Europe Adventures Part 2: Paris!

**This is part two of our Europe trip, which happened in February, but I am just now getting around to writing it!**

Originally, we were supposed to fly out of Exeter really early on Tuesday morning — like 6:30am early. After the fiasco of losing the blue backpack, I changed our flight to Tuesday afternoon so we’d have extra time if we still needed to get the backpack (and our passports) back. This turned out to be a good thing because Kevin woke up not feeling so great on Tuesday and ended up sleeping until about 11am.

Exeter was probably our best airport experience as it was such a small airport and the people were very nice. Unfortunately for Kevin, it was also a small plane. I like the smaller planes because there are only two seats in a row so I only have to sit next to Kevin and not some stranger, but they’re not as comfortable for someone with a 6’4″ frame.

I think our flight was barely an hour, maybe a little longer, and it was fairly smooth. When we landed, we entered an entirely different experience in the Paris airport. The airport is huge. I haven’t flown to many big cities so this might be the biggest airport I’ve ever been to. It was really crowded when we landed so we had to wait for a space for our plane. We walked out of the plane and followed the passengers in front of us into the airport building.

Immediately we felt like we were in the wrong place. It was like we had somehow gone through a door marked “unauthorized” and we were in this hallway that seemed completely separate from the rest of the airport. It was completely empty except everyone else who had just gotten off our plane. We could also see through the glass window another hallway mirroring ours, with the normal amount of activity you’d expect to see in an airport terminal. It was like we were trapped in some sort of airport alternate universe and couldn’t get back over to where we were supposed to be. We also kept passing doors with caution tape and KEEP OUT signs in various languages, furthering our suspicions that they had told us to go the wrong way when getting off this plane.

But, after about ten or fifteen minutes of walking, we finally made it out of the silo hallway and back into the regular airport traffic. We discovered that we had to take a train to the baggage claim. Not a short train ride, like a train ride that makes you feel as though you are actually leaving the airport and entering the city and you’re 99% sure you made a bad decision and must have gotten on the wrong train.

Eventually we got ahold of our bags and were trying to figure out how to get an Uber or Lyft because Kevin was still not feeling great and we didn’t want to navigate the public transit system. Unfortunately, the airport wifi was not great and we also couldn’t figure out where we would need to go to wait for an Uber or Lyft to pick us up, so we ended up getting in an actual taxi, which was a very pleasant experience aside from the cab reeking of cigarette smoke.

It took about an hour for us to get to our hotel from the airport, so we really got to immerse ourselves in the Paris driving experience. It was around rush hour traffic time, so the motorcyclists were weaving through cars and there was a lot of honking, lane changing, and general chaos. Our cab driver did not seem to want to partake in this sort of aggressive driving — which Kevin said was likely because he wanted to get as much money as he could from us — but I was thankful because it seemed as though many people driving past us were minutes away from getting in a car accident.

We arrived at our hotel and paid about $80 for our cab. Because the buildings were so old in this area of town, our hotel did not look like much but we were stuck with it at least for one night. It was definitely a “don’t judge a book by the cover” moment though, because they had given us the ADA accessible room on the first floor so it was actually much bigger than all of the other rooms and it was very clean.

We did find out that it wasn’t exactly in a central area of the city when we embarked on our quest for dinner. Unfortunately that is probably the one thing I really did not do “well” when planning this trip. I could have done a better job of planning our hotel stays in areas that were closer to the places we wanted to see. In the case of Paris, I had avoided hotels really close to the Eiffel Tower because they were way more expensive, but it probably would have been worth it.

We found a pizza place on google maps that seemed promising for dinner (because Kevin wasn’t feeling well, neither of us wanted to go to an actual restaurant). The pizza place was even better than expected because it had a touch screen menu that you could use to order instead of trying to talk to someone! Paris was definitely the culture-shock, wow no one speaks English here, place for us. We secured our pizzas and walked back to our hotel room. The streets were incredibly crowded — with both cars, motorcycles and people — and everyone seemed to be in a huge hurry. Although our hotel was a little off the beaten path, it was nice that it was not on a busy street because I think that made it much quieter at night and in the early morning.

The next morning, Kevin accepted the fact that he really was sick and it wasn’t just the jet lag or lack of sleep. But we only had one full day in Paris so he had no choice but to suck it up. We decided to avoid public transit and expensive taxis and walk to the Eiffel Tower, and then if we were tired we could Uber back. We walked to a little bakery first and bought some delicious pastries and a baguette sandwich. This was the highlight of the Paris trip for us — the desserts. I think we could have spent an entire day walking around and buying desserts from different shops.

The Eiffel Tower turned out to be about a four mile walk, but it was a nice day and it was fun to walk through the city. Fun for me, tolerable for sick Kevin. When we got to the Eiffel Tower, it was super crowded and also partially under construction which was triggering to Kevin since Big Ben had also been under construction in London. We decided that we didn’t need to pay to ride the elevator up inside the Eiffel Tower so we ate the rest of our desserts on a park bench and enjoyed a few minutes of people-watching. Kevin didn’t want to continue walking around the city so we debated doing one of the bus tours, or one of the ferry tours. Ferry tours won out and we got on one of the boats. Luckily I think the tour only cost like $15 because it was incredibly lame and the bus would have been the better choice.

It started raining when we got back from the boat tour so we had to walk in the rain back to our hotel, which was fine for me because I had brought my raincoat but Kevin had left his at the hotel. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to get some snacks and opted for a long afternoon nap when we got back to the hotel. We had planned on going back to the Eiffel Tower in the evening to see it lit up at night, but with Kevin not feeling well we decided not to do that. And we went back to the same pizza place again because we are creatures of habit and did not want to have any social interactions, plus I wanted to try a Nutella Milkshake.

If Kevin had been feeling better, I think we would have gone to at least one restaurant in Paris but we weren’t really there for the cuisine and neither of us drink wine. I think our biggest regret was not buying thousands and thousands of desserts from the bakery and packing them into our suitcases.

We had an early-ish flight to Dublin the next day so we were out of our hotel by 8am and took an Uber to the airport. Unlike the taxi driver, our Uber driver was all about speed and efficiency and I have never feared more for my life than I did on that drive, but in a thrilling sort of way. We made record time getting to the airport and had plenty of time to get through security (where an airport employee called us “funny Americans”) and hang out and grab some coffee while we waited for our flight. At this point, COVID was on the news and was becoming a bigger deal, although it still seemed to be isolated to China. Still, it was starting to become a bit nerve-wracking to be flying so much during this trip.

A few hours later, we landed in Dublin for the last portion of our trip!

To be continued…

Europe Adventures Part 1: London!

**I started writing this post back in March but clearly I was derailed, mostly due to the COVID pandemic stress. Kevin and I are healthy and doing well and I am finally back on track and working through my backlog of blog posts and life updates!**

In February, Kevin and I traveled internationally for the first time ever! It was a really awesome experience. We had a lot of fun and we also learned a lot about how we like to plan our travel and what we will do differently for our next international trip.

This was our first time on a long flight. I think Kevin has been on flights up to 6 hours before. The longest flight I had been on before this was like 3 hours. We left in the evening and had an 8.5 hour direct flight to London. Because Kevin is so tall, we paid a little extra for the Comfort+ seating which gives you quite a bit of extra leg room. We were in a row of 2 by the window, so we had no neighbors which was nice — however, we did not upgrade to the extremely bougie lay-completely-flat-and-sleep-comfortably seats.

The flight wasn’t too bad. We had a meal about 90 minutes in and then pretty much tried to sleep the entire rest of the flight. We had several free (alcoholic) beverages, hoping that would help us fall asleep. Kevin watched a few movies, and eventually I wandered back to an empty row and slept there for a few hours (the flight wasn’t full). Flying in the large plane made a huge difference for me as I usually get motion sickness when I fly, and the full-size bathroom was an added bonus.

Day 1 – The Arrival

We landed at like 11:00am London time. Kevin was keeping tabs on what time it was back home but my internal clock had reset to the time displayed on my phone. We had written down which train we needed to take in order to get to our Airbnb — we just had to find it. We ended up in what we thought was the right place — we confirmed with an airport employee who was standing there helping people — and we already had Oyster cards (you add money to them and can use them on London’s pubic transit system) from when my family had visited London. All we had to do was put money on them.

At first, we thought our cards weren’t working because we were out of the country — we kept getting a “card declined” error. But then they said that all of the machines were having issues, so they told us we’d have to use the cash machine to get cash. Fine. No problem. The cash machine only had an option to withdraw Euros, so that’s what we did. Then we’re putting the Euros into the machine and the same guy who told us to use the cash machine is like, “No, this machine only accepts pounds.”

At this point, my frustration bubbled over and I told Kevin I was leaving. I meant leaving this particular area and this super unhelpful airport employee, but Kevin asked if I was getting on a plane back home. We ended up just deciding to try to use the Oyster cards for this train ride, since they had some money on them — just potentially not enough. We walk over to the entrance and another employee asks us where we’re going.

And we find out that we were actually not even in the right place! Even though we had asked the other clearly very unhelpful employee and he’d said we were. It’s worth noting that literally everyone we met in London was so helpful and kind, except for that one airport employee who was — unfortunately — our first experience.

We get to the right place. The machines work. We load up our Oyster cards. We get on the train. We figure out what stop we need to get off at. We shake off our airport frustrations. We ride the train for 40 minutes to our stop — South Kensington.

We realize that London looks so much like Oregon. It’s very green, it’s raining, it’s kind of gloomy. We think this is sort of hysterical. We’ve flown 8.5 hours and somehow it looks exactly like the area we grew up in. Except of course, the really old buildings and the people driving on the opposite side of the road.

We get off at our stop. The train station is chaotic. We have to go up several escalators and flights of stairs. People are running up and down the escalators so you have to stay on the right side. We make our way out of the station and it’s raining. We have our directions saved, but we can’t find any street signs (we later realized that they’re on the buildings themselves). It’s raining and it’s busy — lunchtime — and people are smoking. However, Kevin’s entire trip was made worth it at this point, because we saw a man walking who got a piece of string stuck around his shoe and he tried to shake it off and yelled, bloody hell!

Finally, after about five minutes of wandering around looking for street signs, I pull Kevin into a Starbucks and order us coffee so we can sit for a minute and use the Wifi. We update the family that we made it safely, and we load our map to the Airbnb. We drink our coffees and wait for the rain to stop. Kevin’s backpack rips — not completely — but just enough that he can’t sling it over his shoulder anymore.

Our Airbnb is a 30 minute walk. We didn’t bring an umbrella, but the rain has turned into a drizzle. We can’t check into our place until 3:00pm so we set out in search of a nearby pub. It’s so fun to walk through the streets of London and look at the beautiful buildings. The drivers are a bit stressful to watch, and the roads are so narrow. Kevin is losing his mind over his ripped backpack, so I take one of his bags.

First meal in London!

When we get to the pub, we order burgers and I ask Kevin what kind of beer he’s going to order. He looks at me like I’m insane and says something about it being 6:30am. I say, no babe it’s 1:30pm. He tells me how he’s so jet lagged and tired and his body is breaking down. I ask the Airbnb if we can check in early. They respond immediately and say yes. We finish our burgers and walk over.

The Airbnb is one private room and bathroom inside a flat. It’s a very small room, with a very small bed — double beds are standards here — but Kevin doesn’t care. He immediately strips off all his clothes and gets in bed. I could rally and go sightseeing but not by myself, so I get in bed too. We take a reasonable nap — from about 2:00pm-6:00pm — and wake up just in time for dinner!

Our Airbnb hosts have left us a list of nearby restaurants and pubs. We decide to go to the Duke of Cambridge. It’s only about a five minute walk from our place, the food is superb, and the people are very welcoming. We thought we’d stand out like tourists for sure, but our server actually asks Kevin if he knows him from somewhere, which cracks us up. Kevin orders a Guinness and it is absolute perfection, everything he’s ever wanted.

We end up still going to bed by 10pm and I feel like I am back on a regular schedule — not jet-lagged — but Kevin continues to have issues with his sleep schedule for several days.

Day 2 – Sightseeing

Before we jump into day two, a little more information on our first night in London. Double beds are the standard — and we recently upgraded to a California King — so the first night was a little bit of a rough adjustment (but much nicer than trying to sleep on a plane). It was also hot, with no A/C (because it’s winter) so we opened the window in the middle of the night and luckily it wasn’t too noisy outside (apart from some strange night birds).

I woke up in the middle of the night to pee — not unusual — but forgot about the wonky setup in our bathroom. It’s essentially a very tiny closet with a toilet and small shower, and the toilet/shower are on a raised platform. It kind of feels like you’re sitting on a throne while peeing. I remembered to step up onto the platform to use the toilet, but when I was done I forgot that I’d be stepping down about eight inches. In the middle of the night, in the dark, I essentially fell off of the toilet platform and caught myself/slammed my shoulder into the doorframe, and landed awkwardly on my right ankle.

Breakfast at Flour to the People!

Of course, Kevin stayed completely asleep for this and heard nothing.

We awoke fairly early to get started with our day. The plan was to hit up as many of the tourist destinations as possible. We googled nearby breakfast places and ended up walking a short distance to Flour to the People. It was a very cute restaurant with delicious food, but very tiny. A lot of the restaurants/coffee shops we passed were very small with limited seating. But the people were wonderful. We didn’t even feel like tourists!

We walked back to the South Kensington station and started our whirlwind of a day from there. We had a lot of places to cover, so we decided to go to the farthest place and circle back from there. King’s Cross was our first stop — and the Harry Potter store, of course, which was filled to the brim with people and screaming children and we bought nothing (although Kevin really wanted an authentic HP trunk, seeing as our luggage seemed to be slowly crumbling around us).

Next up was the British Library, which was massive but admittedly very cool. They have a lot of old books, manuscripts, paintings, etc. on display. And not all of it is that old. We saw some original scribbles of Beatles lyrics, as well as Shakespeare and other fascinating historical artifacts. No photos allowed.

Next, I think, was the British Museum. It’s really all a blur. We did so much walking and train hopping. It was a great way to get really proficient with the London Underground system in about eight hours. The British Museum was also a lot to take in. Even more massive than the library. We walked through almost the entire museum until everything started to blur together and our brains hurt. Although apparently we did not see the Rosetta Stone, which is there and is apparently very cool — and I kept thinking people were talking about the other Rosetta Stone (the whole language learning program — obviously named after this actual stone) so I kind of missed that whole connection. But there was a whole room full of clocks which I thought was really cool. And lots of statues with missing dicks — we were left to speculate whether they were just excessively touched over time or if someone had purposefully removed them. In comparison, all of the breasts seemed largely intact.

We stopped for a quick bite to eat after the British Museum and I discovered my love for baguette sandwiches. Next was Trafalgar Square, which Kevin thought was really cool and I did not quite see what the hype was about. We briefly walked into the National Portrait Gallery but left after walking through room after room of White Jesus paintings. I did see some really beautiful landscape paintings on our way out, so I went to have a look and by the time Kevin noticed I was gone, he’d already gone out the exit and they wouldn’t let him back in.

Kevin is not happy.

At this point, our feet were starting to hurt and we were getting burnt out by all of this museum education. We had a few more places to see. Big Ben — which apparently was Kevin’s most anticipated sightseeing venture in all of London — was under construction, so that was a bit of a bummer. Westminster Abbey was also closed by the time we got there — it closed early, at like 3:00pm, and they were also doing some construction there. We will have to go back and see the abbey and the Churchill War Rooms.

Our last stop was back near South Kensington — the Natural History Museum (Kevin was enthralled by the dinosaur exhibit and that’s all we did) and the Victoria & Albert Museum (which looked to us like a whole lot of the same stuff we had just seen at the British Museum, so we didn’t stay long). At this point, our feet were aching (and I realized my ankle was actually pretty sore from falling out of the bathroom) and we still had to walk all the way back home.

Walking through the streets of London was probably my favorite part of the whole trip — minus the fact that everyone outside is smoking. The buildings are all really old and really beautiful. It’s so fun to just walk through the neighborhoods. That, to me, was more fun than any of the museums. But Kevin and I are a rare breed of tourist — we tend to dislike the popular places that draw large crowds, and a lot of the trips we take are outdoor-focused so we’re used to wide open spaces. Being in a big city with a lot of people was different, but overall we really enjoyed London.

We had a slightly awkward dinner experience that night. In retrospect we should have just gone back to the Duke of Cambridge pub, but we wanted to branch out. We went to another pub, which I don’t remember the name of, and the food wasn’t great so I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. The pub we’d been in the night before had open seating, so we walked into this one and didn’t see a sign that said “please wait to be seated” and it seemed fairly casual so we assumed it was another seat yourself scenario.

When a waitress finally approached us with a weird look on her face, we realized we’d made a mistake. We apologized profusely and said we could wait or sit somewhere else, but she insisted it was fine and brought us menus and we went about our dinner. Everything seemed completely normal until she took our dinner plates after the meal, and then never returned. She continued to serve the table next to us, never asked us for dessert, and after waiting to try and catch her attention for an hour, and the table next to us (who had been seated after us, already ate their dinner and left) Kevin finally had to physically go up to her and tell her we were ready for our bill. The whole thing was incredibly strange. Kevin thinks she was salty that we sat ourselves. I think that she was just rude. But it was the weirdest thing we have ever experienced at a restaurant because in America, if your server hates you and wants you gone, they’re going to try and get you out of there as soon as possible. And in general, they try to get you out of there as soon as possible so they can get new tables. I will say that the general slow dining experience in Europe was very refreshing. No one rushing you out the door, instead letting you take your time with your meal.

Day 3 – The Journey to Exeter

To avoid another restaurant mishap, we went back to Flour to the People the next morning. We had really enjoyed their breakfast and wanted to try some different menu items. They were happy to see us back and we squeezed into a shared table at the busy, tiny restaurant. After breakfast, we took a bus to the London Victoria Coach Station, where it took forever for us to find a bathroom for Kevin — who was in dire need after trying espresso for the first time — and we also bought a new luggage bag, discarding the two bags that had ripped on the first day.

We had to wait a few hours for our bus to Exeter, which is where my aunt lives. I read a book while Kevin listened to a little British girl talk to her mom and he kept interrupting my reading to tell me how adorable her accent was and how we have to send our children to boarding school in London so they will have British accents.

Our bus ride to Exeter was a long one — almost 4 hours — and we were in the middle of some sort of storm. It was very windy, rocking the bus from side to side — and rainy, so it was harder to look out at the scenery, which was okay because it still looked just like Oregon to us, with a few castles sprinkled in here and there. Thankfully, the bus was equipped with a bathroom because I think I had to pee at least twice. I thought peeing on planes was unnerving but it’s even more strange to pee on a moving bus in the middle of a wind/rain storm.

After an incredibly long four hours, we made it to the bus stop at Exeter. My aunt was waiting for us outside and we hurried off the bus to greet her. Unfortunately, in the excitement of hurrying to get off the bus, Kevin and I had a miscommunication where he asked if I had all the bags, and I replied yes, thinking he had the blue backpack over his shoulder (he was wearing a blue raincoat). We didn’t realize until we were sitting down at a restaurant ordering dinner that we’d left the blue backpack on the bus.

It would have been a much more manageable, less stressful situation had our passports not (unfortunately) been inside the blue backpack. Other than that, the backpack had a bunch of my clothes in it and nothing else we really needed. I spiraled into an anxiety attack while my aunt called the bus company to try and figure out how we could get the bag back. Eventually, we found out where the bag would most likely end up, we felt assured that it would be locked up safely, and we knew we could not get it until Monday. After a few gin and tonics, I was able to power through my panic attack and move on.

I would highly recommend not losing your passports in a foreign country though, even if you are not prone to high levels of anxiety.

Day 4 – A Tour of Exeter

On Sunday, Kevin and I went out and explored the town with my aunt Cassie and cousin Amir. We absolutely loved the town. It reminded us a bit of the beach towns in Oregon. We enjoyed walking through the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets, and despite seeming like a very small town, Exeter had a large city square with a mall that was bustling with activity even on a Sunday.

We spent the day walking around town and hanging out at home. My aunt cooked us a wonderful roast for dinner, and of course we had some more gin and tonics to top off the evening. We also spent about two hours looking at real estate online, specifically castles that we could buy for Kevin and I, my aunt and Amir, and my parents and brothers to all share.

Day 5 – Reunited with the Blue Backpack

On Monday, Kevin and I set off on a journey to find our blue backpack, which really did end up feeling like a journey to Hogwarts and back. We rode buses and trains the entire day. We started off the day with a tour of an Abbey out in the country. We missed our first bus initially because we did not have Apple Pay set up to buy bus tickets and we needed a wifi signal. Thankfully, we connected to the wifi of a local grocery store from the bus stop and were able to get it set up. In retrospect, we realized we were idiots and could have just used the “tap” credit card feature to buy the bus tickets instead. The Abbey was really beautiful and very secluded, but there wasn’t a ton to do there so we quickly hopped on another bus after our tour and left in search of the blue backpack.

We still weren’t sure where the backpack was but the bus company was going to either call my aunt and tell us where we could pick it up, or they were going to arrange to have it delivered to her house. The most likely place it would be was Plymouth, in a bus depot at the end of the line. We decided to bank on it being there and took the train all the way to Plymouth. It turns out the bag was not in Plymouth but they arranged to bring it there from wherever it had ended up, so we ended up arriving there only about 30 minutes before the bag did.

Reunited with the blue backpack!

Ironically, as the bus driver was bringing the backpack over to us, he spilled about half of a can of coke on it. But we did not complain because our passports (and my clothes and toothbrush) were back in our hands safe and sound. The train ride home from Plymouth was also very beautiful and we got to see the English Channel. It was actually a very enjoyable day, despite it revolving around getting our bag back, because we got to take trains all over the countryside from Exeter to Plymouth and back.

Thankfully, we had our passports again because the very next day we were scheduled to say goodbye to my aunt and Amir and head to our next destination: Paris!

To be continued…

Weekend Adventure: Petrified Forest & Grand Canyon

I’ve been behind on blog posts so far this year — and now with the recent quarantine it seems like a good time to get caught up! Today is the first day that I’ve actually felt like doing something “productive” during this quarantine time, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.

Our first weekend adventure of 2020 took place the third week of January — and it almost didn’t happen! We got in a car accident on December 1st and still hadn’t gotten our truck back from the shop. We ended up getting the truck back only a few days before we had to leave. Then, we had a snowstorm.

But we checked the roads and everything seemed to be fine south of Provo, so we went ahead with our plans.

This trip was a huge undertaking for one weekend. Ironically, both of us had thought we had MLK Day off (Monday) so we figured we’d have an extra day to drive back. Turns out, neither of us had the day off so we ended up needing to come back on Sunday night!

We left Friday afternoon at around 2:00pm and drove all the way to Page, Arizona — right by Lake Powell — which was about a 5.5 hour drive. But since we left so early, we got there at a reasonable hour and had enough time to have dinner and pop into the hotel hot tub for half an hour.

Saturday morning, we were up early — 5:00am — for our 3.5 hour drive to Petrified Forest National Park. We got the sense that the landscape was probably very beautiful, but unfortunately couldn’t see anything because it was still dark. Kevin stopped at a gas station that was quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

Then we ended up stopping at the wrong town for breakfast — at a McDonald’s with no dollar menu. By that time, the sun was up and the terrain was boring (sorry, Arizona). Kevin saw a sign that said we were only so far from “New Mexico” and I had to explain to him that we were going to be driving very close to the Arizona/New Mexico border (I think Petrified Forest is about 60 miles away). At that point, I think he realized how much driving this weekend would really entail and his spirit was crushed.

We passed some sort of a meteor crater monument and contemplated stopping in, but it was kind of an all day/take a tour kind of thing, and we didn’t have that kind of time. I’m confident that we’ll be back down there someday and we can check it out then.

Petrified Forest was not what we were expecting. It’s right off the freeway, which was fascinating to me as I watched all of the people driving down the road as we took the exit, wondering if they realized that this cool little park was right here and all they needed to do was take a brief detour. The park is pretty small, compared to some of the other parks we’ve been to, and it’s not as hiking-centric.

Per usual, we stopped first at the visitor’s center to buy some stickers for our cooler and so Kevin could watch the video about the park. Then, we got our map and started our drive through the park. There is an old inn/restaurant called the Painted Desert Inn, which was really cool to explore. It looks more like a regular house than a hotel, and they’ve kept it beautifully restored.

Kevin thought the views of the park were pretty bland initially, which is one of the things that’s hard for us since a few of our first national parks had absolutely stunning landscapes (thanks, Arches), but it definitely got cooler the further in we drove. We did a few short hikes/walks and started to be able to see the petrified wood up close, which is really the entire point of the park. The wood is scattered all around and it’s absolutely beautiful.

One of the things I thought was super cool about the park is that part of route 66 is actually preserved within the park, and you actually drive across the freeway to get to the other side of the park. Again, this made me marvel at how many people just pass by the park during their commute and might never stop here.

All in all, I think it took us about five or six hours to get through the entire park. We didn’t do every single hike/walk, and we didn’t get to stop and look at every piece of petrified wood, but I would say this is one of the smaller parks that you can definitely visit in only one day. We only had one day, so we didn’t have much of a choice, but this park is probably one that we’ll cross off our list and won’t come back to. Whereas some other parks, I think you could go a dozen times and still not see everything.

From Petrified Forest, we had to drive to Williams, AZ (another 2.5 hours, back the way we came). We stopped in Flagstaff and had an amazing dinner at this restaurant called The Northern Pines Restaurant. It had great reviews but I was a little skeptical when we pulled up, because it was attached to a Days Inn — but oh my goodness, what a hidden gem of a place! I highly recommend eating here if you are in the area. They have amazing food and drinks.

But, part of me wishes we had waited until we got to Williams to eat because it’s a very small, tight-knit town and the businesses really look out for one another, especially in the offseason. When we checked into our hotel, they asked us if we’d eaten dinner yet and had coupons for various restaurants in town. We didn’t get to eat any meals here, except the hotel breakfast, but I think we will be back. It was a really beautiful little town. Some of the hotels were closed since it was the offseason but there were plenty of open restaurants and coffee shops — which we did hit up on Sunday morning. We do try and find small, family owned coffee shops to support during our weekend travels. Sometimes the coffee is great, sometimes it’s not so great, but either way, I feel better about giving my money to them instead of Starbucks (Kevin loves Starbucks though, so it’s hard to tear him away).

Williams is about an hour from the Grand Canyon, so we didn’t have too far to drive on Sunday morning. We drove in through the south entrance and surprisingly, it was pretty packed. I don’t even want to know what the parking lots look like in the summer. It was cold and windy, but sunny, and there was still a bit of snow on the canyon. Kevin had been here before, so he took me to all of his favorite viewpoints and even jokingly proposed to me again a few times.

We watched the park video — of course — and immediately started making plans to hike down into the canyon. I’m not sure when we’ll be able to do this, because I think we’d want to have at least a week off for that kind of excursion, but it’s definitely on our list.

We drove out a different way than we came in — to the east — which ended up being really cool, because there were more viewpoints to stop at along the way and they were significantly less crowded than the main areas of the park. It did take us forever to get out of the park due to the amount of times we stopped to take photos and look at the view, but it was worth it. The Grand Canyon is definitely one of those places that I could see us coming back to several times — especially to actually hike down into the canyon.

Once we finally got out of the park, we began the grueling six hour drive back home. Fortunately, it was light out, so at least we could see all of the beautiful terrain we had missed on the way in. We ended up stopping one more time at the famous Horseshoe Bend. It seemed like a good time to check that one off our list — during the offseason — and again, I cannot imagine going there during the peak tourist season because it was so, so crowded on a Sunday afternoon in January.

Several Maverick sodas later, we finally made it home. It was the farthest we’ve ever driven just on a short weekend (Friday afternoon-Sunday). And when I say we, I mean Kevin because he does all the driving. I’m really inconsistent with my driving speed and he likes to drive as fast as he is allowed, all the time, so he does all of the driving on these trips.

But, as much time as we spent in the car, we were stoked to knock two national parks off our bucket list in just one weekend in January. We’ve got several other trips planned in the upcoming months. I think a few of them will be postponed due to the current quarantine situation, but the good news is that they’re just weekend road trips, so we can reschedule them for anytime. I think we will still get to go on all the trips we have planned, even if we have to wait a couple of months.

Last year, we did a lot of traveling in the peak tourist season (i.e. May-September), so traveling in December and January definitely opened our eyes and made us realize that even though the weather might be more unpredictable, it’s so worth it to do some traveling during that time. We get to avoid the crowds and pay way cheaper prices for hotels. I think both of our hotels on this trip were less than $60 per night, and they were both nice hotels (I am very anti-Motel 6 if that’s any indication).

Coming up on the next blog post: our second adventure of 2020, the longest trip we’ve ever taken, and the first time we both traveled internationally (aside from Canada)!

Weekend Adventure: Death Valley National Park

Death Valley was our last weekend adventure of 2019. The name, Death Valley, took on quite a literal form when Kevin and I both got sick a few days before we were supposed to leave for the trip. It was just a regular head cold — nothing crazy — so we decided not to cancel our plans.

Well, we ended up being sick for almost two weeks so you can imagine how that weekend went. But we made it! The best part was that because Death Valley is only about an hour and a half away from Las Vegas, we decided to get a hotel there for the weekend. Vegas is about a five hour drive, so we left at a reasonable hour on Friday afternoon (also my birthday) and were on track to get there at a decent time until we hit some traffic on an unfortunate two lane highway in Arizona.

By the time we got to Vegas, we were tired of being in the car and we were hungry and I was really starting to feel like shit. Kevin still felt fine at this point so he was in good spirits (he loves Vegas, I had never been). But although Kevin loves Vegas, he has never driven to Vegas, so he’s never had to deal with having a car in Vegas.

A piece of advice for anyone who has somehow still never been to Vegas: do not take your car there. I don’t care if you’re within driving distance, just get on a plane or Uber over there because it is a nightmare.

In the last few years, we’ve been focused on paying off debt and saving money which has — naturally — turned me into a fairly frugal person. I knew Vegas would be an expensive place to visit, but we got a great deal on a hotel (which I still had to pay some absurd resort fee for). We’re in the midst of this sea of cars trying to get to the hotel and I’ve just had the realization that I could never live in New York (or really any city) and I literally at one point close my eyes while Kevin is driving because the whole thing is giving me too much anxiety.

We finally make it to the parking garage, and it’s at that point that I discover that not only am I paying that stupid “resort fee”, I also have to pay for parking for the entire weekend. I briefly considered turning around and driving all the way back home, but I knew Kevin would lose his shit if I even suggested that under these circumstances.

So we park in the stupid not free parking garage and head inside. It feels like we have to walk ten miles through the casino to get to the hotel check-in and I’m following the signs that tell us which way to go, but by the time we get there I have absolutely no idea how to get back to the parking garage.

I was aware that the air in Vegas casinos is 90% cigarette smoke, and I’ve been to a casino in Reno before so I thought I was prepared. I was not prepared to actually see people smoking indoors. That was strange. I was not prepared for my eyes to start hurting immediately upon entering the building. I was not prepared to be sick and to be surrounded by people. Obviously this was not the ideal time to be in Vegas, but there was nothing I could do about it.

We set off in search of a restaurant after checking into our hotel, and the restaurant was in another casino. I don’t know why this was such a surprise to me, but I literally started to cry as we stood in line waiting to get into the restaurant. I knew I was acting like a two year old, but I felt like absolute shit, I was literally carrying DayQuil around in my purse and drinking it, my eyes hurt so bad from the cigarette smoke, and I am not a big fan of crowds.

Unfortunately, there was nowhere to escape to in order to have a temporary meltdown so I swallowed my tears and told myself to stop being a little bitch and apologized to Kevin for being a terrible wife, and went and ate one of the best burgers I’ve had in my entire life.

Another piece of advice: don’t go to Vegas if you can’t drink. I will never understand what compels people to take a family vacation there, but if you do drink alcohol — you’ll want to be able to drink it there. Because I was so sick already (and we were getting up early to go to Death Valley), I didn’t want to compromise my immune system even more by drinking so I did not have a drop of alcohol the entire time I was there. I can’t say for sure, but I’m almost positive the only way I could have an enjoyable time in Vegas is if I were drunk the entire time.

But I have learned my lesson. If cigarette smoke kills your eyes and makes you feel sick, you hate large crowds of people, and you hate paying extra for everything — Vegas may not be the place for you. I can now say that I’ve gone once and I won’t be going back.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning I was not miraculously better — and Kevin woke up feeling like shit. Walking through Vegas in the early morning when everyone’s finally gone to bed was a surreal experience. We made it to Death Valley by 9:30am, and the drive was actually beautiful — we will have to go back and explore the Red Rock area just outside of Vegas sometime.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few people at the visitor’s center. I don’t know why but I think we expected no one. We got our map of the park and watched the movie (Kevin’s favorite part if you have been following our national park travel for awhile), which — as an added bonus — was narrated by Donald Sutherland! We also found out that it was the 25th anniversary of Death Valley National Park — which felt really special because I had just turned 25 the day before — so the day was shaping up to be a good one.

At the very least, we were determined to make the best of it. We were now both drinking DayQuil out of my purse every 4 hours and we had almost gone through an entire box of tissues.

We discovered that — unbeknownst to us — Death Valley is actually the largest national park in the continental US (one of the Alaska parks is the largest overall). So, it turned out that we were going to have to do a lot of driving in order to see everything. Luckily, we were putting miles on a rental car because the truck was still in the shop (we got in an accident on the way back from Oregon over Thanksgiving).

Immediately after reading the map, I told Kevin we would have to come back at some point (with the truck) because there are a whole bunch of ghost towns in the park. Most of them are off dirt roads and in remote locations so we couldn’t take the rental car, and we didn’t have enough time.

Since we were both sick, we decided this would not be a hiking-heavy trip. Kevin wanted to see the Charcoal Kilns so we drove there first. I think it took us at least an hour to drive there — maybe longer, I dozed off in my DayQuil haze — if that gives you any indication of the vastness of this park. There is a trailhead up there for an 8.4 mile hike to Wildrose Peak that I definitely want to do when we come back.

Next, we drove to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. I wanted to do the Mosaic Canyon hike but you have to drive several miles up a gravel road and we decided not to try it in our rental car. So we’ll save that for the next trip as well. The sand dunes were really cool though. It was like a little beach in the middle of the park, where the surrounding landscape looks completely different, and obviously there is no water in sight. You can walk miles out onto the sand dunes, but we walked about 50 feet from the parking lot and called it good.

Next, we drove to Badwater Basin, which was by far the highlight of the trip. It’s a bit of a walk out to the salt flats, but so worth it. Because it’s winter, they were covered in a few inches of water and that made it look so much more beautiful — and it made our pictures look really cool because you can see the reflection of the mountains in the water.

We took the artists’ drive loop on the way back which is a one-way 9 mile scenic drive through some beautifully colored hills. You can stop at a place called Artist’s Palette to take pictures, but it was getting late at that point so we just drove through. I highly recommend driving this way on your way back from Badwater Basin. The road is very narrow and has some crazy twists and turns that make you feel like you’ve been swallowed up by the landscape. It’s incredible.

There were a few other places in the park that we didn’t have time to drive to — Keane Wonder Mine, Ubehebe Crater, and all the ghost towns — but we got to most of it in one day. We’ll definitely come back and do some actual hiking, maybe next fall/winter.

My biggest takeaway from this trip was, why on earth would anyone want to come here in the summer? I cannot imagine doing Death Valley in the summer heat, especially the salt flats and sand dunes. I would highly recommend visiting in the winter. The weather was great. It was cold and I wore a jacket most of the time, but didn’t need it once I started walking.

We returned to Vegas — after a quick stop at the grocery store for more cold medicine and Powerades — and got in a brief fight in the middle of the casino over where to eat dinner. The place we wanted to go was booked for the night, but we ended up eating at a different restaurant that had almost the exact same menu. Kevin is apparently obsessed with Gordon Ramsay so we ate at his burger place on Friday and ate at his restaurant inside Caesar’s palace on Saturday.

The point of all that being, Kevin got to try Beef Wellington, and it was just as delicious as he always imagined. I was feeling better on Saturday night and actually told Kevin I would be down to go have a drink somewhere, but we had traded places at some point that day and Kevin was now feeling like absolute shit so we ended up back in our hotel and in bed before 11pm (we like to party hard).

Beef Wellington in all its glory!

On our way back home on Sunday morning, we stopped at Hash House A Go Go in St. George, Utah. Ironically, there is also one of these in Vegas and it was recommended to us, but we wanted to get the hell out of there by Sunday morning. I only bring this up because if you do go to Hash House A Go Go, you do not need to order your own food — split it with someone, the portions are huge. Kevin and I made the mistake of each ordering some insane fried chicken/waffle/benedict concoction and did not finish either of our meals.

And that concludes our last national park adventure of 2019! We’ve already got a 2020 travel calendar up and plan on visiting at least 10 national parks this year, and I can’t wait to share our adventures here! We’ve already had one trip in 2020 so I’ll be writing another blog post here shortly.

A quick administrative announcement: Kevin and I both deleted our Facebook accounts at the beginning of 2020, which means we no longer have our Life After Oregon Facebook page. If you’d like to follow the blog, you can subscribe to it by entering your email on the left side of this page. You will only get an email when a new blog post is published, I won’t be spamming you with anything else 🙂

10 Things I Have Learned in 10 Years

Back in November, I decided I was going to get a head start on the new year by writing a 2019 recap blog post before the year even ended! And then I realized I had one last 2019 goal to complete, and a little over a month to complete it:

Finally watch the entire series of Friends from start to finish (because it was leaving Netflix on January 1st).

At midnight on NYE, I had 2 episodes left. Thankfully, I went home to visit family on January 1st and they have all 10 seasons on DVD so I was able to complete my goal.

In the midst of all the show-bingeing, I kept getting ideas for different blog posts to write to close out the new year. I wanted to do a recap of 2019 and actually started writing that post twice, but forgot about it and ended up deleting the drafts. I wanted to write a post looking forward into 2020 and all the things I want to do this year.

And then I started seeing people doing those 2009 vs. 2019 photos and I thought that was really fun, but I didn’t really want to write an entire blog post reliving this decade (because as much fun as it’s been, there are phases of my life I do not want to go back to — like high school). But I started seeing social media posts where people focused on the progress they had made in the past decade, and that sounded more intriguing. And then, finally, I decided I was going to write this post after listening to an episode of Minimal-ish yesterday where Desirae talks about 10 things she has learned in the past decade.

To start, here’s a year-by-year recap of my major life milestones in the past decade. I turned 15 in 2009 and turned 25 in 2019, so obviously a lot has changed in those years of my life.

2009 – I finish my Freshman year of high school and start Sophomore year. I get my permit at the end of 2009, most of my friends already have their driver’s license. Occupation: Swim Lesson Instructor.

2010 – I finally get my driver’s license and start driving myself to swim practice at 5:00am. Occupation: Swim Lesson Instructor & Lifeguard.

2011 – Senior year begins, I am ready to be done. Occupation: Swim Lesson Instructor, Lifeguard & Occasional Water Aerobics Instructor

2012 – I graduate high school, retire from competitive swimming, and start my first year of college at Portland State. Occupation: Swim Lesson Instructor, Lifeguard, & Frequent Babysitter.

2013 – I start playing ice hockey, break my ankle (playing ice hockey), and barely pass Accounting. Occupation: Really Tired Swim Lesson Instructor, Lifeguard (and Lifeguarding Instructor), & Babysitter.

2014 – I start an internship, get certified to teach fitness classes, and retire from lifeguarding & teaching swim lessons. Occupation: Overworked Intern, Fitness Instructor, Front Desk Receptionist at the Gym, and Still A Babysitter.

2015 – I decide I’m going to major in Business Administration & Psychology. Occupation: Joined the wonderful dysfunctional family that is the restaurant industry.

2016 – I graduate college with all 3 of my majors: Management & Leadership, Human Resource Management, & Psychology (with a Writing Minor). I quit my job at the restaurant and move to Utah. Occupation: Restaurant/Unemployed For A Hot Minute/Babysitting Again.

2017 – I’m working at my first “real” job, Kevin and I start dating, Kevin moves to Utah, we get an apartment together (my first apartment), and we get married. Occupation: Support Team then Recruiter at MX Technologies.

2018 – Kevin and I move into our second apartment, I start going to therapy (finally), we celebrate our 1st anniversary, and I get a new job. Occupation: Product Support Analyst at RiskRecon.

2019 – Kevin and I pay off all our debt, buy Kevin’s dream truck, visit 10 national parks, celebrate our 2nd anniversary. Occupation: Still at RiskRecon.

Obviously I could have written an entire blog post recapping the last 10 years, but those are the big things. I went from being a 15-year-old child to a 25-year-old supposed-to-be-an-adult (but I’m really not sure I’ll ever feel like I’m qualified to be adulting). A lot of amazing things have happened and I can happily say that for the most part my life has been really great so far, and the parts that weren’t so great taught me some really important things (that I will now share with you).

I’m not going to list these in any particular order because they are all important to me, and I don’t think it makes much of a difference to try and rank them chronologically or from most important to least important. Looking back on this last decade of living, here are ten things that have impacted me and will be shaping this next decade of my life.

The goal in life should be to enjoy it, not live it perfectly.

Ever since I can remember, I have tried to do everything perfectly. I love doing things well and getting praise for it. I love being exceptional. I love justice, and doing the right thing, and following the rules. If there are instructions for doing anything (cooking, putting together IKEA furniture, learning a new skill), I want to follow them exactly.

I am also an all or nothing person. So if I stop following all the rules and stop trying to do everything perfectly, of course I would have to go the complete opposite direction and live a life of crime. Because how do you live in the middle ground between being a perfect, model citizen and being a criminal?

It took me almost this entire decade to realize it, but we’re just supposed to be living a life that we enjoy, not living our life the way we think it should be lived based on the notion that it’s even possible to live a perfect life, or live a life that measures up to the standards of other people. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I don’t regret doing — like being a great student and going to college and not quitting on things just because they were hard — but I didn’t do any of those things for the right reasons.

I’ve lived a lot of my life doing things because I thought I was supposed to do them and I didn’t allow myself to even think of the alternative, of what would happen if I decided not to do them. And I realized that I was on the fast track to having an unhappy and unfulfilled life because of it. Yes, I’m glad I was a good student and went to college and didn’t quit on things, but I wish I could go back and do all of those things solely because they mattered to me, not because they were on the Perfect Life Path checklist.

Trying to live the Perfect Life became so overwhelming during college that I actually started trying to sabotage myself. I would procrastinate on homework, take on more work hours, watch hours of Netflix, oversleep, and the goal was to get myself to screw things up just enough to consider my perfect life “ruined” and I could stop trying to be perfect.

Of course, this never happened because I always managed to pull through, and — shockingly — life kept going even after I got a C in Accounting, even after I was late to work, even after I had to drop a class because I hadn’t had time to do any of the homework. Even though my “perfect record” had been tarnished, life kept going and I didn’t have a feeling of relief where I realized I could stop trying to be perfect now.

Slowly, over time, I started to come to the realization that even though I was trying so hard to live the perfect life, it wasn’t making me happy. In fact, it was making me progressively more miserable. After grappling with this knowledge for a few years and trying to figure out how to move forward, I’ve finally started living a life I enjoy — and I will never go back.

Here are some things that helped me make this shift from striving for the unattainable Perfect Life to living a life I really enjoy:

  • Quitting my job and moving to Utah. People living the Perfect Life are never unemployed, so not having a job for a few months forced me to have some much-needed free time in which I realized that not having a job is actually pretty great. So when I did run out of money and needed to get a job, I got one that I actually enjoyed (the next best thing).
  • Taking a gap year. I was too busy my senior year of college to apply for graduate school so I told myself I would take a gap year. When I wasn’t going to school full-time and working full-time, I found that I stopped constantly getting sick. Only working one full-time job felt so easy compared to that, I had so much free time. And I realized that although I may someday want to go to graduate school, I didn’t need to do it just to get it done.
  • Spending time with Kevin. Kevin and I are complete opposites. We have the same values and we have similar interests, but our personalities are totally different. Spending a lot of time with Kevin, especially after we moved in together, was incredibly eye-opening. Kevin is naturally happy all the time. He is just as happy if he has a productive or fun day as he is when he does nothing or has a boring day. Being around someone like that all the time made me realize I wanted to be more like that.

It didn’t happen overnight and it’s still a work in progress, but I am going into 2020 with a vision of what I want to accomplish this year and one of my goals is to enjoy each day. I’m great at planning and getting excited about future plans, but I want to focus more on being present each day and ending the day feeling happy and content.

Be yourself, and believe in yourself.

I spent a lot of time in high school and college reinventing myself, trying on different personalities and different styles, hanging out with different types of people, trying to find the version of myself that I liked best. I don’t think we were meant to be stagnant and stay the same for our entire lives, so I do think it’s valuable to try new things and have new experiences and push yourself out of your comfort zone — but in this process of trying to “find myself”, I actually lost myself.

Because really I wasn’t trying to find myself, I was trying to find a version of myself that other people liked. I was a unique kid, as we all are, and some of my unique traits were called out so frequently that I started to see them as “bad” traits and so began my journey of trying to create a new personality that I thought was a “better” me.

I had this huge imagination as a kid. I loved playing by myself. I didn’t need other people when I could create entire worlds inside my head. I had imaginary friends, I played with stuffed animals, and sometimes I would invite my younger brother into whatever world I was adventuring through that day. My mom — understandably — didn’t want me to become a hermit, so she forced me out of my comfort zone and I made friends and socialized with other kids. Luckily, most of my close friends liked — or at least tolerated — my imagination. But by middle and high school, it was all about fitting in and everyone, collectively, started rejecting anything that was “different” or would potentially hurt our chances of being able to have popular friends.

By the time I was in high school, I had hidden the parts of my personality that I thought would make it harder for me to fit in. I still had that huge imagination but instead of sharing it with others, I wrote story after story in journals that I never showed anyone. I still didn’t really care about fashion, but I started buying name brand clothes, wearing makeup, and coloring my hair. I kept up with the current trends and sometimes they suited my style, like that phase in high school where everyone started wearing sweats and slippers to school.

A few things happened over the course of several years that made me realize it was time to go back to being myself, confidently:

  • I moved 3 times in 2 years and got tired of having so much stuff. I had clothes that I never wore, things I had bought that I never used, and I got tired of lugging it around. Around this time, I also became interested in minimalism and got rid of a ton of my stuff. I felt free.
  • I work at tech companies with no formal dress code. If I worked at a company that required me to wear business professional or business casual, I might still have to put on a fake personality at least with my wardrobe. But both of the companies I’ve worked for since graduating college have a formal dress code of jeans and t shirts. So the clothes that I like wearing all the time, I can also wear to work!
  • I’d rather be comfortable. I like wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. I don’t care how cute it is if it makes me feel uncomfortable. I’d rather sleep in and have a relaxing morning instead of taking hours to get ready and stressing about how I look. I’d rather be comfortable being me instead of wondering if anyone knows that I’m pretending to not be me just to fit in better.
  • People like the real me. My friends are still my friends now that I’m being the real me 100% of the time, and if friendships haven’t worked out or lasted that’s okay and it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me or that I need to change to make someone else like me. And being married to someone who is in love with the real me is amazing.

I wasted a lot of time trying to be someone that I thought was better than the real me and I can confidently say now that there is no personality that fits me better than being my authentic self. I have things I don’t like about myself that I want to change or improve, sure, but I am going into this next decade loving myself for who I am and fiercely believing in myself.

It’s always the right time to go after your dreams.

Back when I was trying to live the Perfect Life, I thought that there was a Perfect Time for everything. I would plan and plan and wait for the perfect time, and it drove me crazy because I’d get so excited about the plans I had made and there was nothing to do but sit around and wait.

When we paid off our debt last spring (and even before then), I was making big travel plans. I wanted to go on a road trip around the U.S. and visit all the national parks. The first choice was to have flexible jobs that would allow us to work and travel. Since that seemed pretty unfeasible, I decided to work on plan #2 which was to save up money for a 6 month road trip in 2021 where we would either take unpaid time off from work or we’d just quit.

I literally planned this entire road trip. I still have the document with all of the details. After spending probably at least a month planning this trip, I was understandably depressed because what the hell were we going to do in the meantime! Were we just going to save money and live frugally and never do anything fun?

I tried to think creatively about how we could make this happen sooner, what we could do in the meantime, and I kept coming up blank. Because I was being too inflexible. I had planned out the next 5 years of our life and I thought I had it perfectly planned. Because I was so committed to “the plan”, I couldn’t change it. It took me several months of thinking before I realized that I was being handicapped by my own life plans.

We set a goal last year to go on an adventure every single weekend. I had my heart set on buying my airstream for our 2021 road trip and failed to take into account the perfectly usable camping supplies we already had. There are 5 national parks in Utah, and they are all about 3-4 hours away. We bought an annual parks pass and set out to have as many weekend adventures as possible, which you’ve already read about if you’ve been following this blog.

After we hit every Utah national park, we realized that a few others were slightly farther but still doable. We went to Yellowstone & Grand Teton. We went to Great Basin in Nevada. We made it to Death Valley just before the end of the year and successfully visited 10 national parks in 2019.

10 national parks that I thought I had to wait until 2021 to see because that’s what the “perfect plan” entailed. Don’t get me wrong, I am a great planner. My plans are awesome. But they give me tunnel vision. I am unable to see how I could do things differently. I want to stick to the plan.

Yes, it would be wonderful to go on a 6-month road trip around the United States and I hope someday we can still do that or do something similar. But for now, we’re throwing out the long term plans and asking ourselves:

  • What do we want to do today? This week? This month? This year.

Already we’ve made plans to visit at least 10 more national parks in 2020. If we get to all of them, that’ll be 20 total that we’ve been able to visit without having to go on a 6-month road trip. I’ve been so inspired by many full-time travelers and van-lifers but I think it’s important to recognize that you can do so much without having to radically change your life. Eventually, I hope that we will be in a position where we can travel frequently and have more flexible work schedules, but in the meantime I’m going to do everything I can to live the life I want right now, today.

Go after your dreams and goals. Even if it doesn’t look exactly the way you want it to. Even if you can’t have everything you want exactly the way you want it. Making big future plans is great, but don’t forget to make plans for today.

Marriage (or any relationship) doesn’t have to be hard.

Kevin was my first real, serious, adult relationship. We didn’t date for very long — on account of knowing each other for literally forever — before getting married. I wasn’t worried because I knew I had found my person. I had watched my parents make marriage work through the hard times and stay committed to one another and committed to their kids — and stay in love.

I am so grateful to my parents for showing us what a real marriage is like. As kids, we watched them go through the ups and downs of life and they never lied to us when things got hard. They argued in front of us sometimes, and wouldn’t retreat to another room just to raise their voices. We got to see them work through issues in real-time, transparently.

Our family went through a fair amount of challenges when I was a kid and it weighed heavily on my parents’ shoulders, but never broke them. I was infinitely better prepared for marriage because I expected challenges and arguments and fighting. I knew there would be days when I didn’t like Kevin very much, and there would be days when he didn’t like me very much. If you go into any relationship expecting it to be perfectly harmonious all the time, you’re going to be disappointed.

However, I am tired of hearing about how marriage is just hard. Yes, there are challenges. There are ups and downs. There are things that you go through personally, and you go through together. And I know Kevin and I haven’t even hit our “challenging” seasons of life yet — they’re coming — but marriage, on a daily basis, as a whole, should not be hard.

I reject the notion that marriage is just supposed to be hard. If your marriage is hard, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with you but I also don’t believe you’re supposed to accept that that’s the way it is. You could be with the wrong person. You could be in the wrong situation. You could have some work to do on yourself. They could have some work to do on themselves.

Note: I am married so I’m going to talk about my relationship as a marriage, but I believe this applies to any relationship. If you’re not married or won’t ever get married, I think this still applies to the outlook on relationships in general.

I think it sets us up to expect something bad to happen. It puts us in a negative mindset. We’re expecting things to be hard, and when we’re not — I think we can end up manifesting that negativity on our own. There’s no reason that it has to be hard. Some parts of your life will be difficult, but your entire relationship doesn’t have to be — and you shouldn’t expect it to be, right from the get-go.

If your relationship is perfect and amazing, stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s great that it’s perfect and amazing and that doesn’t mean your good luck will suddenly run out. There is a middle-ground between expecting things to be perfect and expecting something bad to happen — and that’s where I’m trying to be. Having reasonable expectations of my partner, and not sitting around waiting for something to go wrong.

Focus on yourself.

I wasted so much time in high school and college watching what other people were doing and measuring my own success against theirs. I would try and model my life after people that inspired me and continuously fall short of my own expectations (because unfortunately no one was bankrolling me to just be an athlete and train 24 hours a day, or be a student and just study 24 hours a day — I had other things going on).

We hear about this constantly on social media. Don’t compare yourself to others. Focus on your own journey. Compare yourself to yourself. But that only scratches the surface.

By focus on yourself, I mean focus as much time and attention on yourself as you can. Get to know yourself better than you do now. Spend time with just your thoughts — not the intruding thoughts about what other people are doing with their lives, or even thoughts about the progress you should be making in your own life.

Life isn’t about progress. Progress is great. I’ve always been an athlete. I go to the gym every day. I have goals for the short-term and long-term. I’m always trying to be better than myself. But if you’re always in the mindset of focusing on progress, you lose sight of how you might feel when you’re just stagnant. When you’re simply existing.

Focus on yourself each and every day. Not always with a goal in mind. Learn new things about yourself. If you can’t stand being still and not moving toward that progress, sit in the stillness and ask why?

In my case, I was constantly pushing myself toward progress every day, all the time, and eventually — after really listening to myself — I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do every day.

Sometimes I just want to nap.

So now I nap. Whenever I want. Partly because I’m in a phase of my life (with no children) that allows me to nap freely, and I know someday I will look back on these days and long for them — so I nap.

And yes, rest is essential for progress too. But sometimes a nap is just a nap.

We’ve collectively wasted too much time caring about our weight.

Continuing on the fitness path, I think this may be one of the most critical things I’ve learned in the last decade — and I am so thankful I learned it now and not a decade later. As a society, we’ve got to let go of our obsession with weight. We’ve got to get to a point where we step on the scale and experience zero emotional response to this number. Because life is too wonderful and precious to be wasting our valuable time on it.

I’ve been through quite a journey — mentally and physically — in this decade. I started out as a competitive swimmer, able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. But I still had body image issues because my stomach wasn’t flat. When my body started developing and I went straight from 100 to 118 pounds in what seemed like a day, I thought my life was over.

I’ve always loved working out. It’s my quiet time. My alone time. If I could work out 6 hours a day, I would. But in the back of my mind, it’s always been tied to my weight. When I graduated high school, I stopped swimming but kept eating the same amount of calories and my weight has steadily increased since then — aside from a brief stint in the restaurant industry where I lived on coffee and bread and lost all my muscle.

About a year ago, I reached my heaviest weight ever and surprisingly, I really didn’t feel different unless I looked at the scale. Denial? Or happiness? In 2019, I started getting serious about my training again. I missed the structure and was excited about having my brother as a personal trainer, so I didn’t have to make my own workouts anymore — and I wanted to lose weight. I spent all of 2019 in the gym. I loved it. I stopped weighing myself halfway through the year — after I’d lost about 20 pounds — because I knew if I wanted to keep gaining muscle I would see that scale go up and I didn’t need that kind of negativity in my life!

Last week, I weighed myself for the first time and found — shockingly — that I only weighed 10 pounds less than I had started out at the beginning of 2019. How could all my progress have reversed itself?

It didn’t. I have gained a shit ton of muscle this year. My body looks dramatically different. I have taken my physical fitness to the next level. And thankfully, I have been working a lot on my mental health too, so I was able to stop myself from spiraling into this rabbit hole of delusional thinking.

I almost disregarded an entire year of progress based on a number. I’m quitting that kind of mindset in 2020. And you should too. The whole world should.

You’re on your own journey. Do it your way.

If you’re looking to improve any aspect of your life, there are a thousand books and opinions on the topic and each one is claiming to be the only right way to get to where you want to be. God forbid you go against the grain in this climate. But the good news is — you’re on your own journey, and it’s okay to try out different things and maybe do the wrong thing a few times before you find the one that’s right for you.

As an example, I’ve gone down many conflicting paths on my journey toward optimal physical and mental health. I’ve done Whole 30’s and I’ve read The Fuck It Diet — and I’ve learned so much from both. I’ve done intermittent fasting and I’ve eaten 3 meals a day and I’ve done that thing where you eat like 5 meals a day. I’ve tracked my eating on an app and I’ve eaten whatever I want in whatever quantity I want. I’ve done my own unstructured workouts and I’ve had coaches and trainers. I’ve done a lot of weight lifting and a lot of cardio.

And guess what? All of those experiences taught me something. I don’t regret doing any of them. The only thing I regret in regard to my fitness journey is caring how much I weighed — and we’ve been over that. So whether it’s fitness or some other area of your life, I encourage you to read everything and learn everything and experiment with things you’re curious about. Form your own opinions instead of absorbing the opinions of others.

Do it your way.

There’s room for everyone at the top.

It shocked me when I realized this but — it’s possible for everyone to be successful! I feel like I was raised as a girl and a woman with this scarcity mindset that only a select number of women could ever be successful at reaching their true potential so I was competing with all of the women around me on some level. I feel like we see this in movies and television too. Women are catty and mean to one another — they never have each other’s backs.

And I will tell you that in my experience, women have only ever behaved that way in real life in two scenarios:

  • Middle school (because we were all being brainwashed by this BS on tv)
  • When I’ve tried to compete with other women (instead of uniting with them)

As soon as I got out of the mentality that other women were out to double-cross me and take what’s mine, I haven’t had a problem! Women at my work, women I have relationships with, women I follow on Instagram — they’re all supporting each other. There’s no gossip or drama. Yes, I’m 100% sure there are still bad people in the world who engage in the gossip and the drama and are out to get you, but once I stopped assuming that — I stopped seeing that kind of behavior.

There is enough room at the top. There are enough resources. We don’t have to compete with one another or tear each other down. I’ve found that I’ve been more successful at work and in my personal life the more I’ve focused on supporting others. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a hard habit to break when you’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this kind of behavior is normal all these years.

Thankfully, it’s not — and it doesn’t have to be.

Write your own financial story.

I have learned enough about money to fill up a whole blog post, but I think the single most important thing I’ve learned is to write my own financial story. Just because everyone is living with student loan debt until they’re 50 didn’t mean I had to. Just because it’s common to have credit card debt doesn’t mean I want that to be my reality. Just because I have 7 years to pay off my car loan doesn’t mean I have to take that long.

I get to decide what I like to spend my money on, how much I want to spend each month, how much I want to put in savings, how fast I want to pay off my truck. I get to make a lot of those choices because I’ve taken steps to improve my financial situation, but regardless — it’s going to vary from person to person.

Kevin and I love traveling and we love eating out, and we’re also paying off our truck at an aggressive pace — we’ve made all of those things work for us. My mom and Kevin love buying coffee from Starbucks and Dutch Bros — it’s not something I love anymore and want to spend money on, but I love buying them coffee because I know it brings them joy!

You get to decide what you want your financial story to be, and you get to decide how to reach your goals. There are a lot of resources out there that are really helpful, but ultimately it’s about what you want and what works for you.

Share your wisdom and your experiences with others.

I love writing. I started my first blog in college, I think. I love writing about anything and everything, but I struggle with self-doubt and insecurities all the time. What if I’m not qualified to write about this topic? What if I’m ignorant about this topic? What if this upsets people? What if I look back on this blog post in ten years and I’m embarrassed about what I wrote?

I’ve written so many blog posts and deleted them. They’re not good enough, they’re too politically aggressive, they don’t have enough facts, they’re about things that I haven’t personally experienced.

All of these excuses really shouldn’t matter because if what I write helps even one person, it’s worth it to me. Even if it makes ten people angry and helps just one person gain a new perspective or realize they’re not alone, that’s worth it to me.

So this year, I’m going to continue sharing my experiences and my thoughts and my wisdom. Even if I change my opinions in the next week, month, or decade. Even if I don’t consider myself qualified enough. Even if I think I used too many swear words or got too aggressive with my political opinions. I’m going to learn, I’m going to become a better writer, and I’m going to reach someone by sharing that experience.

To everyone who has made it this far, I applaud you. I considered shortening this to 5 things I learned in the last decade — but it didn’t have as good of a ring to it, so I soldiered on. This was a full decade for me — a lot of life and a lot of learning — and I’m excited to see what the next one has in store. I hope these ten things were helpful to you in some way and I look forward to continuing to share more of my life with you in 2020.

Cheers to a new decade! ❤

Money, Minimalism, & Mental Health

It’s been a hot minute since I wrote something not travel-related so if you’re not here for it, keep scrolling. Some of you may recall that I was writing monthly recaps of my 2019 goals and that seems to have fallen by the wayside…somewhat on purpose!

I decided to take a step back from rigorous goal setting for the second half of 2019 and focus more on the general, vague, “how am I feeling about my life?” sort of perspective. And it has been great. I am a very goal-oriented person but this shift has been such a healthy one for me.

It’s been such a wonderful year so far and we’ve been so blessed — in all areas of our life — but especially financially. We paid off all of our debt in March and had a few months to celebrate our new debt-free life before making the choice to go back into debt.

Wait, what?

Yes, I said it. We made a calculated decision to go back into debt to buy our truck in June.

Was it the right decision? I think so, but time will tell. Ask me in a year and I’ll give you an update. Maybe we will change our minds and wish we would have done something different, but so far it’s given me no financial stress.

We knew we wanted to buy another vehicle after sharing one car for an entire year because it sucked. We could absolutely do it again if need be but it was not fun. We knew we wanted to invest in a good vehicle, one that we’d be able to use for all of the traveling we wanted to do this summer (and beyond) and one that would last a hell of a long time.

We ended up going with the Toyota Tacoma because it was Kevin’s dream, and it came down to me saying, “If you’re going to want this truck eventually, why don’t we just invest in it now?” It was also me that pushed Kevin to get the TRD Pro (the highest model) because again, why settle for something less than what you want — especially if you’re talking about a vehicle that you’re going to own for 15-20 years?

We had originally planned on buying the truck at the end of the summer so that we could save for a larger down payment, but we were ready to do some serious traveling and didn’t want to put it on hold. So we ended up buying it in June with a small down payment, effectively putting ourselves back in debt after becoming debt free just a few months prior.

We decided that the benefits of investing in the truck of Kevin’s dreams now far outweighed a minor setback in our debt-free journey. This is a vehicle that’s going to last us a long time (and we don’t plan on selling it in a few years to buy something newer and fancier). We’re currently paying more than double our monthly payment each month and our goal is to have it paid off by next August. I’ll post an update when the loan is paid off but currently, we feel like the small amount we’ll pay in interest was worth getting to buy the truck before we had all of the cash to pay for it.

Because if you haven’t noticed, it ain’t sitting around collecting dust! Kevin actually whines all the time about how many miles it’s got on it already and I’m like, babe, this is exactly why we bought it so we could drive to all these cool places! Sometimes, Kevin, sometimes.

Overall, I feel really good about where we’re at in our financial journey. We spent several months making this decision to buy the truck, it wasn’t like a drive by the dealership and hey guys so this happened thing, and maybe when we pay off the loan we’ll be like, man I wish we had done this a different way and I’m okay with that!

It’s all a learning experience and I think the most important thing is being able to talk about finances — with your spouse, obviously, but also with friends and family and people around you. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your finances, maybe that’s a sign that you’re afraid people will judge your decisions or you’re afraid you’re not making the right decisions. When we were racking up the credit card debt, I was terrified of telling my mom about it because I knew she’d hold me accountable and she would not listen to my bullshit. When we bought the truck, I called her and was like, “hey my dude, guess who just bought a $50,000 truck?!”

Because I was stoked and I had no buyer’s remorse and no stress! It was a planned expense and we had a plan to tackle the debt and it was our choice. I think buying the truck was a huge turning point for both of us — me in particular — in our minimalism journey.

If you don’t know what minimalism is, I don’t know what corner of the internet you’re hiding in. I highly recommend reading The Minimalist Home if you’re interested in a practical guide to getting started, but essentially what minimalism means to me is owning only what I love. In order to do that, I have had to clear my life of all kinds of clutter (physical, mental, digital, people, etc.) and I’ve made a lot of progress this summer.

After spending a year paying off debt, we may have let loose with our spending for a couple of months and have had to reign ourselves in a bit. Fortunately, we both get paid well at our respective jobs so we can afford to have a few “spendy” months. And, I am thankful that most of our extra spending was related to travel and not stuff.

Because I’ve spent most of the summer getting rid of our stuff. I’ve pared down my wardrobe to only the things I love and need, and I still find myself getting rid of things here and there. As it turns out, I prefer to wear the same five things every week.

I have made over $800 selling things on Facebook Marketplace. Although this makes me feel accomplished, I do recognize the fact that I would have much more than $800 if I had just never bought the shit in the first place. But, it’s a learning process and now we’re at the point where we’re living without a ton of excess stuff and we’ve evaluated our purchases over the past year and realized how much stuff we really didn’t need or want.

So now, heading into the last few months of 2019 my focus is going to be not letting stuff creep back in to my house and my life. We’re back on our budget bullshit, with a focus on — of course — those truck payments and some very aggressive savings goals for the rest of the year.

And the best part of this whole journey has been seeing how transformational this has all been for my mental health. Getting rid of visual clutter has made sitting on the couch in my living room much more peaceful and pleasant. It takes me about two hours every week to deep clean the house and do all the laundry. Realizing how much stuff I sold or donated that I thought I desperately needed has made me more mindful of what I’m still buying or bringing in. In August, I was buying a ton of stuff on Amazon and — after reevaluating whether I actually needed it — returned almost all of it.

It’s a learning process and I still feel like we could get rid of more things (maybe because I’m preparing us for life in an Airstream…), but it’s been so wonderful to see that it’s already had such a positive effect on my anxiety. This goes beyond physical clutter and I know I have touched on this in past post, but minimizing my relationships has truly done wonders. By letting go of relationships that no longer serve me, I’ve been able to devote so much more time and love to relationships that lift me up and bring me joy. Minimizing excessive time spent on social media trying to “stay in touch” with everyone and shifting my focus to having more meaningful contact with fewer people has made a huge difference.

I will continue focusing on minimalism in all aspects of my life as I’ve seen so many great benefits from it already, but one area that I’m most excited about applying it to is the holidays! I love giving (and receiving, I’ll say it) Christmas gifts, but I really want to shift my focus away from the gift-giving and toward the experience-having and memory-making. I’m really looking forward to that and I can’t wait to share how it goes.

As a side-note, I am considering doing a blog post version of a Christmas letter…more on that later!

I love writing about our travels and the blog is currently very travel-heavy, but I do like sharing these other aspects of my life and I hope you enjoy hearing about them! There will be more on money, minimalism, and mental health soon, so stay tuned!

Weekend Adventure: Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park

September has been a crazy month, y’all. I am so excited to finally be sitting down and writing this blog post. This was our last big summer trip — and we have taken a few weekends off since then so I am feeling horribly deprived and antsy for some more weekend travel! In the meantime, I have been reminiscing on the photos from this trip because Yellowstone is drop dead gorgeous (and no, it’s not my go pro skills).

Working normal 9-5 jobs and only having so many days off requires us to take advantage of holiday weekends, so we decided to take the opportunity over Labor Day weekend to drive up to Yellowstone. This is a bit farther than we’re used to driving for a weekend adventure — about 6 hours — and unfortunately, leaving on a Friday and driving North was a recipe for a traffic disaster. The route we chose to take also took us “the fastest way” which seemed like it was absolutely not the fastest way since we went from Utah to Idaho to Montana to Wyoming, which seemed like quite a lot of driving.

But, neither of us had ever been to Montana so we were really excited that we got to cross that off our list!

For anyone who is not aware of this, Yellowstone is ginormous. It’s huge. The maps really do not make it seem incredibly giant but it is — and in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the maps when planning, but it all worked out because the campsite I reserved was sort of in the middle. But we realized how big the park was when it took us over an hour to get from the park’s west entrance to our campground.

My pet peeve so far with reserving campsites in advance is that you’re not actually reserving a specific campsite at most places, you’re just guaranteeing that you will have one. So in this case, I had reserved a spot for a large tent or RV, and the spot I was given was definitely meant for an RV. So our tent was on a bit of a hill and we had to set it up in the dark, which is not my favorite thing, but it was nice and cool outside and the stars were incredible! After spending so many nights camping in the desert heat, we get really really excited when it’s cold outside.

Day 1

Having realized that Yellowstone is monstrous in size, we realized we needed some sort of a “game plan” for seeing everything we wanted to see during the two days we were there. We decided to start by driving to the Norris Geyser Basin and then looping around back to our campsite. The parking lot was already packed pretty early in the morning, but the views were 100% worth sharing with many other people. It was so stunningly beautiful and also reminiscent of all the time I spent watching Land Before Time as a child. The landscape was truly alive.

Next, we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. There is a huge town in this part of the park where many of the tourists were congregating. There is also a “neighborhood” of sorts with what looks like normal houses where normal people just live their daily lives in the middle of a national park. Apparently this is a thing. We skipped the incredibly crowded “town” and just walked around the hot springs instead.

The hot springs looked absolutely beautiful and my photos do not do them justice. The only bummer was we couldn’t go for a swim because our skin would have melted off.

After that, we stopped for a quick lunch and met a bison friend! He was just hanging out by the road and most people zoomed past, not even noticing him! We thought he was really cute and wanted to take him home with us. But instead, we followed the rules and stayed in our car a safe distance away. The close-up photos are zoomed in.

On our way back to camp, we stopped at Tower Falls for a few quick photos.

Back at camp, we enjoyed some nice, free, hot showers. I realized I had forgotten my hairbrush and had to hand-brush my hair, so that was fun. Then we drove into town to find a bar to eat dinner at so Kevin could watch the Oregon game. I was forced to occupy myself with good food and drinks while Kevin watched the game.

Day 2

Despite our best efforts, we slept in the next day and had a much later start to our morning. Kevin was coming down with a cold so I didn’t complain when he wanted to keep sleeping. We started our morning with a quick trip to the visitor’s center to buy some Yellowstone stickers for our cooler and Kevin almost convinced me to buy him a mug with a bison on it, but I stayed strong (we have a mug problem).

The first place we stopped at was Inspiration Point. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad we decided to take a short detour to get there. Kevin thought so too.

Next, we had to stop and take some more photos of all the bison by the river! There were so many of them, it was crazy! The park even had people out directing traffic because so many people were just stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures. Once again, we stayed a safe distance away (unlike many of the other tourists) from the wild bison.

Next we stopped at the mud volcano (and a bunch of other really smelly geysers). This place has ruined hard boiled eggs for me — there’s nothing quite like a hot wave of sulphur steam hitting you in the face — but hot bubbling mud that will melt your face off is still pretty cool.

And — as if this place couldn’t get more awesome — there’s a lake right in the middle of the park! Yellowstone Lake!

Next, we stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Although I wish we could have gone swimming in these beautiful (scalding hot) pools, the reality is that we would have had to share them with thousands of tourists.

And finally — the main tourist event of all of Yellowstone — Old Faithful! Someone had told us when we got to West Thumb that it had just gone off so we knew we had about 90 minutes. We pulled into the parking lot and it was packed — nowhere to park — and Kevin and I got in an argument about where the hell we were going to park. Spoiler alert: I convinced him to park in a spot that was definitely not a parking space (everyone else was doing it) and we ran over as quickly as we could.

I got one photo with the go pro and Kevin took a 45-second video. It was very cool to see, but it was shocking to see how many people were standing there watching. Crowds are not my thing, so really arriving exactly as it was going off and watching it from afar was probably the best case scenario. I’m glad I can now say I’ve seen Old Faithful, but this was definitely the most stressful part of our trip and there were many other geysers that we thought were way cooler (not to mention the face-melting bubbling mud).

What followed was a trip to town for some ice cream to decompress after all that stress! We stopped by the Yellowstone sign for our obligatory photo on the way back to camp, and stopped at some other cool spots that no one else bothered to visit — sometimes those are my favorite places!

We had a delicious dinner and a few beers and decided that we wanted to venture out before the sun set and try to see a few more places. We drove to Upper Falls and Lower Falls and tried to get some photos before the sun went down. Kevin decided we could make it down to the brink of the lower falls before we lost all daylight and this proved to not be true. It turned out that it was about a half mile down to the falls and it was pitch black by the time we got down there.

However, being right at the top of the waterfall in complete darkness barely being able to see is actually one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done! We hiked back up the steep trail in the dark and when we got to the top Kevin yelled, “Aw man, we should have kissed down there!”

None of our photos from the dark waterfall adventure came out, but that’s okay — we still have blurry photos, a really loud video of waterfall sounds, and the memory of stumbling down this trail in the dark, laughing.

Day 3

Kevin’s cold was in full swing by this time, so he was in a mood. But we packed up bright and early and headed on our way. We still had a few things we needed to stop and see on our way out of the park.

First up, the Fountain Paint Pot. Yellowstone is a whole different vibe in the morning. The air was crisp and cool and you could see the steam floating off the geysers on the horizon. I think a lot of people were bummed because they couldn’t get a good look at the geysers through all the steam, but I thought it made for a perfect morning and some of my photos turned out really cool.

We drove down to the park’s south entrance and said goodbye to Yellowstone (until next time) — and hello to our next destination: Grand Teton National Park.

We planned on doing a short hike while in Grand Teton National Park, but it turned out that everyone in Wyoming was also planning on doing that exact hike so there was absolutely nowhere to park within a 5 mile radius. So we settled for driving through the park and walking around at two of the visitor’s centers.

Grand Teton, we will be back soon to do some hiking!

We finished off our trip with a delicious pizza lunch at a restaurant that used to be an old movie theater. Jackson, Wyoming was a really cute town and we contemplated walking around but we had a 5 hour drive to look forward to and it was really crowded, so we forged on.

It’s so hard to choose but I think Yellowstone is probably the coolest national park we’ve been to so far — and one we’ll definitely go back to again! We can’t wait to come back and spend more time in the Tetons as well. This was a fantastic way to wrap up our summer and we can’t wait to start sharing some of our fall & winter adventures with all of you!

Weekend Adventure: Great Basin National Park

During our summer travels, we’ve spent a lot of time driving south on I-15. At some point, we noticed several signs for Great Basin National Park and we were like, “Where is that? Is there another national park in Utah that we missed?!”

Turns out it’s in Nevada, but it’s right on the Utah/Nevada border so it was still only a 3 hour drive for us. We decided to do some research and see what there was to do there in early August, and ended up booking a cave tour for the Lehman Caves for Saturday, August 17th. Kevin had been wanting to go to the Timp Caves all summer and we hadn’t been able to get reservations, so this seemed like a fun thing to do instead. Plus, another national park to check off our list!

We got to drive a different way, which was the highlight of my trip although it was an incredibly boring drive. There was a really cool lake bed that we passed on the way that I’d love to go back to. We weren’t entirely sure how you got out to the lake bed, but we could see tire tracks. I always tell Kevin to take detours like this but he’s usually focused on getting to our destination and tells me we’ll go on the way back (and then on the way back I just want to get home so we don’t stop).

At some point during the drive, a large bug (or possibly a bird, or a rock — we don’t really know) hit the sensor on the front of our truck that is apparently used for just about everything. All of a sudden, all these warnings were popping up that said things like “Cruise Control Malfunction” and “Sensor Malfunction”. One of the unfortunate things about having the fancy new technology is that these alerts wouldn’t just go away and we couldn’t use our cruise control because the sensor is used for the fancy “distance pacing”.

So we had to pull over and we cleaned off the sensor in the front and that fixed the issue, but for a minute Kevin was freaking out thinking the whole truck was going to blow up or eject us out of our seats or something. That was the excitement of the drive. On a scale of 1 to Kevin’s contact falling out of his eye for no reason, it was a 6.

By a stroke of luck, the park is actually located in the pacific time zone so we got to arrive an hour earlier than expected. We had plenty of time to drive into the park and set up our tent at one of the campgrounds, and then wander back into town to decide what to eat for dinner. There is literally the park, and the tiny town outside of it — nothing else.

And — as an added bonus — every gas station is also a mini-casino. We don’t have gambling in Utah and we always forget how weird that is.

There were no fast food options in the tiny town of Baker, Nevada so we decided to look on Google Maps to see which restaurants had high reviews. We decided on Kerouac’s — not yet knowing that we’d spend 3 days eating at this same restaurant.

It’s one of those restaurants that gets creative with their menu and you end up ordering something that you’d never normally order. It was a small restaurant and we sat in close quarters with other guests, which Kevin found to be strange and I’m very used to from working in the restaurant industry. The couple sitting next to us told us the fries were really good so we started off with an order of fries as an appetizer and then ordered some really strange pizza special that Kevin really didn’t want to order (because it had no meat on it) but I insisted and it was the best pizza I’ve ever had.

They also had some fun cocktails and a lot of great beer (we ate here 3 times — we got to try several food & drink options). If you happen to find yourself in the tiny town of Baker, Nevada, I highly recommend trying this restaurant. I think it’s open seasonally but I’m not positive. We ended up eating dinner here on Friday and Saturday, and returned for brunch on Sunday before heading home. It was way more than we normally spend on food for a weekend but so, so worth it.

We slept so great the first night here because the temperatures cooled down to a reasonable level. The hot weather has been our biggest struggle with camping in the summer. Our small tent holds a lot of heat and we’ve discovered that sleeping in it without the rain fly on is the way to go. Plus, you can see the stars that way.

Our cave tour was at 9am on Saturday, so we had a quick breakfast and drove straight there. Our guide told us before the tour started that Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks in the U.S. Ironically, there was a guy in our tour group who works at Zion and said he likes to come to these less crowded parks on his time off. It was such a stark difference from the more popular parks.

The cave was amazing. We did the grand tour that allows you to go in most of the caves — if not all of them — and Kevin loved every second of it, although we found out he had the crazy eyes in both of the photos we took. We took a lot more photos in the cave but many of them are blurry and the ones that aren’t just don’t do it justice.

It was a 90 minute tour so it took up most of our morning. After the cave tour, we decided to drive around the park’s scenic drive and see if there were any hikes we wanted to do. Oh, and of course we had to watch the park video at the visitor’s center (a must for Kevin). We decided to hike up to the Bristlecone Pines (aka gazillion year old trees). It wasn’t too long of a hike and we were able to make it a loop and see a couple of really beautiful lakes on the way back down. It was a bit rough hiking at 10,000 feet in elevation (particularly when one of us — me — may have been slightly hungover) but it was absolutely gorgeous and the weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold.

We ended up having some time to kill before our favorite restaurant opened for dinner so we drove down a dirt road that was on the park map and ended up seeing a whole herd of elk, which made the whole trip worth it for Kevin. There were a bunch of other hikes in the park that we’d love to do when we return, but a lot of them are long and more suited to backpacking — so that’s on the list for next year!

We returned Sunday morning to our favorite restaurant for a farewell brunch and then headed home — forgetting that we wanted to stop at the lake bed, of course.

I am really surprised that this is one of the least visited national parks. It’s absolutely beautiful and there’s so much to do. There are several short hikes, a beautiful scenic drive through the park, tons of long hikes that would be great for a full-day hike or a backpacking trip, and the weather is great even in the middle of August! I would highly recommend checking out this park. It doesn’t have the flashiness of the other parks and there’s not a town filled with huge hotels right outside of it, but that was part of the appeal for us. We’re excited to return — hopefully next year — for a weekend backpacking trip!

Weekend Adventure: The Narrows (& More!)

I’m a few weeks behind on blog posts and I almost forgot to write this one! We went back to Zion National Park a couple of weeks ago because we didn’t get a chance to hike The Narrows when we were there and this was a bucket list hike for both of us.

Because we were going to do Zion one day and Bryce the next, we decided to go the hotel route rather than the camping route. I’m planning to do a blog post about traveling and finances once summer is over, but being able to choose to stay in a hotel on some of these weekend trips has been a great privilege. It is tough camping in southern Utah in the summer heat!

I have been using Delta Hotels recently because I have a miles card and I can get double miles if I book a hotel from their site — and I’ve noticed the prices are the same as Expedia, which is what I used to use. I found a killer hotel deal in Hurricane, UT — about 20 miles from Zion — for like $60 for the night. It was a newly built hotel and they were offering half price deals for the weekend.

For anyone interested (and none of this is ever sponsored), it was called My Place Hotel. I believe it is a local chain because there are several in Utah but I’m not sure. It’s more of an extended stay hotel so our room had a full fridge and stovetop, which we didn’t need — but we couldn’t beat the price. I love staying in brand new hotels because you know no one has ever smoked in them!

The Narrows

We had to get up a little bit earlier since we weren’t staying right outside the park, but we still made it up to The Narrows by like 8:30-9:00am. Had to wait a short time for a shuttle but not too long. We wanted to go early in the morning because we knew it would just get even more crowded later in the day, but the downside to that was that it wasn’t quite hot enough yet for the water to feel super nice.

It definitely was not cold water though. We had a few people ask us if we were going to do this hike in wetsuits and those crazy looking water shoes and we were like no way. We both hiked in normal clothes and sandals and that was absolutely fine.

I will say that closed-toe sandals are 100 times better. Kevin was wearing Keens and had 0 issues. I was wearing Chacos and kept stubbing my toes on rocks and also ended up with a huge blister on my foot from my sandal rubbing in the same place the entire hike. I enjoyed hiking in sandals and don’t feel like the crazy water shoes are necessary, but I may be investing in some closed-toe sandals now.

This hike was not at all what I expected. I think I expected — based on the Instagram photos I’ve seen of this place — that we would be wading through the river the entire time. You do have to walk in the river most of the time, but it’s only deep in a few sections and some of those can be avoided.

I will not sugar coat this — this was not one of my favorite hikes. I’m going with the unpopular opinion on this one. At one point I turned to Kevin and said, “I am not having a good time.”

It’s really hard to walk up-river, sliding on slick rocks, going against the flow of the current, with a ton of people around you doing the same thing. Kevin has done a lot of fishing and river walking and was a million times more prepared for this hike. He’s also way taller than me — and weighs more — and I am convinced this also made things way easier for him.

It was a fun couple’s trust exercise though, because we didn’t get walking sticks so we spent the whole time holding hands and trying to make sure the other person didn’t fall. Kevin did fall once — while holding the go pro — and we can now say that it has survived being crushed into a rock by Kevin’s full weight.

And I don’t mean to say that there weren’t fun parts, but I definitely didn’t leave going, “Wow, I can’t wait to do that hike again!”

We hiked about 2.5-3 miles in — we think — and then got to a spot where Kevin couldn’t touch the bottom and he didn’t want to leave our backpack and keep going — or get the backpack wet — so we decided to turn around. Which was a good thing, it turns out, because I already had this huge blister on my foot that I was luckily able to ignore for most of the walk back.

The return trip downriver was much more enjoyable and I think that if we do this hike again, we will definitely get a permit and hike down from the top of the river. There were so many more people on our way back — and this was a source of frustration because there wasn’t really a clear direction or flow, people were just walking any way they pleased. It was really entertaining though to see so many people slipping and falling and getting drenched.

So, here’s what I would recommend if I could go back and give myself advice before this hike:

  • Ignore the crowds and go in the afternoon when it’s hot. You’ll enjoy it more if you can swim/crawl through the river rather than hike through it.
  • Consider taking a picnic lunch and walking in until you find a nice spot and just swim/sunbathe/eat all afternoon rather than walking upriver for miles.
  • Wear closed-toe sandals and bring a walking stick.

All in all, Kevin and I decided that I like hiking on the real ground — not through rivers — and I like swimming, but not this half-walking/half-swimming business. I’m really glad we did this hike and it’s helpful to remind myself that just because everyone is out there doing it for the ‘gram doesn’t mean it’s going to be a completely 100% fun experience.

Bryce Canyon

We finished our Narrows hike midday, had an overpriced lunch at a nearby restaurant, and headed over to Bryce Canyon National Park for our second hike! We scored on another hotel — well, actually a mini log cabin — in Tropic, UT just outside the park. It was normally some absurd price — like $350 — and we got it for $150! It was absolutely beautiful and we were stoked that we got it for such a bargain price!

One thing we haven’t quite mastered on these adventures is nap time. We were so exhausted after our morning hike, but when we got to the cabin it was a really awkward time — like 5:00pm — too late for a nap but too early for dinner and way too early for bedtime. We ended up finding a nearby pizza place and still going to bed at like 8:30 because I could not stay awake any longer.

And then of course, we slept in until like 8:30 so we got too much sleep. We had decided to use the shuttle inside the park so that we could do a hike without having to walk back to our car. We started our hike at Bryce Point and hiked to Sunrise Point. It was an absolutely beautiful hike and even if you don’t have time to do a long hike at Bryce, I would highly recommend doing one of the shorter hikes down into the canyon.

After the Narrows hike, this felt like a piece of cake. Hiking on solid ground, with no water and no slippery rocks?! Aside from the array of band-aids I had on my feet to protect my blisters, it was paradise. Still quite a few people, but not nearly as many as we were expecting.

The hike was about 5 miles total and so worth it. My only complaint is that part of the hike we had to walk on a shared horse trail and there was literally horse poop every five feet. Smelly and gross and with such a highly trafficked trail, I’m surprised no one maintains that better. But I’m not sure what would be done — would you pick it up or just slide it off to the side? Either way, not a huge deal but it did get smelly there for about half a mile.

10/10 would recommend any hiking route in Bryce Canyon. We wanted to do a longer hike which is why we started at Bryce Point, but there are shorter (and longer) trails too! It’s absolutely beautiful and definitely worth walking down a short way from the view points. Even if you don’t want to do a full hike, it’s nice to take a few steps away from the large crowds and get a few nice photos for the ‘gram.

PSA: Don’t do stupid shit for the ‘gram. You don’t need to walk off the trail or get too close to a cliff or something just for a good photo. But I do like taking photos without other people in the background, so if you’re into that — hike on a trail at Bryce instead of just walking out to the viewpoints!

I’m really glad we went back to both of these parks and finished up the hikes that we really wanted to do! There are a few other hikes we’d like to do at Zion but they’re closed right now, so those will be on the list for next Spring!

P.S. Check out Live A Great Story if you want to see some awesome people living their best life! My mom bought us the Live A Great Story flag and we love it! We love taking a few photos with it every trip to celebrate this wonderful story we’re living. This is not sponsored, I just really love the message. You can search their hash tag on Instagram to see some amazing stuff!

Weekend Adventure: Bryce Canyon National Park

We got to check off a huge bucket list item with this trip! We’ve officially been to every national park in Utah!

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for the last two weeks and this trip was so, so good for my soul. One thing that’s been difficult for me during these weekend trips is balancing all of the doing with just being. We did not do all of the really long hikes we wanted to do this weekend, and that’s okay, because we can come back!

That’s been a key mindset shift for me as I feel like my travel personality just goes until she collapses and she will force herself to do a 7 mile hike she doesn’t want to do because “we’re only here for 2 days and we must do everything“. That may be true for some trips we take, but for these Utah trips we can always plan another one.

And that’s exactly what we decided to do! We are doing a Zion/Bryce combination trip this weekend that is solely focused on two hikes we haven’t had a chance to do yet!

Anyway, back to our Bryce trip. It started out a little dicey. We left a bit later than usual, after stopping in Provo to see a dear friend who was in town! We visited with her for awhile and then hit the road, driving straight into a torrential downpour.

The thing about Utah is, when it rains it really does pour. We even joke about how the raindrops are actually much larger here than the raindrops in Oregon, and it’s actually true. In Oregon, it rains all the time and you kind of grow accustomed to this steady mist that follows you as you go about your day. Occasionally, it will really dump on you but it’s usually steady, just there to remind you that it’s never really going to be summer. In Utah, rain is rare but every single time it rains I think we’re going to be stuck in the middle of a flash flood.

In this case, we actually had to slow down significantly on the freeway (due to other people freaking out about the lack of visibility) until the rain let up. And then of course, everyone slowed down to check out the six-car pile-up on the other side of the freeway.

But eventually, we were able to really get going and we settled in, continuing our trend of listening to the End of the World podcast. We decided to stop at a drive-in that we found on google maps when searching for restaurants. It was in Beaver, so that was about five minutes of immature laughter about stopping in Beaver and eating in Beaver and snap chatting these jokes to my mom, who then had all her own jokes.

Regardless of the fact that I told Kevin I couldn’t live in a town called Beaver, the drive-in was delicious. Hands down the best fries I’ve ever had and the burger was definitely in the top 5. It’s called Mel’s Drive-Inn and I highly recommend trying it if you’re ever in the area (but they are closed on Sundays, much like the entire state of Utah).

After we ate dinner, we got back on the freeway and Kevin proceeded to miss our exit and we had to drive 12 miles down the freeway before we were able to turn around. The weather had improved but we could still see thunderstorms and dark clouds in the distance, and it seemed like we were headed in their direction.

Which we were, in fact, because we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and I had to run through the rain to the bathroom in my t-shirt and sandals. Because of course we never pack rain coats for these trips. It’s Utah, it’s summer, and we’re going to the desert! Not that I could have worn a coat anyway because it was raining but still like 80 degrees out.

We had camping reservations at Kodachrome Basin State Park — per a recommendation from a friend — which was past Bryce Canyon National Park. This was the first time we’d be arriving after dark and we’d never been there, but it felt like we were driving out to the middle of nowhere. How could there be a state park 10 miles down this road to nothing?

But there was, and we finally arrived and located our campsite, and then proceeded with the lovely task of setting up our tent in the dark. It wasn’t terribly difficult and I think we still managed to get everything set up before 11pm. We had no idea what our surroundings looked like but we could see that there were some hills or mountains nearby because lightning would light up the sky in the distance and illuminate them. We watched the sky and the thunderstorms for awhile before going to bed.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

We woke up to an amazing view and decided this is definitely one of the best campgrounds we’ve ever stayed in. Our campsite was right by the bathrooms (but not too close) and there was so much room for the tent, as well as a fire pit and picnic table! It got cool enough at night that we weren’t sweltering, and there weren’t too many pesky bugs. I got a few bug bites but they must have been from normal mosquitos and not those mutant ones that make me swell up like crazy.

Bryce Canyon

We were up at a reasonable hour, and in case anyone is wondering — I am the morning person in this relationship. I set the alarm, I get up and get ready, and then I tell Kevin I’m leaving him at camp if he doesn’t get up in five minutes. On the mornings when we’re packing up to leave, I will just start packing everything up around him until he’s forced to get up because I’ve let all the air out of the air mattress and folded up all the blankets.

The beginning of our sticker collection!

We got to the visitor’s center at around 8:30am I believe, and Kevin decided we should just watch the video now since we were already there. I found a card and some stickers for my mom (and stickers for us as well — since we are now collecting stickers from each place we visit and putting them on our cooler!) and we sat down to watch the 22-minute film.

After we watched the movie, we decided we would drive all the way to the far end of the park and work our way back from there. We like to stop at every view point or anywhere that has a sign with information you can read, so this takes awhile. There was a short hike — I think maybe a mile — at the far end of the park that we decided to do to get our legs moving and see the views. It was a great little hike with spectacular views and I cannot remember what it was called so I’ll have to edit this later, but it’s literally at the very end of the park.

We saw a beautiful deer and two rattlesnakes (which give Kevin the creeps but I think they’re cute) on our short hike, and we walked out to each of the viewpoints and decided to practice perfecting our kissing photos. Kevin complains because I am so short and he has to bend over so far, so he always thinks his neck looks wonky. The struggles of being married to someone who is a foot shorter than you!

We meandered back down the road, stopping at every single viewpoint to take pictures and play Pokemon Go (because, we are adults). There weren’t too many people until we ended up right in front of one of the shuttles and we had to make sure we got our pictures before they got there and let everyone off. The photos below were taken just a few minutes apart!

We saw absolutely stunning views everywhere we stopped. I would highly recommend taking the full scenic drive and stopping at each viewpoint. The stops closer to the entrance of the park were more crowded, since that is where many of the hiking trails start and also within the main shuttle route. Although it is sometimes frustrating to try and take a photo without people in the background, I really am happy that the shuttles make it accessible for so many people to visit the park. I think it’s much better to have a shuttle than to have everyone driving and have the need for large parking lots.

People do leave an impact, of course, and we make sure to clean up all of our trash (and occasionally other people’s trash) when we are visiting the parks. Overall, despite the large number of people at Bryce, the park was incredibly clean and people were very kind and respectful of one another.

We wanted to do one of the longer hikes that would take us down into the canyon, but by this time it was around 1:00 or 2:00 and we were really tired and burnt out. We decided we’d hike the next morning and we didn’t need to force ourselves to do a hike if we didn’t want to. We drove into Panguitch to try a different drive in — Henrie’s Drive-In — and this turned out to be a good idea because it started raining the minute we decided to leave the park.

Henrie’s Drive-In — although not as good as Mel’s — did have a bacon burger and it was delicious. We had to wait quite awhile for our food because it was lunchtime in a tourist town, but we didn’t mind. The place was packed but we waited long enough that we snagged a table, and proceeded to listen to an older gentleman telling everyone his entire life story.

I try and be respectful and chat with people who strike up conversations with me (and luckily this gentleman didn’t) but when you’re telling everyone who happens to sit at the table next to yours about your divorce and how you still love your ex-wife and you got 50% of her pension, it’s a bit much. By the time we left, we knew pretty much everything about the last couple of years of this man’s life and he wasn’t even talking to us!

On our way back toward Bryce, we stopped at a local coffee shop (this is turning into a thing of mine, supporting the local coffee shops — especially in Utah) because we needed a little pick-me-up. Hilariously, I ordered a vanilla latte and when she handed me my drink I told Kevin that it definitely looked a lot like a macchiato. But I said nothing and we drove away. Minutes later, when I took a drink it was definitely a caramel macchiato.

I don’t know why, but this was so funny to us. Sure, we’ve had our drinks messed up before. Like you ask for it iced and they make a hot one, or you order a really specific drink (I’m talking to you, mom) and they don’t make it quite to your liking. But I’ve never ordered one drink and received a completely different drink! And no, there was no one else there so I didn’t get someone else’s drink. But, it was a great caramel macchiato so I did not complain!

Despite really wanting to make the most of our day, the coffee did not help as much as we thought it would and we still felt super tired. So we decided to head back to camp and spend the afternoon reading! I read an entire book cover-to-cover (Bird Box – 10/10) and Kevin got halfway through a new book. We had a late dinner and drove around the state park for a bit before it got dark, and then finally we decided to try out these supposedly awesome showers.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the showers at this campground are better than any shower I’ve ever been in. No house, hotel, or spa has had better showers. They are definitely very new, very clean, and have a detachable shower head and a shower that comes out of the ceiling. I shit you not. At a campground. These are the times we live in, and I am here for it. I am here for the glamping experience. Of course, being that they are so nice, there are only two showers in each bathroom — but we didn’t have to wait!

I was already planning to recommend this campground to everyone I knew but now I really will, because damn if that wasn’t the best shower I’ve ever had in my life. We stayed at the Basin Campground. There are 3 campgrounds but I believe this one has the nice facilities. If you did stay at one of the other campgrounds, I’m pretty sure you could still drive over and use the showers if you wanted to do that.

Day Two

We got everything packed up by 9:00. I did have to pack up everything around a sleeping Kevin and he finally got up after all the air had gone out of the air mattress. On our way out, we stopped at a map of the area just outside the park. We saw that there was an arch nearby, just down the gravel road, and it seemed like a cool mini-adventure!

But, some things are just not meant to be and after a whole bunch of driving and turning down dead-end roads we never found it! The elusive arch! I can’t even remember what it was called but one day we will return and we will find it. The only thing we can think of is that we didn’t drive far enough down the road, but we’ll never know.

We decided that since we were already in this “hey where does this road go?” mood, we would take another detour down a road with signs for something like Sheep Creek and Jim Hollow. We ended up on a dirt road and passed a sign saying “dead end” but kept going for several miles, and ended up at some remote, long-forgotten trailhead. We could see Bryce Canyon from there and it looked to be an old trailhead for horseback riding since it was far from anywhere. It had an old bathroom that was in a terrible state, and there were bees nests everywhere (not my jam) so we left fairly quickly but it was sad to see such a neglected and forgotten trailhead. I hope someone comes and fixes it up!

Kevin really wanted to hike Mossy Cave so we stopped there. It’s not really a hike, it’s like a half a mile round trip, so lots of people were there milling about. The cave itself wasn’t that cool but apparently it is covered in icicles in the winter so Kevin definitely wants to come back and see that. He’d already decided that he wanted to come and stay at the lodge at Bryce Canyon this winter. We walked over to the waterfall as well and I walked in the water since I had my sandals. We tried to take a few pictures of the cool colored rocks in the water but they didn’t come out too great. This was actually one of my favorite places and I definitely recommend going. It’s such a quick hike and so worth it to see the waterfall and the surrounding area.

By the time we finished our little walk to Mossy Cave and the waterfall, it was already noon and it was very hot out. Neither of us really wanted to do a long hike and even though a part of me wanted to force myself to do it because we’re here, I resisted and we decided to end our weekend trip and head back home.

It’s so easy to form this mentality that you have to do and see absolutely everything when you travel, and I’m sure there will be times where we visit a place that we might not get a chance to come back to — and those times we’ll force ourselves to keep going even when we’re burnt out — but for now, it’s so nice to be able to say “we can come back” and enjoy an afternoon reading a book with no agenda whatsoever.

It’s also hard on these summer trips because it can get so hot and we are tent camping, so we have no way to just turn on the a/c for a minute. We have mixed it up with some hoteling here and there, but we don’t always get a great night of sleep. I think that if we continue to tent camp in the fall and winter, we’ll sleep better in the cooler temperatures. We also started these weekend adventures in the summer, so next year we’ll probably get an earlier start and visit some places in the springtime when it’s not as hot and not travel during peak summer tourist season.

But I would rather get a crappy night’s sleep and wake up in Kodachrome Basin State Park with that incredible view, than to get a great night’s sleep and wake up in my apartment with nothing to do. We are so privileged and fortunate to be able to do all of this travel, and at some point things will plateau and we won’t be going somewhere every single weekend but for now, I’m enjoying every minute of it.