North Country

musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

The drive to my parents’ home is far from a thrilling one. Three and a half hours one sits in one direction. About 230 miles. Northward we go. The car sits in cruise control at 80 mph and we listen to audio books or favorite road trip songs and we go. We travel along swaths of interstate where you can see no one for miles. We pass ancient stone features and the occasional exits that resemble towns. It’s desolate.

Compared to Colorado it’s vast nothingness. It’s open rolling hills dotted by specks if cows, sometimes domesticated American Bison, sometimes horses. This time of year it’s all the color of straw. Last years’ grass turning into remnants before bursting with new life. It’s not much.

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A Decade of Travel

Florida, France, italy, mexico, Scotland, Travel

It has been ten and a half years since I took my first trip without my parents. In that decade I have learned a lot about the world, people, cultures, identities, food, wine, and maybe most importantly, myself.

Perhaps the most powerful thing about being on the road, about depending on only myself, about sleeping in strange places, about navigating subways is that you learn so very much about the person that resides inside. It is the quiet moments waiting on a subway platform or walking around a city all alone that you get to listen to the internal voice. It is disconnecting the cell phones and emails and constant bombardment of your life that you can listen to yourself.

In a decade on the road, where most adventures have been solo, I have found more pieces of me on the road than I ever would have staying put. On my own two feet I have found that I am strong, a problem solver, great at meeting people, good at budgeting, amusing and kind, great at navigating, good at picking up social queues and much more. My favorite part is finding out that I am in fact a brave and capable person, in spite of a society that tells women they’re not.

Perhaps my travel is a rebellion, as is all the other women that travel alone, to all the people that told me not to go. It’s a rebellion to the other women that told me to be scared and to stay home. It’s a rebellion to the men that warned me, or assumed my actions were reckless, or would have preferred I stayed home and did nothing. It’s a fight against the men that have tried to intimidate me, or have groped me, or have threatened me. I am saying, none of these actions, big or small, will keep me from embracing and existing in this world.

A decade of travel has emboldened me to be more outgoing and more bold to apply for promotions. A decade of travel has pushed me into scared moments of education and risk, and to walk away from crappy people and situations. Ten years of traveling has meant that I have found a voice, and a purpose, and I left my home town and I have never looked back.

While I get to own decade of travel it has only been facilitated by the support and care of family and friends that encouraged my journey. My grandma talked me through the planning and shared books and art resources for me to find. My family friends pushed me to visit them, or to make sure I went. In my college years my partner, now husband, supported my study abroad and Master’s work internationally. My mother took her own travel dreams and wove them into my own by connecting me with friends, and buying me books. My Great-Aunt and Uncle took me on my first trip without my parents. And so many more have helped me along the way, from teachers to mentors, to total strangers.

It is these hands of support and love that have encouraged me to become the confident traveler and woman I have. While I always will have more to learn about myself and the world, I know I have crafted a framework for success.

So dear reader, I deeply encourage you and the others in your life to get out there and see the world. It’s one of the most profound and moving experience that anyone can have.

I Hate Monotony

family, food, musings

As the title says….I Hate

And I am trying to make a life that has the least amount of monotony as possible. I want jobs that are different every day. I love meeting new people and eating new food and seeing new places. I don’t like staying in one job or home or outfit in too long. I love change if it means doors for possibilities (which it almost always does). I am a glutton for experiences from goat yoga to snorkeling to cliff diving (one and done with that one).

Yet, the older I get the harder it is to shake the shackles of life and repetition and needs. See my home needs cleaned regularly for health and sanity and organization. My body needs food several times a day. My body needs exercise and bathing. Bad habits of not doing these things turn my smooth life into a tornado of mess. So monotony clings to the air like cellophane, necessary at times, but suffocating.

While I don’t love any of the chores of household needs, I realize that these are a part of survival. Without them life is less enjoyable or impossible. So I’ve started lying to myself…. sort of.

Instead of dreading cleaning I just acknowledge it’s what needs done. Instead of having to get “everything done” on the weekend I delegate to my family members and accept my limits when say not all the laundry makes it in the drawer. I just tell myself it won’t end, it’s part of life, it’s not a big deal. And it’s not.

I won’t ever love the same old same old. But I can make it better. I blare music so I dance and mop. I listen to audio books while I put away laundry. I de-clutter and get rid of things while I clean and put things away.

To push it further I am finding magic in the new Netflix series (Tidying Up) where principles of gratitude and new perspective guide people into a happier life. Monotony is a part of life, but it’s ok.

Perhaps most surprising is that I am coming to enjoy the cleaning process, not just the results. It’s nice to do mindless things sometimes. It’s nice to find new cleaners I like and to make old furniture look new. It’s nice to shine my shoes. Perhaps that’s the kicker, appreciate the simple things and what all we have. Embrace the stillness and calm of laundry and vacuuming. Take things as they come and don’t resist everything that’s “not fun”.

Just some thoughts….

True Colors of the Colorado Rockies

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Photography, Travel

It’s no doubt that the Rockies offer a lot of gold in their autumnal splendor. “Gold in them there hills” is a common refrain as aspens gild the mountain sides in mid to late September. I love the aspens, and their splendid colors are some of my earliest memories. Yet, when you go a little further afield you see a new landscape of colors, flora, and stunning colors that are often missed to “leafers” in Colorado.

Colorado offers a wide variety of plant life that glows in reds, oranges, and yellows during the autumn. While we lack the vivid diversity of the east coast for leaves, we make up for it in unique coloration and stunning mountains as a platter. It is hidden in back roads and dirt lanes that fall can be truly found.

Last week we took to the Old Fall River road in Rocky Mountain National Park. The journey winds from around 8,000 to about 12,000ft above sea level offering a feast for the eyes and senses. We drove before sunrise to beat everyone up there and it did not disappoint. Birds and animals ran freely without a care for tourists. The golden dawn provided a guiding light as it played joyfully on the mountain crevices. It was well worth leaving the house it 5:30 a.m.

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Of course RMNP is not the only place to find these wonders. In fact the state is full of hidden gems in the mountains. My advice, to feel truly amazed by the autumn beauties, is to go somewhere new, get up early, and ask locals what is the best view. I also suggest planning to explore things you may not otherwise such as Alpine valleys, and ridges that are home to some of the most delicate but intriguing plant-life on the planet. Many of these gold and red beauties have taken decades if not hundreds of years to make it to today.

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Happy Travels!

More Reading:

RMNP

Fern Lake

Camping RMNP

I’m Your Fall “Basic Witch”

colorado, Colorado Events, love, musings, outdoors, Throwback Thursday, Travel

No shame in being Basic you all! I love the little things that come with fall.

Seriously, why do we mock the things that make the world a happier place? In a sea of crappy news and unsettling politics I am damn well delving into a sea of things I love, when I can.

That means enjoying some pumpkin pie spice flavored coffee and fuzzy pajamas. I will take my Girl Scout troop to a corn maze and I will go buy some pumpkins and carve them into some awesome designs. I will wear my black boots with skinny jeans and cute socks and all my scarves. Because these are things that make me smile. These are things that make my little life joy.

So this season I encourage you all to just love the things that bring you joy. If you love leaves, go roll in some. If you love pumpkin patches, frolic in one. Because, who cares? The reality is that your joy and helping small community farmers will bring happiness to someone else.

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One of the reasons that I love this stuff so much is because I grew up in the mountains where fall was such a short amount of time we barely enjoyed it before it was all gone. At 9,500 feet above sea level, the leaves change in September and by October 10th they are gone. There are no pumpkin patches or corn mazes because nothing grows that high. And the journey to such a thing was at least two hours away, a trip my parents could not afford.

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Yet, with all of these restrictions my mom made the most amazing treats in the fall and winter. Caramels and leaf cookies with brown sugar. Pumpkin pies you wanted to sink into and die because they were so divine. Roasts and potatoes and carrots that were perfectly savory and bone warming after cold days feeding horses and cows. There was always sweet and spicy hot chocolate and apple cider. All of it brings me a smile just thinking about it now.

So while I dreamed of haunted carriage rides, I had the divine sweets to make up for it. So to honor the fun, and my earliest memories of golden aspens, I delve into the joys of autumn with a happy heart and a love of all things.

I hope you do too.

What are your favorite seasons? What do you love to do?

Playing Renaissance

musings

If you have gathered anything from my love and passions while reading this blog, it’s that I’m a bit of a history geek.

My first passions started with medieval and renaissance Europe as a teen. Which lead me, almost annually, to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Since then, I go every year or two with a group of friends and a wad of cash to enjoy a fun and silly adventure.

Held every weekend in the summer, usually June to early August, the festival is all that a Renaissance festival can be expected to be.

It’s the perfect chance to dress up in a cute, sexy, ridiculous, or just funny costume. Over the years I have made, worn, and even bought some fun get ups. There was a princess or three, movie costumes, a pirate a couple of time, and most recently a maiden costume.

It’s not a historical trip I seek anymore, as I am fully aware of the inaccuracies and absurdity of the festival. Instead, I seek out the shows, frozen margaritas, and artisan goods. I enjoy a day of walking and talking with friends, and I love seeing the care and details taken with homemade costumes.

If you find yourself along the front range of Colorado in the summer, stop by for a turkey leg or two.

Dam the Heat, Paddle the Reservoir

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel, United States

Colorado has had a hot summer, along with much of the United States. With the heat comes the discomfort of not having great air conditioning at our apartment and many other homes in the area.

When the days hit the 90s and up to 100, many of us take to the mountains, or the Poudre river and finally, our Horsetooth Reservoir. “Horsetooth” (as the locals call the area) was established in 1949 and was created to stabilize the water system of the region. Since then it has been a great recreational area for locals and visitors.

This summer a friend of mine encouraged me to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding at the reservoir as a way to have fun and try a new skill. I found a new sport that has proved to be a great way to cool down and have fun.

I took my stepdaughter on my first times out, and the second time for a chance to really experiment with a SUP (Stand up paddle board). I found my spills into the water a hilarious and amusing way to cool off. Paddling meant a great workout and just enjoyable to take in the scenery and other paddlers. Our favorite is seeing those with dogs on their boards who are having the time of their lives.

If you want to check out paddle boarding on Horsetooth Reservoir the best area is on the North Shore (Satanka Cove). This area has less people in motorized water crafts (I’ve only ever seen jet skis).

There are two companies that operate rentals on the shore, and both charge approximately $20/hour. They have life jackets included in the rental price, and two smaller people can comfortably fit on a board. It’s a great experiment in balance and fun. If you want to try something more intense yoga classes are held regularly.

Comedy Overlook Rentals

What’s SUP

For weekends you can sometimes hold a rental to ensure you get your board.

Parking and access to the reservoir is $7 for the day per vehicle. 

Most importantly, have fun and Happy Travels!….

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Adventure of the Week- Amtrak Train Journey

adventure of the week, family, Travel

Earlier this month I took a road trip to Iowa to attend a cousin’s wedding. The first half was spent on the never ending drive through Nebraska with my great aunt Jayne, her granddaughter Ivy, and my stepdaughter Lily. We stopped at the Omaha Zoo and made a comfortable adventure of the journey.

To return from the wedding, since I needed to be back to work before Jayne planned to return, my stepdaughter and I could either fly, rent a car, or how we decided – take the train.

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The Amtrak’s California Zephyr runs through Iowa, and we caught it about an hour south of Des Moines. From there one journey’s overnight before arriving in Colorado around 7:00 a.m. making the train journey approximately 12 hours depending on delays.

The train was only around $130 for the two of us one-way in basic economy seating. We sat on the top floor of the double decker economy cars and with ample leg room and the ability to walk around it never felt particularly cramped on the journey. No it was not luxury accommodations and a bed would have been nice, but for one overnight journey it was a reasonable price and journey.

I would say if you were to journey much longer, then a sleeper car of some sort would have been ideal. If only to be able to stretch out properly and have some privacy. Amtrak offers Roomettes and Family Rooms, depending on one’s budget and preferences.

Naturally, train travel is not the fastest or most efficient, but the experience is worth having and it’s an economical means for some routes. Additionally, trains are not nearly as crowded as buses I have traveled on or even planes, meaning you feel less cramped and trapped by everything.

Here are some of my tips for making the journey more comfortable:

  • Pack light
    • Most train stations will not have the ability to check your bags, so you will have to carry on suit cases and they need to be small enough to fit overhead. A larger carry-on bag is ideal
  • Keep comfortable items closed
    • Have a smaller personal bag with you to have by you and your seat, here it is ideal you have things like books, phones, laptop, and a toothbrush or any night creams and other items you may want handy. This includes snacks.
  • Keep the kid(s) happy
    • I brought the Nintendo Switch from our house to keep Lily gaming until I felt we should sleep. She also had books, snacks, and other items to keep her comfortable.
    • My emergency kit for all kid-related items includes wet wipes, chapstick, lotion, hand sanitizer, and a game of some sort.
  • Wear comfy clothing
    • Like with a flight, wear items that are comfortable to sit in for 12 hours + and that are stretchy or okay for swollen feet, and other discomforts of travel.
  • Keep medicine handy
    • Sometimes aches and pains happen, as well as the inability to sleep, keep your medicinal items handy for easy treatment.
  • Walk around
    • The journey will be much longer if you don’t move around, so make sure you check out the dining car, observation car, or simply journey the aisles to get some legs stretched.
  • Avoid the food
    • This may be a no-brainer, but food on flights, and apparently trains, are not like the Hogwarts Express as I had hoped. Everything was overpriced, greasy, and lacked flavor. For my next train adventure, I plan on bringing my own oatmeal and other noms
  • Stay hydrated
    • The train offers water bottle/cup refill stations, take advantage of this to avoid buying bottled water. AND it’s ore environmentally friendly. (For other tips, check out Ditching Disposables.
  • Have Fun!
    • Travel can be hard, no matter the means, make it a time to enjoy things you don’t usually. Watch the sunrise, have a glass of wine on a train, talk about silly things with your kiddo, or write in your journal. Sometimes just being is the ultimate treat.

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Adventure of the Week

Travel

Welcome to my new series where I try every week to do something different, or reflect on something different from my past.

Mostly I want to get out and do.

My plan us to do new things, travel new places, meet new people, and create additional content for all of my wonderful readers.

So, every week, I hope to start your Wednesdays with some inspiration to make the most of your weekend.

Maybe it’s trying a new food, or hiking a new trail, or just driving through a different city. All around the point is to get out and live my best life. Whatever that looks like!

I hope that all of you will also go and do and share your stories. Or don’t share, just do. Because life is short and we all deserve and should make an adventure of the week.

Happy Travels!

Adventure-of-the-Week

Let Kids Plan the Adventure

family, Travel

It’s often assumed that mom and dad are the ones that plan travel. They take the budget, and they make something work. It is then that the kids toddle along, after the parents, sometimes exuberantly, from place to place.

In theory, this is not an oddity, it makes sense, parents have the wisdom and wit to know how to plan a vacation or adventure. Yet, when we stop to listen to kids, we often find they are full of creative ideas that can enhance a vacation.

Why? And how do I know this?

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My loves in 2012 in California

Well, while my stepdaughter likes to spout out different places she thinks she wants to go (New York, Paris, Hawaii, Mexico) she often lacks a full grasp on what these places offer for the average family. That is where the education and fun come in. Instead of saying “I don’t think so” we encourage Lily to research these places and why they may be worth visiting.

For instance, she hears from the boy at school that she has a crush on that he spent Christmas in Italy. Well, Lily now wants to go to Italy. Which is awesome! I love Italy. However, while Italy would be fun, she needs to have an idea on why she wants to go somewhere.

Another situation is with the Girl Scout troop that I help lead. The troop likes to take adventures and outings. What kid doesn’t? But in order to make it happen, we encourage thought and discussion in our meetings on how we need to plan the day or weekend away. It encourages the girls to think about money, time, everyone’s needs, and what it means to get to travel. The easy way for the leaders and girls would be for the leaders to just plan, the smart way is to get the girls thinking about the world and what it means to interact with it.

It can be scary to let kids take the reins, but usually it ends up with multiple benefits for everyone. Here are my observations:

  • The child feels included in family plans
  • It teaches budgeting and how to manage money, or how to save money for bigger trips
  • It helps kids work with others to find solutions that make everyone happy
  • It makes kids think about their impact on the world as they navigate life
  • It helps them think about time management and how to maximize days of vacation
  • It creates leadership skills as they take over say one day of planning
  • Their mistakes teach them how to improve next time
  • They develop research skills as they learn about new places

The list could go on, but what I have seen can be life changing for a kid.

My biggest surprise was telling my stepdaughter our planned vacation for this year will have to be a year later, as the wedding we are in was postponed. Instead of being devastated about waiting a year, she happily accepted it and we began talking about our summer/fall alternatives as a family.

So, my encouragement, is let the kids help, and see what magic is in their great little minds.

Happy Travels!