Planning for the Unknown

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, europe, Florida, France, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

We live in an exciting time of where we have endless information at our fingertips through social media, news sources, books, and endless other methods. At any given second I can go on my phone or online and see what is happening in many areas of the world. In real time I can explore what is happening at a place I plan on visiting.

This is awesome and equally problematic.

From a travel planner perspective, we use the most up to date, thorough and well-researched information at our disposal. Coming from reliable sources like travel guides, national tourism boards, official websites, rail aggregators and other “first hand” knowledge sources. For the rest of the public, their perspective on a new place comes from a video or social media post, perhaps a news article from a well-reputed magazine. Guess what fails to be in the articles and videos? Thorough information on how to get to, explore, or enjoy a specific region.

No doubt this is not a problem that content creators have to fix alone. Because when well-meaning Conde Nast makes a list of places to see before 2020, they don’t expect people to just cherry pick and randomly show up to Machu Picchu. They do think that people research or look into the complexity of getting to Machu Picchu on train, or foot, or bus. But many don’t, because in our world of instant gratification people don’t always understand that other parts of the world have more layers to their exploration.

Like any good history geek I love researching an answer for myself or my clients. I look at the stories that made up a place. I look at train schedules. I call locals to get information on schedules that I can’t find online. I look at sunset and sunrise times to explain to a client when they can get that perfect view. I check weather patterns to explain what they should pack. I love this research. Granted, I get a little more in the weeds than is necessary, thus, I encourage you to find a balance as you set off into the world.

Here are my tips for researching unknown place.

  1. Go to the library or book store and buy the most recently published guide on the area that you are interested in.
    • Pro-tip: ask the bookstore clerk if an updated version of that guide is coming out BEFORE you travel and ORDER it so that you have the best vetted information for your actual trip.
  2. READ the crap out of that book. Make copies, take pictures with your phone, make notes. Learn everything you can so you know what needs to be done when you’re boots on the ground in Argentina headed to Patagonia.
    • Pro-tip: I use sticky notes in a color coordinated pattern to mark places of interest or areas I am headed to. That way I know where to get information quickly. For example, I will use a large sticky note to mark a region and write the name above the edge of the page. Then I know green stickies are dining in Delhi, pink are activities, etc.
  3. Ask Around to people that travel and see if someone you know has been to such and such place and ask them for recommendations. This might save you time, money, and stress when you know someone else was able to enjoy the same vacation or trip you were planning.
    • Pro-tip: vet all the information you get to make sure it’s accurate and safe. Make a list of suggestions and then read up on what your friend/family suggested.
  4. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Reviews offer TRUE experience feedback, but remember that people are more likely to complain online versus compliment so sometimes complaints will reflect a slanted view, good or bad, of a company.
    • Pro tip: if you see complaints ask yourself if it matters if “the room is small” “if the restroom only had a small shower” or if “the price was insane” because sometimes what bothers someone else will not matter to you.
  5. Utilize hotels and locals by asking questions on dining, activities, weather, and how to enhance your vacation! No one knows better than locals on where to eat, drink, and enjoy your best life.
    • Email your hotel, tour guide, or organizer well in advance so that you have time to get a response and make arrangements to enjoy the best parts of wherever you are going.
  6. Plan for emergencies and extra time. There is nothing more frightening to me than having someone with a schedule that has no extra time built in. Why? Because if one thing goes wrong, like a train delay or a volcanic eruption (true experience from yours truly) you won’t have any time to make up for time lost. I always suggest having at least one back up flight or one back up train between you and when you need to be somewhere. YES you may have more wasted time, but you WILL be less stressed about your travels. Cool bonus: people watching is always enjoyable.
    • Pro-tip: don’t cram everything into one trip. Pick your favorite options and stick to a simpler plan. You will feel less stressed and exhausted, and when you slow down truly magical things happen! There is a reason why EVERY tour company offers some free time on varying days and afternoons because they need extra time for the unplanned and everyone needs to slow down.
  7. Teach yourself the customs, some key phrases, social norms, and other details before you go. Nothing will make you feel more insecure than thinking you have pissed someone off or that you are awkwardly getting through life. Read up on dos and don’ts and mentally note how to behave.
  8. Most importantly, have fun! Laugh off your mistakes, learn as much as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In my experience, things work out and you always have a phenomenal time!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

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Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

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So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Emerald Lake – RMNP

adventure of the week, colorado, Environment, Nebraska, Travel

Another Adventure of the Week for your Saturday reading and another one in the endless nature and beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park!

I went with a co-worker and my step-daughter to hike the trail that is a total of around 3 miles in and back again. This is a far more busy trail than others in the park, and even starting at 5:00 a.m. meant there was a fair amount of people upon our arrival at 7:00 a.m.


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How lucky we are to live in #Colorado #rmnp #rockymountainnationalpark #emeraldlaketrail #mountains #adventure #hike #wild

A post shared by Rebecca Lee Robinson (@beccaleephoto) on While I was surprised at the amount of people, it did not take away from the beauty of the hike, and it was exciting to see so many out-of-towners, including a family from Germany. There is real value in getting to live in such a beautiful place and getting to share it with others.

The trail is unique in that it is lined by elegant little lakes creating a pleasant and beautiful view from just about every spot on the trail. In addition to the lakes there are great cliff and rock faces that allow for stunning views of the area. One can easily see for miles and truly take in the majestic wonders of alpine regions.

If you are looking for a good mid-range hike that is easy to accomplish in 2-3 hours, this is a great option for family groups and those note used to the altitude.


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sunshine and the #mountains will always bring me joy. #rockymountainnationalpark #rmnp #emeraldlake #colo #foco #coloradowoman #travel #getoutandplay #explore #womantraveler #travelblogger

A post shared by Rebecca Lee Robinson (@beccaleephoto) on For those seeking animals, I ran into numerous critters along the way, mostly birds, and a very friendly chipmunk. This is a great trail for kids to explore nature and work on animal identification.

Of course the whole point of the trail is the lakes, and boy do they impress!

Nymph:

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Dream:

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Emerald:

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HAPPY TRAVELS!

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Throw Back Thursday – Childhood Travel Lessons

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Many people gain a love of travel as children. Sometimes they’re crammed into the beck of a family station wagon, or a small camper, traversing open highways to neighboring states and countries. Others fly away to an annual beach escape, all-inclusive, beach, and drinks.

My family did things differently. As a product of low-income we did things a little less luxuriously. We crammed into a Dodge Neon, five of us. We slept in rustic cabins on our ranch or in canvas tents at a re-enactment. On occasion a worse than Motel 6 room was in the cards. This meant a shower and how to cram three kids in a twin or double bed, absolutely luxury was a queen. We ate at cheap diners and cheese and crackers as we rolled along plains lands.

We went through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota to icons like Devil’s Tower, Jewel Cave, Helena, and De Smet. We saw where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and a Palace made of Corn. And we have many pictures at Mount Rushmore in different outfits, an awkward ages, with relatives that have passed or friends that have moved on.

Reenactment with my cousin Nathan, aunt Mary and baby sibling McClellan.

These journeys taught me how important a hot plate and hot water can be. That boiled eggs are always a good snack. That learning to read in the car without motion sickness is vital to surviving 1,000 miles with two younger sisters. That you can survive 30 playthroughs of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. That dogs can wedge themselves anywhere if given enough time. And most importantly, short legs make for an easier car ride.

All in all these things taught me to be better at travel in the big wide world. Hot plates turned into hostel kitchens. Small cars meant I can live through a long plane ride. Crappy hotel means I can survive…. crappy hotels and most hostels. I know the importance of hitting grocery stores to cut food costs. I know that picking light makes everything easier. I know that audio and physical books are life savers for endless journeys that have no service, wi-if, or charger.

The frugality of my parents has meant I knew how to save and travel at 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 27. It means I know how to pinch pennies and look for deals, to read and study and to plan my journey, to know the importance of flexibility and patience.

My cousin Nathan and I at the family ranch in Wyoming.

While I didn’t see much of the world until an adult, I know these lessons will carry me well into my old age.

Happy Travels!

Travel Freedom with Fitness

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When I started college in 2011 I did not fully ascertain that it would mean as many sedentary hours as it did. My Bachelor’s is in Journalism and a second degree in History, as you can imagine this means being sedentary, reading, typing, editing. Sedentary. Add a Master’s which was another year of sitting on my butt and I began to realize I could not be as active as I wanted to be.

What I mean by that is that by not consistently being active I was stuck in a loop of not being able to endure the hikes, tours, and active adventures that I wanted to do a whim. Why I thought it would be different is a bit of a muddled mess.

My parents grew up with midwestern parents that moved from being farming/ranching families into sedentary white-collar types. Add some poor genetics prone to diabetes, hip dysplasia, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers and you have a family that doesn’t look too good. Of course this is exacerbated by inactivity, a carb and fat rich diet, and sedentary jobs and you get me at a much less fit, higher weight than I ever wanted to be.

SO I made the decision over the last few years, post grad school, and with some stumbles, to keep moving. Keep moving in being active, working out, eating better, being healthy. I avoid the fad diets, and extreme weight loss and instead I focus on eating what I feel my body needs for nutrition. I avoid sugar and too many carbs, I eat more veggies, and I go for lean proteins. I try to get fat that is good for me, and not overly processed. I am simply making gains to be healthier.

I want to be healthier so that I can get out and enjoy the world without limitations and with the strength and confidence to do so comfortably. Each step I take on a weekly workout gets me closer to that.

Maybe the most visible sign is that I feel better all around, while the scale hasn’t moved much, my clothes are looser. While I have more muscle and a leaner face, the best part is being able to hike for 8 miles and not feel a complete disaster afterwards.

I have some issues to still overcome, such as being more consistently active (three or more times a week) and being strict with portion control. I have a hip issue that I am trying to find a game plan to treat which prevents bike riding and classes like kickboxing (it’s fun but my hip disagrees). With these goals I am hoping to be able to do more and more active trips, tours, and adventures.

In 2020 I am hoping to hike the Inca Trail. By 2026 I am hoping to add Mt. Kilimanjaro to my list. In between there I am planning on knocking off a few Colorado Fourteeners in between.

I hope that all of you feel inspired to keep active so that those things you love are in reach. If you have any tips, share below.

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Adventure of the Week – Omaha Zoo

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On my recent adventure to the midwest I had a fun blend of road trip and train journey across 1000 miles, each way, of prairie…..and….prairie. Some may argue it’s plains, but either way you cut it, it ends up being a whole lot of grass, corn, straight rows, and small towns. Not to mention a few cow poop smelling sections near feed lots.

All I have to say is thank you engineers and scientists for cruise control and thank you oh wise zoologists of the last 100 years for placing a zoo in the middle of it.

Located in Omaha, Nebraska the Henry Doorly Zoo is by far one of the best zoos in the country, and absolutely one of the best in the world. Due to their investments, resources, creativity and dedication they have created a zoo that creates lasting memories for visitors that is unparalleled to other zoos.

For instance, I remember stopping at said zoo in about 2003 and being completely blown away at it, even if I was a snotty teen.

The zoo has changed little in the last 15 years, but it still remains an innovative and moving network of habitats that brings out the mystified kid in all of us.

My favorite, this journey happened to be the charming penguins who literally came up to the glass to nod heads with my fellow travelers, an 11 and 4 year old, who felt they both had nice chats with the friendly penguins.

Other highlights included the indoor rainforest with plenty of bats, otters, frogs, and pygmy hippos. The gorilla habitat offered plenty of entertainment with the massive creatures storming by visitors.  Finally, the cat house offered oohhhs and ahhhs at majestic clawed beasts lounging in the afternoon shade.

 

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