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.
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.
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- TRAVEL! On my list so far I have Sedona, Moab, and Costa Rica. This list will grow.
- 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?
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.
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.
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!
There have been plenty of stories about people quitting their day jobs to take the road less traveled – be it working from home, starting their own business, or traveling. I am among that brave group who had a good, full time salary job, but walked away from it without looking back.
This is my story.
I had been at my job for 2 years and for the most part I enjoyed what I was doing. I was getting to write 2-3 articles per week, and on top of that I was digging into some marketing work as well. The main problem for me was being stuck in a cube all day every day with no freedom. Over the two years I was there it really started to impact my life. My posture was terrible from hunching over a desk all day and I started having back problems. My vision was getting worse from straining my eyes staring at a screen all day. I started developing anxiety from it, and even suffered from a panic attack at work that landed me in the ER.
It didn’t matter if all my work was done, I had to sit there and stare at my computer screen. The culture at the company wasn’t great either, so that didn’t help. No perks what so ever. The owner treated me like a kid, like he was doing me a favor by giving me a job. I felt underappreciated. I had been going back and forth for a while about quitting, not knowing what I would do instead. The final straw was getting called into HR and basically getting put on probation for taking a sick day without having any sick days left. I was shocked that I was being treated that way by a small family run company (whose HR person was the owners wife,) after being there for two years and never having any issues. I always did what I was asked, and I did a good job at it. That was it for me, I couldn’t waste another second of my life there.
So I did it. I put in my two weeks notice. I was really nervous at first and I had no clue what I was going to do for money, but I knew I would never work in an office like that again. Cube life works for a lot of people, but not me. I planned a two week solo road trip, and decided that when I got home I would pursue my dream of becoming a freelance writer. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photo-journalist for National Geographic and travel the world taking pictures of exotic animals and remote landscapes, writing about my adventures along the way.
It took a while to land something but I am now writing for three online companies, all about things I’m interested in. I write about travel, and the town I live in. I write about relationships and give dating advice to my fellow millennials. I write about health, diet and fitness. I also just had a feature on a Women’s outdoor adventure site. I’m making my way.
Taking that first step was scary, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since I quit, which was October 1, 2016, I have traveled all over Colorado, to Jackson Hole (twice,) Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Sarasota and Concordia, MO. In the next couple of months I have trips to New Hampshire and Austin planned. I would have never been able to travel like I am if I were still working my 9-5 desk job – having limited vacation days and strict managers.
Now my days are spent hiking, reading, traveling, writing, taking pictures and being creative – and this is only the beginning. I get to make my own schedule, and do what I want when I want to do it. There’s nothing holding me back.
For anyone who is facing a decision like this, whether or not to quit your job because you’re unhappy and follow your dreams, I highly encourage you to take the plunge. You may not make as much money, or have a stable income, or have health insurance through work – but you will be so much happier and your quality of life will improve vastly. It will be okay, you will be okay, and you won’t regret it – I didn’t. For me, life is not about making money and wasting away in an office cube. It’s about exploration, experience, and personal happiness.
UPDATE: October 3 2017 (one year later)
Full Travel List – All over Colorado, to Jackson Hole (twice,) Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Sarasota, Missouri, New Hampshire (twice,) Austin, Raleigh and Asheville, Nashville, Arkansas, Oklahoma City and Sante Fe.
I’m still writing for the online publications as well as working remotely as a marketing associate and doing digital marketing consulting for a small business. I’ve also landed a few photography gigs doing engagement and outdoor lifestyle shoots.
I stand by my decision of leaving the cube. It’s opened so many doors for me and I’m getting involved with some amazing companies. If you ask me… I’M KILLIN’ IT! I hope my story inspires others to always do what makes them happy and to never settle for mediocre. You’re not a tree – you don’t have roots. If you don’t like where you are, move.
I love traveling and I live for road trips. I am most at peace when I am out in the wilderness sleeping under the stars. But I am always with someone, never alone. When I decided to take this two week solo road trip, it was because I had been stuck at a desk job for two years with limited vacation time. I was so over it and so stir crazy I was about to burst. I had to take this trip, even if no one could go with me, for my own sanity and happiness. I needed a reset. So, I put in my two weeks notice and started planning.
Portland was the fourth stop on my trip. I had already visited friends in Jackson and Boise. My boyfriend flew out to meet me in Seattle where we spent the weekend wandering the city like true tourists and exploring the rainforest coast. Here in Portland, I was truly alone for the first time. I had no one to stay with and I didn’t know a single person in the city.
I was a little nervous when I first woke up in my empty hotel room. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized I could do whatever I wanted. There didn’t need to be a conversation about making plans or deciding on what works best for other people. It was just me. I got in my car and drove about 20 miles out of the city along the Columbia River. A huge tourist attraction, Multnomah Falls, was my destination.
You’ve probably seen pictures of this massive, incredible water fall. I think it’s used as a generic screen saver photo on computers. It’s the one that falls into a high pool, broken up by a foot bridge, and then a second falls down to the bottom where the river continues. Seeing it in person was almost unexplainable, a feeling I struggle to put into words. The size of the water fall, the power behind it, the cool spray that hit you even standing so far away, the lush green forest that surrounded it – it was truly something else. Standing in front of this I felt so small, yet so empowered. I couldn’t help but foolishly smile from ear to ear. I walked up to the foot bridge to see it from a different perspective, this one much closer.
The trail continued up and I decided to keep going, to hike the whole thing to the top. The trail was extremely steep and my calves were burning almost instantly, but I wasn’t stopping. On the way up I saw every shade of green in the leaves and ferns and moss. There were multiple spots where water was trickling down the rock canyon walls around me. The tree roots weaving in and out of each other. It was enchanting.
At the top I observed a few things. First, the people: there was a group of teenagers sitting by the water smoking pot, not trying to hide it at all. A young couple also sitting by the water on a blanket eating sandwiches. A father and son standing on the look-out platform looking at the view. A large family taking picture after picture. And me.
The look-out platform is not something for anyone who’s afraid of heights. It jets out over the rocks and the view is straight down. Here I could see the waterfall dropping beneath me and the river running strong out in front of me. I could also see all the people down below, and all the cars in the parking lot, and the drivers on the road heading back into the city. I stood there and just stared for a few minutes before making my descent. This was the moment I had been searching for. This moment was the entire reason why I took this trip.
At home in Colorado, I hike all the time, it’s one of my favorite past times. In fact, it’s sort of my religion, as cheesy as that sounds, but true. However, I very rarely hike alone. When I do, I’m not really alone because I always bring my dog with me. This solo hike was a special treat.
Once back in Portland city limits, I walked from my hotel out to the river front and through the park. I walked into the downtown area past the university and all the store fronts. I found myself in line at Voodoo Donut where I got three large donuts that I proceeded to eat for dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the following day.
Traveling alone can be so freeing and it’s something I highly suggest every woman do at least once in her lifetime. It can teach you a lot about yourself and allow you the time and head space to accurately evaluate your life. I don’t like spending too much time alone, and this was the first time I traveled by myself. The experience changed me, and opened me up to a part of myself I didn’t know was there all along.
I could have been done after this, just got back in the car and drove home. However, I stayed in Portland a few more days and then continued south. California, is a whole different story.