travel writer… or even as a freelancer – I can work from anywhere. I’ve learned a few hard truths about traveling over the past few years but I’ve also learned how to make the journey easier and hassle-free. I’ve also learned how to save a little bit of money.

Perfect your toiletry bag. Your hygiene standards might drop below average. It may sound gross but it’s true. When you’re hopping on and off planes and living out of your backpack you’ll quickly learn that sanitary wipes, mouthwash, dry shampoo, and deodorant are your best friends. You may not have the luxury of showering or even freshening up while you’re jet-setting so having those essentials in your bag is a must. Flying can also really mess with your skin. For me, being on a plane dries me out and can cause breakouts – plus I always look extremely tired when I get to my destination. I always have hydrating facial cleansing wipes, acne spot treatment, and an under eye roller in my bag to fix the flaws caused by flying.

Invest in a good pair of shoes. Comfort and capability are important here. I once found myself sprinting through an airport in my Birkenstocks and that was a big mistake – I saw them closing the door as I was running up to the gate and I ended up missing my flight. Damn shoes. I know that wearing tennis shoes with jeans is a fashion faux pas but seriously no one cares if you look cute at the airport. Get a good pair of sneakers that are not only comfortable but can also get the job done if you need to make a last minute take-off. You’ll also be on your feet a lot while traveling – walking to your transportation or hotel, walking to the local coffee shop to work, around wherever you are, walking, walking, walking – so you’ll need a good pair of shoes if you don’t want sore feet.

Get a carry-on bag that does it all. You want to find something that’s easy to carry, small enough to fit in an overhead bin or even on your lap if you’re taking a bus or train yet big enough to fit all of your things. You also need something that is easy to keep organized – so look for a bag with pockets and sections that make sense and provide easy access. You shouldn’t have to completely unpack your bag to find one specific thing.

Pack smarter. I used to be one of those people who packed way too much and ended up wearing the same thing over and over on every trip. No more! Before I head out I plan out exactly what I need. Usually this consists of jeans and both a casual top and a nicer blouse, tank, or sweater in case I go out to dinner or the bars, a work-out/hiking outfit, a jacket, PJ’s, either a pair of cute sandals or boots depending on where I’m going, sneakers, socks, underwear, and toiletries. I always have my laptop, camera and cellphone and their respective cords with me as well. What I just described can get me through about 5-7 days traveling and I can fit this all into my carry-on backpack. You can make it work with limited options and still look good.

Bring a Nalgene. Airport water costs about $5. When you travel as much as I do, that adds up. Bring your own empty water bottle with you and fill it up at the water fountain. Not only will this save you money at the airport but other places as well – think about hotels, parks, the gym – basically anywhere you would need to purchase water.

And snacks. Always bring a snack. Like water, food at airports is expensive. Bring something simple and easy to pack like trail mix or a granola bar. This will save so much money by not having to grab something at an airport shop. Something I always like to do is save my in-flight snack (if I’m not hungry) for later.

On that note, stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat. This is not something that happens to me because I guzzle water like a fish and I never skip a meal. But for some people, I’m sure that with all the hustle and stress that comes along with traveling it might be easy to forget to drink some water or have a snack. Being dehydrated is no fun and can seriously ruin your trip so here’s your friendly reminder to drink plenty of water and eat throughout your day of travel.

Coffee is your friend. Traveling is exhausting. Even if you’re just sitting on a plane or in a car or a bus or whatever, traveling drains you. I usually take the red-eye flight because it’s cheap and you get an entire day at a location rather than a half day, and I’m always pooped. You don’t want to travel somewhere just to sleep (unless you’re on vacation – remember, there’s a difference.) You want to enjoy your surroundings and in my case, I want to do my job so I can’t afford to sleep. For this, there’s coffee.

You need to be adaptable. Flights get delayed. Reservations get messed up. Baggage gets lost. You lose your wallet. Your phone dies. People don’t show up. This is life. Learning to not totally freak out and feel like the world is ending when something like this happens is so important. I recently missed a flight (totally my fault) and instead of losing my mind and letting it ruin my day, I went online and got a ticket for later in the day, left the airport, got a Bloody Mary, and then went and sat on the beach for a few hours. It turned out to be a great day and I still got to where I needed to go before sundown. If you’re prone to “bad luck” I suggest using Southwest when you fly – this is not an advertisement for them but I want to give them a shout out because in my experience they are the only airline that lets you change flights with no charge (as long as the prices match up) and they are just overall flexible and the best. They don’t even charge you for a carry-on and one checked bag. They will reimburse you if they make a mistake – plus, drink tickets! Thank you, Southwest.

Create an on-the-go workout plan. For me, this applies more to when I’m on a road trip. If you’re traveling and staying in a hotel you can use their gym or go for a run through town which is what I usually do. When you’re on the road, it’s not that simple. You should create a workout plan that requires no equipment or weights. You can pull over at a rest stop every couple of hours or do it first thing in the morning. Your plan doesn’t need to be intense but enough to counter the miserable all day sitting that is a road trip and also get your blood pumping and endorphins up. A few simple stretches, some squats, lunges, high knees, pushups and arm circles should do the trick.

For my final piece of advice – enjoy the journey. Cliché, I know, but it’s great advice.

Taylor Needs Your Help!

My dear friend Taylor Mollohan needs your help. Taylor has Corpus Callosum Atrophy (learn more here – and also has signs of autism. On top of that, his doctors recently discovered a mass in his brain, a cyst on that mass, and extreme swelling around that cyst. Taylor needs to have surgery to clear the swelling, remove the cyst, and remove at least part of the mass to test it.

Taylor lives with and is cared for mostly by a single mother, and though she doesn’t want to ask for help, this is a major surgery and it’s still extremely expensive after insurance. Traci Thompson Mollohan, Buff Betz and I are asking you to please make a donation, any amount helps, to help fund this important surgery for Taylor.

If you’ve ever met Taylor you know how amazing he is. He’s happy, kind, funny, and he loves music, singing, and dancing. He loves dogs and is a friend to animals. He loves helping out at the barn and spending time with his family and friends. He’s even recently taken up playing baseball with The Miracle League and he’s getting pretty good! He just celebrated his 29th birthday on March 1st.


Because popular crowdfunding and PayPal sites take a cut of the donation, we are asking that you donate through Venmo ( directly to @Callie-Pederson

100% of donations will go to Taylor’s surgery and recovery.

If you can’t donate (or even if you can) please share this post and spread Taylor’s story. We will keep you all updated on his progress. If you have any questions about Taylor, his surgery, or anything else please don’t hesitate to ask. We appreciate your help! Thank you!

Messages from the March

March For Our Lives Denver | March 24th, 2018

The message to end gun violence was heard loud at clear during the “March for our Lives” rally on Saturday in Denver. The goal was not to oppose the second amendment or to take away guns. The speakers touched on mental illness, universal background checks, bullying, safety in schools, access to assault weapons and much more.

Chants that were heard throughout the march included “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!” “Vote them out!” “Enough is enough!” “Not one more!” “What do we want? Gun Control! When do we want it? Now!”

With a reported turnout of 100 thousand people, the crowd was massive and individuals from all walks of life were in attendance. There were students, parents, grandparents, teachers, democrats, republicans, veterans, immigrants, gun owners, and even dogs.


Reflection on the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

It’s been a tough week. I tend to shy away from writing about personal, political or religious issues but I have to say something today.

One of my best friends is an incredible high school teacher and coach in Florida. Today her campus was put on lockdown due to a threat from a student with an AR15. Not a drill, not a practice run – she was locked in a closet with 18 of her students for 2 hours. She’s also about to welcome a child of her own into this world. When she told me what happened today my heart broke and my eyes filled with tears. While I’m relieved that she’s okay and that her students are physically okay, emotionally they are not. No student, teacher or parent should ever have to experience something like this. It’s not okay that a high school student can have access to a weapon like that, or any weapon at all. It’s not okay that high school students should have to fear for their lives while trying to get an education. It’s not okay that my friend was put in a situation where she had to protect her students, and put her own life and the life of her baby in front of a potential shooter.

Here’s what she had to say about her experience:

“In all of our jobs and careers, there are “what-if” scenarios. Teaching is not an exception. 

When I began my teaching career seven years ago, questions like “What if a student enters my class below grade level proficiency?” and “What if a student’s home life interferes with their ability to focus in class?” were scenarios I knew I was likely to face. After all, I was working in a Title I school with over 95% of our student body coming from households below the poverty line. 

Today, we lived a “what-if” scenario that no child, teacher, administrator or staff member should ever have to.

Today, I looked a sixteen-year-old child in the eye and asked them to remove their belt so I could tether our classroom door shut. I asked students to flip furniture and move totes to blockade our doorway. I huddled 18 students into a storage closet, locking it behind us and slid a bookcase in front of the door to create an additional barrier between my kids and a potential threat on the outside. This was not a drill. This was not an exercise. This was the real response to a threat against our campus. 

For over two hours, I sat with my students in a storage closet reassuring them everything would be okay and waiting for the next email to come through with an update or set of instructions from my school’s leadership. 

In the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, districts across the country have been on high alert as copy-cat threats have rolled in. Today, my school was one of those affected. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I know things could have been much worse. We were eventually given an all-clear by law enforcement and administration, but that doesn’t take away what these children experienced and what it has done to their sense of security. 

My “what-ifs” are no longer centered around instructional practices and classroom management. The “what-ifs” that I, as a classroom teacher, am set to consider are “What if there is an armed intruder on my campus?”, “What if my efforts are not enough to protect my students?”, and “What if my students cannot focus because they do not feel safe at school?”

This is not what education is meant to be. These should not be the thoughts and fears of our students or our teachers. 

So I ask those of you reading this to consider a few what-ifs… What if we channeled this anger and fear and didn’t allow ourselves to become distracted away from what needs to happen in regards to school safety, mental illness, and gun control? What if we pressured our lawmakers and representatives to take action and didn’t take no as an answer? What if we voted with our hearts and heads instead of with our party lines? And what if your action is the one piece missing from making a change?” 

Amanda English, Bayshore High School

Another one of my best friends has a young daughter who she’ll be sending to elementary school soon. The fact that she even has to consider whether sending her daughter to school is safe or not, is not okay.

I’m not a parent, I’m not a teacher, but I’m a proud American who can openly admit that America has a serious problem.

What do we do? I have my opinion. I’m not against guns, I have my concealed carry permit. I enjoy shooting and I can brag a little bit and say I’m a great shot. I understand that hunting is a lifestyle and many people rely on it to feed their families. I understand that some people need to protect themselves. However, my hobby is not more important than the lives of students or anyone else and I see absolutely no reason why anyone other than law enforcement and military would need an assault rifle. If I have to give up guns for the safety of others, I’m 100% okay with that. The solution to this problem is not a one-stop shop – we need to protect our babies, our friends, and family. We need to address mental illness. We need new, stricter gun laws. Everyone should have to take an educational gun safety course, pass a background check and get a mental health screening before being able to purchase a gun, have a life insurance policy attached to gun ownership so that the victims of a mass murder aren’t left paying the price – just an idea. There are things we can do, we can no longer turn a blind eye and continue on the same path when it comes to guns in this country.

I know everyone else has an opinion on this issue too. Gun control, mental illness, education, being raised right, video games – politics aside, whatever your opinion is I hope we can all agree on one thing…

Our two political parties need to drop their pride, stop trying to prove the other side wrong and meet in the middle. We need to come together as one nation undivided and WE NEED CHANGE.


What to do in Steamboat (in the winter) if You Don’t Ski

Steamboat Springs is hands down my favorite place to spend a weekend in Colorado, especially during the summer. Steamboat has it all; hiking, tubing the river, camping, mountain biking, hot springs, the rodeo, great restaurants, shopping and live music – what’s not to love. I enjoy visiting Steamboat in the winter too, even though I’m not much of a winter sports gal, which is exactly what I did this past weekend.

While my boyfriend did spend a day on the slopes, I did not. No complaining here though, I found plenty to do in Steamboat without skiing. I started my day off with a short hike on the Old Town Hot Springs walking trail with my dog followed by a big warm cup of coffee and a savory crepe at Yampy’s Coffee Crepes and Cocktails. After breakfast, I ventured along the river down to the sulfur springs to take some pictures and walk off my breakfast.


After walking all over town and checking out local shops, I searched for the best Bloody Mary in Steamboat. My search brought up three locations; Mc Knights Irish Pub, Creekside Cafe & Grill, and Four Points Lodge. I choose Mc Knights, and they weren’t lying about having a great bloody mary. It was so good I even ordered a second drink. Mc Knights was a little divey but with a great atmosphere and really friendly staff. It’s also located close to the mountain and off the main drag in town so I can see it being a popular spot for those coming off the slopes.

When I picked my boyfriend up from the mountain we went back into town for a beer and some bar food at The Tap House with our friends who were also visiting Steamboat for the weekend. They headed back to where they were staying in Frisco and we headed up to Strawberry Hot Springs, clothing optional after dark. This is such a cool experience whether you go during the day or at night, and I highly recommend you check this out if you visit Steamboat.

We normally stay in a vacation rental or rent a room at the Nordic Lodge when we visit Steamboat. However, this time we slept in our Yukon Denali XL up on a pull-off on Rabbit Ears Pass, a popular spot for snowmobilers. We got this vehicle over the summer and we’ve been slowly converting it into a camper. We removed the third-row bench seat and it fits a full-size mattress in the back. We have plenty of storage and room for the dog too! My only concern about winter car camping was the temperature. Surprisingly, it was nice and cozy in there and we didn’t freeze to death. We bundled up, ate some snacks, and watched a movie on my laptop.

SIDE NOTE – we watched the movie Bright with Will Smith on Netflix and it was awesome. Watch it!

The next day we woke up to a serious snow storm. That didn’t stop us from venturing out on a hike up to Fish Creek Falls. Fun fact; Fish Creek Falls is the waterfall on the front of the Coors beer can and bottle. Luckily the snow on the trail was packed down so we didn’t need snowshoes or Yak Trax. The waterfall was completely frozen but just as beautiful as it is flowing.


Before our drive back to Boulder Clint took a few casts on the Yampa and was able to land a nice brown trout. We made one final pit stop in Dillion at The Dillion Dam Brewery, a frequented spot for us, where we warmed up by ordering Mike’s Ale Onion Soup, highly recommended.


New Years Resolutions

2017 was an interesting year. For the United States and the rest of world, it seemed like just one bad situation after another, and as soon as we thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. Personally, 2017 came with many challenges as well. My health took me on a rollercoaster filled with doctors appointments, MRI’s and getting blood drawn more times than I can count. From vitamin deficiency to PSOC to costochondritis/chronic pain to food sensitivities to a sluggish gal bladder to migraines – I experienced it all this past year and it severely impacted my lifestyle and well-being. My 8 year long relationship also presented itself with some difficult challenges this year. However, not all of 2017 was bad. It was my first full year working as a freelancer, enjoying the benefits of working from home or from wherever I chose. I was able to travel often and visited Asheville, Oklahoma City and Sante Fe for the first time, along with countless new places in Colorado. I have a new vehicle that’s slowly but surely being converted into the ultimate adventure mobile with a full size mattress, plenty of storage, and four-wheel drive. 2018 looks promising for me!

Here are my resolutions:

  1. Hike (at least) 50 different trails. That’s at least one per week, with only two weeks off. On this list I hope to complete my first 14er!
  2. Focus on my health. With all the crazy issues I had in 2017, health is my number one priority this year. I don’t have a specific weight loss goal or anything like that – but my goal is all inclusive. This means mental, physical & emotional.
  3. Run (at least) 3 races. This past year I ran a 5k and a 10k – in 2018 I would like to run at least two 5k races and one 10k.
  4. TRAVEL! On my list so far I have Sedona, Moab, and Costa Rica. This list will grow.
  5. Write my first book. I’ve been talking about writing a book for a long time now, and I think I’ve got a few good ideas. This year… I’m finally going to get it done.

What are your resolutions?

Spring in the City

Why do I always wait months (8 months to be exact) after the fact to write about a trip? Who knows – at least I’m consistent in always being late though.

This past spring in April, my boyfriend and I traveled to New York City to celebrate our 7 year anniversary. NYC is not somewhere we would typically travel to. Normally we are drawn to outdoor adventure. We take road-trips, we go camping, we like to rough it – so this was different for us. While I’ve been to the big apple a handful of times, it was Clint’s first visit and my first visit as an “adult.” We stayed right in Hell’s Kitchen at my uncle’s street level apartment. The location couldn’t have been any better – walking distance to everything and only a short train ride to all the touristy destinations… because of course we were being tourists.

Our first day there we walked all over the city. We went to the Eataly, an Italian market with a rooftop bar. We strolled through Time Square. We went and visited the 9/11 memorial and even got a tour inside One World Trade Center where Clint’s childhood friend works. That evening we met up with friends at a bar rasnked Best Bar in both 2015 and 2016, The Dead Rabbit. It held up to the reputation – the atmosphere was that of the prohibition era and the drinks were creative and delicious. After drinks we cabbed to dinner, a seafood restaurant with a name I can’t recall, and called it an early night after eating our fair share of fresh oysters.

The next day we explored Central Park. Leave it to us to find nature in one of the biggest cities. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom for us and the weather was perfect for walking and spending the day outdoors. We must have walked for almost 5 hours, and we saw all the sites. We visited Balto, the Alice in Wonderland statue, Belvedere Castle, the Greywacke Arch, the ice skating rink and Obelisk.

That evening we hit the town hard. We started our night with a few casual drinks at our friend’s apartment and then made our way to Mehanata, a Bulgarian ice bar. This place was insane. Upstairs there were gypsy belly dancers, a bar with swings as seats, and a two man band playing the accordion and the flute. Downstairs was more like a rave, with EDM blasting from the DJ booth, strobe lights and the ice bar. The ice bar featured a small room off the side that was kept at a freezing temperature and was lined with bottles of vodka. The objective was for a small group to dress up in Soviet war gear provided by the bar, enter the room, and down as many vodka shots as you can in 6 minutes. The shot glasses were made of ice and when time was up, everyone smashed their glass on someones helmet. Clint was wearing that helmet. We hung there and danced upstairs for a while. We went to a few more bars that night. One of them was a Parisian bar – an intimate small setting with a woman signing. We ordered absinthe here and it was served to us in the traditional way, poured over a cube of sugar. On our walk back we got multiple slices of cheap pizza from hole in the wall joints, like any true New Yorker would do.

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The next morning we were up early with plans to walk the High Line. The High Line is 1.45 miles of elevated walking trail along an old train rail on Manhattans west side. The High Line features gardens and green-ways, amazing views of the city,  water features, and overlooks. After our walk along the High Line we went for brunch at the Standard Grill in the meat packing district.

Following brunch we walked to meet up with friends for a beer festival being held in an empty warehouse building. We must have tried 50 different types of beer. We ended up being one of the last groups to leave and we danced to the band until they stopped playing. We had dinner at a sushi bar nearby that also served fried chicken and had light-up beer towers, which we ordered. We were a mess at dinner from all the beer and even lost a few group members who needed to go home and get some sleep. We made our way to a karaoke bar where eventually everyone split off and went their separate ways. Again, we got pizza on our way home.

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We slept in the next morning and had an early lunch across the street from where we were staying. We took our time packing up and spending the last few hours in the city out on the apartment patio.

New York City can be described in a few words – loud, busy, car horns, booze, pizza, lots of walking, diverse, beautiful. While it did confirm my decision to never live in a city, it was a fun and exciting place to visit – and we will be returning soon!