What I Learned About Travel in My 20’s.

It takes a long time to become young.

Pablo Picasso

I just turned 30. My 20’s have officially ended and I’m not too happy about it but I am making the most of feeling old. My 20’s were an insane roller coaster ride, especially when it comes to travel. I learned a ton, went to incredible places, and overcame a lot of obstacles I wasn’t prepared to face, but did. Keep reading to discover just what I learned. Hopefully it will inspire you and help you on your travels even if you aren’t in your 20’s.

Being Different Is A Good Thing

For a while, I used to be very shy and cared about what people thought of every little thing I did. Traveling took me out of that bubble and showed me that no one genuinely cares that you’re different and if they do they aren’t the type of person who is comfortable with themselves or someone you want to be associated with.

There’s an Entire World Out There

I feel like when you’re in your teens you think you’re the center of the universe. When you get into your 20’s your universe expands a little bit. I was lucky enough to have traveled from a young age and saw different ways of doing things. Some people in my family have never left the state they were born in and this blows my mind. I’ll never understand (but I do respect their choices) why people don’t want to see the world and learn about cultures and experience life in a way that is different from their own but at the same time is just as valid.

Embrace Culture

I mean this in a few different ways. Never be ashamed of where you come from. I, personally, strongly oppose President Trump and am often asked when I travel if everyone in the United States loves him and emulates his beliefs. A country is made up of more than one person even if they are the only one people have heard of. I love my country, but I am always trying to leave it to experience adventure and cultures different from my own. I want to learn. I want to expand my universe to more than people who think like me. To me, that’s truly living.

Another phrase I’ve consistently heard foreigners say in every country I’ve traveled to is “this is so weird”. No. It’s different and there’s a difference. It might be foreign to you but it’s just something you haven’t seen or done yet. Other cultures, no matter how similar or different they might be from your own are human. In that, we shouldn’t go around loudly stating their way of life is “weird”.

Respect Is Earned

There are little things I try to do every place I go regardless of the country or my mood. I always thank people, especially those who rarely get thanked like bus drivers, hotel staff, and janitors. Secondly, I always, always, always learn basic phrases in the native language of wherever I’m going and use the language to the best of my ability. I don’t expect people from foreign countries to speak perfect english when they visit my country, but I do appreciate the effort. My last trip to Peru motivated me to learn Spanish and I loved it so much that I am now on level three and can have conversations.

Long story short, people love it when you make an effort. Show others your humanity. Show them you are willing to try and respect them. Little things like courtesy and respect go a long way to being welcomed in a country or being treated with the same respect you show them.

Never Let Fear Prevent You From Traveling

I’ve missed out on a few incredible trips because people convinced me I shouldn’t have visited because a place was bombed a decade before. The country in question was perfectly safe and remains so today and is still on my list. In today’s world where terrorism is a threat it is easy to say no I don’t need to travel.

The truth is, terrorism could happen anywhere and that’s why so many people are afraid. While I always make sure I am traveling somewhere where I will be safe and won’t fear for my life, I also refuse to stop traveling because of the possibility of something bad happening. Life is too short to live in fear of something whether it’s taking the first trip out of your hometown or going somewhere that is so different you don’t even know how to fit in. Take the leap. Be safe, but never limit yourself.

Assholes Are Everywhere

You can’t get away from them no matter where you go. I’ve slapped people in Italy for grabbing my butt; I’ve reported men to the police for being disgusting excuses of human beings; I’ve told people off in 3 different languages for being rude. I’ve never let this stop me from enjoying my time somewhere that I wanted to be. You shouldn’t either.

Stereotypes are Overrated

People told me before I went to France that everyone was rude. I went anyway and it continues to be one of my favorite places on earth because of the warm welcome and sense of community I feel there. No one has ever been openly rude to me.

People told me that Peru wasn’t worth going to because it is a developing country. I went anyway. It is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The people there have such a rich history and culture and are so enthusiastic to share it with you that you can’t help but fall in love with the country.

People think my country is a bunch of southern hicks who are dumb as rocks. I’m a southern woman with a 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree. Yes, there are plenty of idiots here, but they aren’t everyone.

No country is only its stereotype. Is there at least one person in each country who defines that stereotype? Of course there is, but you find them everywhere you go. Rise above. Be better than the stereotype.

Thoughts?

I might make this into another follow up post, but I would love to hear more about what traveling taught you regardless of your age. I don’t know where I would be in my life if it wasn’t for travel and everything it has taught me. I hope this has helped even one person in any way. Can’t wait to write whatever the next blog post will be for you guys!

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Easy (but Romantic) Trips to Take This Valentine’s Day

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles M. Schulz

Tis the Hallmark season. You know, the one everyone either loves or hates. Regardless of whether you use it to celebrate with your significant other or are treating yourself this year, there are tons of ways to add some travel into your plans. You don’t have to go to Paris and kiss under the Eiffel Tower to sprinkle some love and travel into your lives. Check out these simple tips to put a little adventure and travel into your Valentine’s Day.

Take a Long Weekend Trip

What’s better than going away for the weekend on a romantic (or not) trip with someone you love? Taking an extra day off of work to do so. Splurge a little this V-day and take a break from it all. Go rent a cabin in the mountains or by the beach. Go be happy and not worry about work with the added bonus of doing it in a new place you’ve never visited.

Take a Road Trip

Yes, I know this is very similar, but there are some big differences and cute ways to spruce this up. Make a road trip playlist for your significant other. Surprise them with a trip somewhere that they’ve always talked about. Find a way to make the destination more personal and go for it!

Choose a New Restaurant

I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE food. I also love exploring to find more amazing places to eat. One thing that has worked out way better than I ever expected was choosing a town no more than an hour away that neither of us had ever been to. We drove around and stopped at the first restaurant that looked delicious to us both and gave it a shot. Now this can turn out super well or become a disaster depending on a lot of factors. Keep an open mind and make sure that if it is a disaster to laugh it off.

Go Old School

Track down your nearest drive in movie theater. They still exist all over the country and are usually much cheaper than going to see a movie in an actual theater. PLUS, how much more romantic can you get when you’re snuggled up next to your loved one watching a movie from your car?

Have a Picnic

Find a scenic spot you’ve never had the chance to visit and take the time to visit, explore, and have a sweet lunch together. Bonus points if you cook the meal together beforehand.

Booze It Up

Only if that’s your thing. Before I say anything else, drive responsibly. Now that I’ve gotten the necessary precautions out of the way… Go to a winery! Go on a brewery tour! Go to a cidery! Find a tasting! If you two love to drink together, why not make it a romantic date in a new place for you to explore at the same time?

Try Something You Wouldn’t Normally Do

I love these date nights. They really bring you closer together as a couple and can be geared towards each of your interests. This is especially fun if you are in a new place and want to dip your toes in to what the town/city has to offer. What is the new place famous for? Try it. Is it axe throwing? Pasta making? Skiing? The possibilities are endless. Put yourselves out there and have fun together.

4 Exciting Day Trips to Take From Los Angeles

Los Angeles was an incredible place to visit and see. I’ll never regret going downtown with all of the other tourists to see the countless attractions but my favorite spots were the smaller, more laid backs areas like the four below. Check out my recommendations and let me know your favorites!

Malibu

What: Malibu quickly became my favorite spot in California. We began our trip there and ended there as well. There’s tons of DELICIOUS places to eat right on a beach or pier. The views are really what’s best about this place!

Where: Malibu is about a 45 minute drive from LAX and is right on the coast.

Attractions: Come hungry and come with your beach gear. Have a quick bite to eat in Paradise Cove or take a walk on the beach to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean. This area isn’t anywhere near as crowded as many tourist attractions in Southern California so you can enjoy having the place almost to yourselves.

Santa Monica

What: Santa Monica quickly became my favorite spot on the trip. It’s gorgeous, has a little bit of everything, and I just felt immediately like I’d found a place I fit in. 

Where: Santa Monica is located about 30 minutes West of L.A. and is situated right on the beach.

Attractions: These are almost never ending. The pier has local vendors and street performers as well as Pacific Park. The end marker for the infamous Route 66 is right on the pier. For fitness lovers, there’s lanes set up for biking and walking; surfing is common as well as swimming. Muscle beach is a medium-length walk down the beach too!

Randsburg/California City

What: Randsburg is such a unique town. It is an inhabited ghost town with lots of charm, history, and unique experiences.

Where: Randsburg is a ex-mining town in the Mohave Desert near California City. Most people drive or if you’re feeling adventurous like we were you can cruise the desert in an ATV.

Attractions: Randsburg is a fun trip back in time. There is a museum there, general store, and live events such as panning for gold, music, and gun fights. The town also has much of its old building still intact and exactly the way they were during the period when the gold mines were operational. Check out some of the abandoned mine shafts as well (just be careful).

Ventura

What: Ventura was a gorgeous little town I got to visit for a day of kayaking and beach bumming.

Where: Ventura is a little more of a hike from L.A. since its about an hour and a half NW.

Attractions: Kayaking is one of the things Ventura is known for and for a great reason. It’s reasonably priced and there’s lots of places to explore. The town itself features lots of shopping and of course beaches to walk or sit on.

Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

Confucius

Sorry I missed posting last week! Between switching jobs and going on vacation to Albuquerque I didn’t have a chance to post one. More on Albuquerque coming soon, but I hope you enjoy this one in the meantime!

Looking back on some of my pictures from past travels can be a little cringe-inducing. The past few years, photography has become a massive hobby and passion of mine, and as a result, I’ve improved a TON. Everyone starts somewhere, and photography is a life-long learning process and is something that allows you to constantly grow. Here are a few of my favorite tips that I’ve learned the hard way or have been lucky enough to have someone teach me.

Tell A Story

Dune Buggy Adventure in Peru

Ever just mindlessly snap photos to prove you’ve been somewhere? Ever take a look at those pictures a few years later and wish you put some thought into them? You’re not alone. While those pictures provide great memories, the photos that really stand out to a wide variety of people are the ones that grab you and make you think even if it’s just a little bit. They’re always way more interesting and give a unique perspective of your trip.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is one of the first things photographers learn but is often underutilized. This rule is designed to draw the eye to a particular spot to show emphasis. Placing something in the middle of a photo can often be anticlimactic unless done exceptionally well. Make your viewers draw their attention to a specific spot and hold their focus for longer than they normally would with this method.

Change Your Perspective

Do you always take pictures from a certain angle? Remember that you aren’t married to one angle. Stand on a chair/bench. Get up close or get really far away. Take a photo from a low angle. There are endless possibilities to show one thing many different ways. Try spicing up your travel photography with a fresh angle.

Be Unexpected

Get the amazing shot that everyone else has done but also challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Everyone has seen a picture of that famous landmark you visited. How can you put a new spin on it? Experiment with angles, time of day, or even shooting through another object to frame that landmark. Nothing captures attention like doing something no one expects you to do.

Be True To Yourself

When I travel, I LOVE spending time outside, and my photography reflects that. If you love art, show it! If you love adventure, show it! Don’t be afraid to show your unique perspective. Cranking out stereotypical travel photos just because you can isn’t innovative and is almost never fun to see or look back to remember your trip with.

Try New Styles/Types of Photography Challenge Yourself

Not every destination is going to have epic landmarks that you can easily spice up with a great angle or new take on it. Some people travel for food or beaches or just to experience new cultures. If you want to branch out, practice photographing something that you love (it will show), but that is also something you might normally overlook.

For me that’s books. I ADORE reading and always have a book with me and a pile at home. I rarely take pictures of them even though I’m attached to them. I’m trying to be more on top of taking pictures that are relevant and also fun to look at.

Southern California: A Photo Story

If they can’t do it in California, they can’t be done anywhere.

Taylor Caldwell

My most recent trip took me to California for the first time and oh my goodness was it incredible. I’ll do some posts in the next few months about each city we explored but for now, enjoy my trip through my camera lens.

Malibu

Hollywood

Los Angeles

Santa Monica

Ventura

Randsburg/California City

Malibu, again!

What Vienna Taught Me About Coping with a Disappointing Travel Destination

Three years ago, I planned an incredible trip for my boyfriend and me. It was our first international trip together and his first international trip since his time in the U.S. Navy. Will doesn’t love travel as much as I do, but I wanted to show him just how much fun it could be.

We began our trip visiting some of my family in Nice, France and had some of the best experiences we’ve ever had as a couple. I had then planned 3 days in Vienna, 2.5 days in Budapest, and because I couldn’t avoid it, a 19-hour layover in Copenhagen.

Budapest was one of the most incredible and interesting places I’ve ever set foot in. Copenhagen was a little confusing, but we had so much fun exploring the Carlsberg Brewery even after getting almost no sleep in a random airport terminal. Vienna? Well, we were disappointed.

It didn’t help that Vienna ended up being sandwiched in between several mind-blowingly fun destinations, but it just didn’t do it for us. Before going on the trip, I was most looking forward to Vienna. I had always heard how romantic, welcoming, and fun the city was and that wasn’t even mentioning the food scene. What we got was just nothing that lived up to that.

When you’re hostel is the most exciting part of a trip you know that place is just not for you. We saw everything we wanted to see in one day and were hard pressed to find anything else to do afterward, short of wandering aimlessly. Schonbrunn Palace was gorgeous but expensive to go inside. We saw the Opera House, Ring Road, churches galore, and got to see the outside of Mozart’s house.

What we couldn’t find was authentic, local food, friendly citizens, or anything that cost under $30-$50 a piece per person. We love visiting museums and theaters, but we were traveling on a budget and couldn’t afford to spend $200 in one day just to go inside some of the attractions.

So how do you cope with a disappointing destination? While your morale might be down, there are quite a few options.

Research Your Next Vacation Stop

This will help you get excited again. If you’re doing a multi-city tour you can start to make sure you never get blindsided again by researching budget-friendly places to visit, unique attractions, and where the best places to grab a bite to eat are.

Ask a Local

Speaking to the locals, bonus points if you speak in their language, can give you new places to visit without the hassle of finding a wifi connection. Plus, you get to interact with new people and potentially make new friends. Locals know an area the best; don’t let the guidebooks fool you. Find someone and politely ask where their favorite places are or what they do for fun. More likely than not, they will be flattered and excited to share their favorites aspects of their city.

Splurge

Don’t do this too often, but if it is something your budget can handle choose one or two attractions that you most want to see and go for it! If you truly have seen everything you wanted, try having a nice dinner with a great view.

Don’t Feel Guilty

Everyone who travels experiences disappointment at one time or another. Figure out just what you didn’t like about the trip so you can avoid similar experiences in the future. Remember that travel is never a waste of time. You always gain something regardless of how much fun you had.

New Year, New You: Travel Resolutions You’ll Actually Want to Keep.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Socrates

Every year so many people make a massive deal about their New Year’s resolutions, and they never keep them past February…March if they’re persistent. Here are a few resolutions you will actually want to set and keep.

Go Somewhere with Different Beliefs

It can be so easy to travel to places that are only mildly different from your culture, customs, and beliefs. One of the most significant points of travel is to open your eyes to the rest of the world and to different ways of living that are just as valuable as your own.

Pick a Destination That Challenges You

Whether it be challenging you to become a better person or having to learn how to travel by yourself, learn a new language, or learn how to use the local public transportation, pick one city/country to visit that won’t let you visit on autopilot. It might be stressful at first, but you will become more resourceful and notice the little things you might otherwise overlook.

Travel More

This one should be on every serious traveler’s resolution list. Explore your own country more or finally save up to visit that one place you’ve always talked about non-stop. As long as you safely budget, traveling more is never a problem.

Be a Sustainable Traveler

Leave wherever you visit a cleaner place than you found it. Make an effort to pick up trash you spot. Use reusable straws or water bottles. Conserve water when you shower, brush your teeth or wash your hands. Buy from local vendors/shops to support the economy. There are endless options that are 100% feasible no matter where you travel. It just requires a tiny bit of your effort.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

It might be tempting to rent a car and go driving all over the place during your vacation. Try spending less time in a car and more time walking, hiking, biking, or using public transportation. You can explore more places at a slower pace, and you might even discover a new shop/restaurant/attraction you might have missed if you were driving by quickly.

Practice More Respect

It’s incredibly difficult to find yourself in a new country, new culture, and trying to speak a new language. Any of those things can cause lots of stress and frustration. Take a deep breath and make sure you stay respectful to everyone. After all, you chose to visit this new place and everyone living there does not deserve the blame. When you travel, you’re representing your culture and country. Stereotypes are born when people don’t show respect to others. Stay patient and treat everyone you meet well.

Disengage to Engage

If you’re always on your phone in a new place how can you truly experience the sites and people around you? Take all the pictures you want and update your friends and family, but please don’t forget to actually travel and see what the world has to offer. I promise it’s better than what’s on your screen.

Make a Positive Impact

Even if that just means being nice to someone who went out of their way to help you or by volunteering, do something positive when you travel. I always pick up trash and thank everyone who rarely gets thanked like waitresses, hotel concierge, etc. Basically, all I’m saying is practice being a good person and you’ll find that you just might become that much better. As cheesy as it sounds the quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is incredible advice that everyone should take steps towards making a reality.