I Will Choose Love

love, musings, Travel

When you ask people why they travel so often it’s associated with food, shopping, natural wonders, and maybe culture. Yet often we seem to look over one of the most rewarding aspects of flying off to a new land, the people.

It’s my love for people that is truthfully the reason that I travel. I love what people create in fabric and stone and food and legends and art. I love what people share from their homes to their culture to their music to their families. I love that a smile crosses all divides and a laugh brings hearts together. I love that no matter where you are in the world kids can play together without needing a common language.

I choose love as my reason to travel. I choose love as my reason to work every day, love for myself and love for my family and a love of my clients who I help find adventures for. I choose love as my reason.

So, when I see horrific divisions and I see the pain of humanity spread on screens and in newspapers I am reminded that we all could choose to love more. When we see someone hungry, loving them is fighting for policies to end that hunger pain. When we see people running from their homelands, love should open our doors to ease their strife. We must choose love.

Love is scary. Love makes one vulnerable. Love makes us have to face our worse fears. Love pushes us tot the battle ground. Love is needed for humanity to survive.

When you think of your fellow persons on this planet, think lovingly. Think with a kind heart. Think about your choices and how it may help or hurt someone. But most importantly choose love to combat your hatred or fears. And find that you may start finding a lot more love for yourself too.

Happy Travels

Laura and Ryann’s Colorado Fairytale

colorado, Photography, wedding

I got to shoot another beautiful wedding this year! This was especially gorgeous due to the two magnificent brides that took immense care to piece together their details in the most elegant way.

The wedding, while in October, celebrated a spring-like motif with pastels, succulents, sparkling gems and a pristine mountain setting! It was like walking into a fairytale setting without my work setting everything into place.

A huge thank you to the stunning couple and Lionscrest Manor in Lyons, Colorado.

I’m Thankful, but not for Thanksgiving

History, musings, United States

I have mixed feelings around Thanksgiving. Those in Native American communities, justly, feel its a day of mourning over colonialism and genocide that followed earlier settlers in North, Central, and South America. I can’t deny their right to that, in fact I often think we need a day of mourning and honor to that time. Not just natives suffered from chronic colonial policies, but also those stolen from their lands in Africa, subjected to horrific treatment for centuries and even to this day.

I hate that we embrace Thanksgiving in a patriotic way without thorough discussion on the problems associated with romanticized notions around our colonial past. If you talk to many they know a romantic quip on the Mayflower, a largely 19th century fabrication that is about as historically accurate as Shrek. It leaves out vital context on the idiotic behaviors of early colonists. It leaves out the open gates that natives had forced open, establishing a trade that largely left people ripped from their lands, dying drone disease, and massacred at every turn.

In ways it feels as if we celebrated the election of Hitler but ignored everything he did after that. Or celebrated the ships that brought trade and the Bubonic plague to Europe, because trade, and ignored the deaths that followed. At the end of both scenarios, thousands to millions died, and the world was never the same afterwards. Even if we pretend that most colonists were innocently involved, it still doesn’t make the behavior right.

It’s comfortable for people to want a sweet and easy story to share with kids, to celebrate. We want to believe all of those in our past are goodly and had good meaning. Yet, to be honest as a society and people, we must face our mistakes and we must talk openly of what was wrong. This means acknowledging truth to share with our children and friends.

While I am very thankful for all that I have in this world. For my family, friends, education, community, cat, home, car, food, and so very much more, I know that it should be celebrated with more awareness. And this awareness means that we acknowledge our past sins and work to the future.

So maybe Thanksgiving should be celebrated without pilgrims and false narratives, and instead be a time to truly focus on all we have. A time to not try to find the best holidays shopping deals and a time to connect with family and friends. I am lucky that my little family has joined this trend, I hope to see more in the future.

Don’t Plan Too Much

Travel

As a follow up to my last post, Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache, I wanted to share the opposite problem for travelers to ponder, planning too much.

Flash to January 2010 and I am a nervous 18, almost 19 year old, planning their first trip to Europe. I was working in a small gift shop in Manitou Springs, and while the day was slow I would plan out, step-by-step how my trip was going to go. I mean step-by-step. I had the time I woke up, map directions and times to get to the first spot I wanted to see, approximate times for a lunch break, and what area or grocery store, or park bench I thought I should stop at.

This was a classic case of a bored mind finding mazes to run, and a nervous first time (solo) traveler trying to figure out how to maximize time in other countries. I had no freakin’ clue.

I landed in Germany in April 2010 and within a week everything had gone to hell. I was luckily staying with friends outside of Stuttgart, but the next part of my trip was delayed an entire week as all flights were grounded due to a certain Icelandic Volcano. When I say everything was grounded, I mean this volcanic ash cloud left 10 million stranded, cost airlines 1.7 billion in revenues…etc. etc. Thank you Eyjafjallajokull volcano! 

On a personal level it meant my two months of planned travel was also interrupted and I played a fast game of cutting out places in England and Ireland that I had planned to see. I split London into two chunks. I cut out the Lake District. I spent less time with friends in Diss. Then I met a Scottish guy and changed my plans for matters of the heart (this was also a flop). 

However, the lesson was that all my hours and hours and days of planning meant that I had failed to see that life, especially in traveling, gets messy and disruptive, and REALLY hates strict rules. I learned hard and fast that on long journeys you often just don’t know how your desires may change and that your heart may find a new path. 

I learned this again in 2013, when my funding for my study abroad was late and I was staying with family with no money. That same trip meant I would catch whooping cough and be bedridden for a week instead of going to Istanbul. 

Since then I have become wise to these tricks, or so I pretend, and I try to find a happy medium. A set of “plans” maybe a few tours, maybe some reservations, but ultimately I let things happen and I stay open to opportunity. What I have learned more than anything is that it’s important to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. 

Happy Travels!

Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache

musings, Travel

Probably the single biggest, and best piece of advice I can give to those wanting to travel, is that planning ahead will save the day. While it’s great to take advantage of a last minute vacation, it can also spell disaster for making the most of your travels. Of course one can over plan, more on that another day.

Essentially when it comes to traveling, especially internationally, planning can mean huge savings, better experiences, and a smoother journey than winging it on the last minute.

For example, if you are a foodie and you want to experience one of the best restaurants in the world, how likely do you think it will be that you can get a reservation at Central in Lima, Peru if you are leaving in two weeks, versus trying to make the reservation 45 days in advance? You guessed it, 45 days. This isn’t just the Michelin rated places, but Disney dining, and popular gems that bring in the crowds. If you know a place is a pinnacle of your journey, plan ahead, ask questions, and do your research.

Another example is accommodations. Unless it’s the off season, a lot of places book far in advance, meaning the crowds of people make finding a room hard. This also means that prices increase based on supply and demand (this is also true for flights). So unless you have cash to burn, booking a refundable rate well in advance secures your spot to sleep. If you get closer to the date and KNOW you are going come hell or high water, a non-refundable (if still available) can save money and secure your stay. Either way, it’s important to have something pinned and secured.

This also is true for excursions and activities. Did you know many places have a cap on how many visitors can come a day? This includes places like Machu Picchu and Yosemite. Beyond limits, many places have insane waits unless you book in advance (I’m looking at you Vatican and Uffizi). Meaning it’s almost vital to get a museum pass, book a tour, or work with a hotel concierge to get tickets in advance and this is especially true in high seasons.

I say all of this being the type A planner that I am, and being that I know from personal experience I have missed out by not planning ahead. However, if you are last minute taking off consider these tips to make it easier:

  • Use tour aggregators like Viator to find the tours/activities you want
  • Contact a tour guide or concierge service to see about getting help with details
  • Visit the tourism board websites of where you are traveling
  • Most importantly: check travel.state.gov to make sure that you don’t need a passport update or visa which could majorly foil your plans
  • Ask stupid questions of people that have been where you are going. With endless Facebook groups you are sure to get some information
  • Buy a travel guide! I can’t stress this enough for those trying to learn about a new place last minute. Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and many others offer endlessly valuable information, not to be missed.

Happy Travels!

Also: Don’t Plan Too Much

A Stack of Magazines

musings, Travel

It’s easy to say “I read” as a kid. It’s much more interesting to explain exactly what that looked like.

My family are readers, through and through, every room, including the bathrooms, had books or magazines in them. Often she leaves were two or three deep, the coffee table housed endless picture books. I read before bed. My mom read to us before bed. I read on the bus. My grandma shared art books with us. I powered through reading challenges. I took home stacks of books from each library visit.

My mom was an assistant library for our community school/public library (small town Cripple Creek) which meant the book love train was never ending.

Some of the coffee table books that littered the living room were elaborate photo essays of places all over the world. The art ones showed off masterpieces and where to find them. The DaVinci anatomy book connected past and present to our understanding of the body.

But the cream of the crop was the, what’s seemed to my child mind, mountains of National Geographic magazines in our basement. Vividly I remember pouring through stack after stack searching for images and stories that inspired my exploring. Ships bobbed on azure waves, tribally adorned men dove for pearls, houses were made raw and blended seamlessly into the landscape. I saw that much more was happening outside of the mountains of Colorado.

As I grew older I would read some of the articles and learn about poverty, war, crime, danger, and the perseverance of peoples. Combined with all my reading, and the nightly news my grandfather consumed I began traveling in my mind. I was compelled to seek these other lands, these people, the animals, the food, the azure waves (I didn’t see the ocean until I was 17).

I knew then, as I do now, that the stacks of magazines were so much more than “a stack of magazines” they were portals into all that the world was and could be. They were windows into the soul and spirits of endless stories and endless lives. They were pure magic.

At some point the magazines were donated to the local school, where they were cut into collages and posters, an upcycling rebirth. And as an adult I collect new stacks and new stories and new portals to new worlds I dream of exploring.

Autumn Bucket List

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel

Autumn comes but once a year…. for around two months…with a lot of fun.

Autumn in Colorado attempts to replicate the feel of the Midwest and East coast. Yet because of dry, unpredictable weather, it sometimes lacks the brilliant nature of its contemporaries.

Colorado has a mind of its own when it comes to weather. Some years we have snow in September, and other years it hits the 80s through the end of October (looking at you 2018). At times it feels like autumn is being completely eradicated, and climate change is not helping.

That being said, I find it vital to make a list of desires for each season and try to do as many as possible. I even have an ongoing list for the future involving trips to eastern cities that drop with New England Autumnal wonders.

Here is the Colorado bucket list you should try:

  1. Visit a farm – Colorado is full of corn fields, pumpkins patches, and family-friendly farms that cater to a crowd longing for good, old fashioned fun. The last two years my Girl Scout troop has found Harvest Farms to be an ideal adventure.
  2. Carve a Pumpkin – do it with friends or family or all alone. And I mean a REAL pumpkin get your hands in the gunk and roast those seeds!
  3. Watch your favorite Halloween movie/show – I got Sleepy Hollow and a rewatch of Stranger Things done and done. We also got really into the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina!
  4. Don a Costume- Party or no I always dress up, even for work. I also ensure my stepdaughter has an awesome outfit!
  5. Snuggle – with longer nights and short days, and the chill in the air, it’s perfect to grab thicker pajamas and snuggle with a loved one. My cat and husband are the best!
  6. Consume Pumpkin Spice – this flavor is ideal in the cold. If you like it, enjoy it, you don’t need permission for the things that make you happy and hurt no one else!
  7. Eat Pie – see # 6 and know it goes for everything you love.
  8. See some leaves! – take to the wilds and find some changing leaves. I find a good drive or hike every year to enjoy some color changes and Colorado has some truly unique options.
  9. Find Romance – it’s a great time of the year to celebrate and reconnect with loved ones. It’s also the “off” or “shoulder” season for the travel industry. Enjoy some good deals and less crowds before Christmas and take off on a weekend away.
  10. Dress Up – my wardrobe is really just centered on fall and winter. Meaning this time of year means I can play with textures, colors, and layers. If you have the same options, live it up and find new options. Pretend you’re a kid raiding grandma’s closet for playing dress up and be surprised at the fun!
  11. Make some treats – I love creating treats for others to enjoy! Halloween through the New Year means an excuse to create and share, meaning I find new recipes and fun for each holiday.
  12. Craft – this year, and many years, have meant new craft projects. Try something for a gift or for home decor, and take a class if you don’t know how to do something. It’s a great time to try something different.

Most importantly, find some fun!

Winter Hiking

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel

I have lived in Colorado and until last week I had never been hiking in winter. At least not in the traditional hiking meaning of the word. Sure I had trekked through knee high snow to feed animals or to clean off our deck. Sure I had braved snow and ice to walk a dog down gravel roads. Yet, I had never been on a hiking trail in winter.

I had not even meant for it to be a winter hike. I had actually planned on everything to be pretty dry and easy going. Maybe home to a few snow patches. Yet as I journeyed into higher elevations at Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw snow, and more snow, and ice, and wind, and snow pack.

It was soon I realized at around 8,000 feet that I would be hiking in the snow if I chose to go. I hesitated some, worried about my clumsy nature on ice. Yet, being stupid, or stubborn, or both, I pushed forward with my hiking plans.

Luckily I had packed extra layers and I was wearing my thick athletic leggings. I had well- treaded hiking shoes, and thick socks. I put on my layers, made sure my pack was good, and off I went.

The trail proved to be somewhat snowy, but easy to trek. The blowing wind and ice from the trees made the journey cold but manageable, and if anything the floating ice crystals added a majestic charm I did not expect.

The wonders of nature hit me, even in the cold, birds hoped between trees, chipmunks scavenged in bushes, and the pine, mud, and earth released their elegant perfumes.

I crunched along uphill for a mile before the Bierstadt Lake trail plateaued by the lake. It was here that the muddy trail turned into a wondrous winter land, where the sun played gleefully through pines and aspens. The wind made the fallen trees, the victims of strong winds, had leaned into each other creaking and echoing a haunting tune.

The lake walk loop offered a two mile winter walk that offered solitude and relaxation, a chance to think, dream, and feel grateful to my home by the mountains.

While I enjoyed just walking, I found that winter hiking was a much needed discovery compared to my summer and fall excursions. It was nice to have the stillness and solitude away from the summer crowds. It was glorious to feel a freedom only deep-seated trails offer. It was refreshing to breath in the scents of an ancient land, untamed and wild.

So, if you are thinking of a winter hike. Do it. Just be smart. Take warm clothes, gloves, hat, jacket, boots. Take water and matches. Take a solar lamp if you can. And bring an emergency device to try to reach help (cell phone). Tell people where you are going. And try to visit a trail that others are likely to be on. If you can, take a buddy, if you can’t, make sure several people know where you are going and when you should be back.

Happy Travels!

Cruise Room Secrets

colorado, geek, History, love, musings, Travel, United States

As a part of our anniversary escape my husband and I went to a Denver gem that is often missed, The Cruise Room.

I knew about this hidden treasure from an interview with Nick Urata I had read, and for years I had wanted to visit. Well our time in Denver meant we had the perfect opportunity for a night on the town. We gussied up and snagged dinner and then headed to the Oxford Hotel by Union Station.

Inside this other great historical hotel is a bar that has been open since prohibition ended I. 1933. In fact, it opened the day after prohibition was repealed nationally. This means its very existence is important, but wait there is more!

The entire bar is designed after the bar on the Queen Mary (located in California today). It has all of its original wall features that are made of plaster and are meant to represent different countries and locations from around the world. They still serve up classic cocktails, and an antique jukebox has a corner dedicated to its existence.

We loved every detail of the place and we found it to be a great place for chatting and a drink. We were the most dressed up people there, everyone else was in jeans, but it felt great to feel fancy. I even had my first real gin martini!

If hitting D-town at night, don’t miss a chance to visit this great historical treasure!

Happy Travels!

Brown Palace Romance

colorado, Colorado Events, geek, History, Travel, United States

The Brown Palace in Denver is probably one of the most iconic locations in all of Colorado, if not the western United States.

Built on a triangular plot of land, the hotel is oddly shaped, but the attention to detail is where the magic lays. The exterior of the hotel is made of rich “Brown” sandstone, carved and pieces together with hidden elements. The facade even has animals carved along the roof line.

Built in 1892 the hotel is full of details celebrating its past, and reflecting the significance of Denver in history. Almost every president has stayed at the hotel among many other notable celebrities. The Beatles stayed at the hotel in 1964 before playing at Red Rocks. They created such a a ruckus that they had to be moved via service elevators. They have a suite in dedication to them.

My husband and I decided to have a sweet and romantic getaway to the Brown Palace for our first anniversary. The hotel is known in my family as it is where my grandparents stayed on their wedding night on August 7, 1949. The story goes that they showed up in their 20 year old Model A and the valet was surprised at their arrival. They had driven the dirt roads from Fort Morgan (where they got married) to get there, and no doubt they probably looked a little bedraggled.

In some ways I went to honor them, but I was also curious about my own story and finding my own memory at the Brown. We definitely succeeded.

We stayed in a standard king room, we were on the 6th floor, and we had great views of the city. The room elegantly blended modern and old to make a space that was cozy and welcoming and not lacking for charm. The bathroom was done with traditional tile and classic features, while crown molding dotted the ceilings throughout.

We loved being able to walk through the history and charm of the hotel with its open center and stained glass ceilings. The structure inside is made out of steel making the spindles and staircases a timeless piece that awes the viewer. Every detail is classically inspired with the elegance of the “gay 90s” and updated features to celebrate the decades and 126 years of history.

I especially enjoyed the kindness and welcoming spirit I felt from everyone that worked there. The front desk was friendly, the concierge loved to chat about their love of the Palace (they’re the only hotel in the area with certified concierge). It felt like a home, and I immediately fell in love.

If you are looking for an iconic stay in Colorado or Denver then look no further. If you are short on time, but want to explore, consider an afternoon tea or a tour.

Happy Travels!