New Year, New Adventures

What an emotional year this was.

For 2017, I wish you discomfort.

As this crazy year comes to a close, I enjoy looking back at the year and remember the good things. What sticks out in my mind are the adventures I went on and the countries I visited.  I am planning new adventures for 2017 and I hope you do the same.  Nothing inspires me more than traveling and being in nature. It's a nice way to jump start a year by getting uncomfortable. 

I get asked a lot about where my favorite place is.  This year, it was Iceland.   I've never experienced anything like it.  In my travels, I rarely visit the same place twice... However, I just couldn't get it out of my mind and even though I am not a fan of being cold, that is not even close to being a valid reason for not doing something.  That being said, I'm planning on chasing the Northern Lights this winter.

I would encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and do something different.  You don't have to travel to another country to experience new things.  You can look up a local hiking trail, take a class, or go camping alone.  Always remember that the perfect time doesn't exist.  Don't wait for someone else's schedule to clear up to do what you've always wanted to do.  You can do it alone.  With that being said,  I wish you plenty of discomfort in the new year.   

 

 

Interviewed by You (Part 2 of 2)

A while back on my Instagram and Facebook pages, I promised that I would answer any questions you had and for 24 hours, I kept the post up for questions.  At the end of that period, I compiled all questions and put them in the following categories of health, safety, social, fear, experiences, photography, Max, travel and money.  In part one, I answered questions about health, safety, social, fear and experiences.  For this blog, I am answering the questions about photography, Max, travel and money.  So, here we go...

With Max at the Wave.  We were lucky to be awarded a permit to hike here on our first lottery try.

With Max at the Wave.  We were lucky to be awarded a permit to hike here on our first lottery try.

Photography

What do you use to take your pictures?

I use the camera that I have on me which is most often my iPhone 5 and GoPro.  When I know I am going out shoot for a specific purpose, I also shoot with a Canon 5d mark ii and a Canon 6d.  

And edit?

I edit with Lightroom

It seems like a very conscious decision to rarely show your face in your images.  Could you elaborate on this choice? 

This is a great question.  It wasn’t a conscious decision at first. I was tired of taking selfies and wanted to do something different, but still document my travels. The further I got from the camera, the more anonymous I could become.  I also wanted a sense of place. Perhaps suggesting the viewer could imagine themselves in that spot, seeing what I was seeing.  I wanted it to become less about me and more of where I was or how the place made me feel, if that’s possible.

How do you make photography become your income too?

There are several ways to make money off of your photographs.  I don’t have one specific income from my images.  I license them for use, get paid to shoot a specific event, or by selling prints.  There are so many different ways you can make money from your images but the main thing is to be persistent and keep shooting.  Even then, there’s no guarantee, unfortunately.  But to be clear, I don't only rely on my images to make a living.  I talk about this more in the money section.

What is your “go to” camera/lens?

I love shooting with my GoPro.  It’s small enough to throw in my bag, it’s waterproof and I am more likely to bring it along.  For higher quality images, I use a canon 5d mark ii or my canon 6d.

Taking photos of Max with my GoPro and iPhone at the same time in Coral Sands park in Utah

Taking photos of Max with my GoPro and iPhone at the same time in Coral Sands park in Utah

Any tips for a solo traveler taking travel photos?

Yes.  Take photos for yourself.  Take photos of what you like to look at.  Sounds simple, but don’t follow trends… photograph what you gravitate to.  When I was starting and shooting with my canon point and click, I took a lot of photos of the same house at different times and of bird feet.  Yes, you read that right.  

I still love taking photos of birds

I still love taking photos of birds

How do you keep your cell phone/computer/cameras/equipment charged while out on the road?

I have a power converter in campy and I charge batteries when I am driving so everything is charged.  I also stop at Starbucks every now and then to work and charge my computer.  I also have a new GoWesty solar panel.

Do you post pics while you’re there in that particular spot?

I usually post after I’ve left.  I do this for safety reasons since I'm alone most of the time.  Also, I want to soak up the moment while I am there and reflect on it after I’m gone.

Camping all alone near Lake Powell

Camping all alone near Lake Powell

 

MAX

When you go to far away places, who does Max watch over when you are gone?

My best friend, Dan and his wife Carolyn watch Max when I am overseas.  He makes himself at home there and Dan works from home so he has company for most of the day.

Max relaxing in his cat bed in the middle of the desert.  

Max relaxing in his cat bed in the middle of the desert.  

I think you would miss Max.  How do you cope without him? Is he in good care?

I do miss Max when I am traveling but I know he’s in good hands with Dan.  When I travel overseas without him, I’m able to do a lot more since I don’t have to pay attention if dogs are allowed. I miss him but I know I will reunite with him soon.

Any special tips for camping with a dog?

Make sure to have plenty of water and extra food with you.  Be aware of your surroundings and make sure they are nearby.  Dogs can attract wild animals so I make sure Max is in campy most of the time since he's the most relaxed there anyway.  I camp with the weather so he won’t be left in a hot car.  He’s a great travel partner so he knows what to expect.

Travel

Do you ever stay in a hotel or is the camper your only overnight accommodation?

Yes.  Every now and then I will treat myself to a Motel 6 for a shower and a ceiling higher than a foot from my face.  I need to pack most of my things in the room with me when I do this so sometimes it’s not worth the hassle or money.  But every now and then…it’s so worth it.

Do you maintain a home base? Yes. 

How do you research your trips so you get to some of the most amazing off the grid places within a short, limited timeframe? 

I don’t research my trips that much.  I usually plan in the morning what direction I will head.  This is for times where I don’t know where I am going.  However, there are times when I go on a trip for a specific destination.  In that case, I get there as fast as I can and then need to plan what’s next.

Hiking out to our spot at white sands National Monument

Hiking out to our spot at white sands National Monument

How do you decide where to go next? 

I look on apps to see what’s around me.  Sometimes it’s a camp near a body of water, or just by the name of the area.  

What advice could you give me on what spots to see in Iceland and why is traveling alone so special? 

In Iceland, I recommend the glacier lagoon and any of the massive waterfalls in the south.  Of course, a hot spring or two is necessary.  Traveling alone is so special because you get to do whatever you want to do.  You will also have time to think, be creative, and being alone is the best time to get to know yourself.  Sitting in discomfort ultimately brings peace.

Have you ever been to England? No but I want to!

When you started out did you ever think you would be on the road this long?  No.

Are there any regrets?

No.  I am glad everything happened the way it did.  I hit the road in 2008 and didn’t really plan it too well.  Actually, I didn’t plan it at all.  I had a paper map, no goals and a fully stocked bar.  Not quite the recipe for a fulfilling trip.  I learned more the first year and I am glad that I did it, even though it was extremely painful at times.

If one was to call traveling an addiction, of all the elements involved, what do you think holds the greatest power over people? 

I wouldn’t call traveling an addiction, but I understand the need and strong desire to explore.  I can’t sit still for too long, which is a good thing for me. I still believe it’s the best investment you can make in yourself. 

What’s the biggest reason about it that hooked you?

The freedom and feeling I get from being in a place I’ve always wanted to see in person, or stumbling across one of the most beautiful places I didn’t know existed. 

How do you choose your next adventure? 

When I go overseas, I tend to do more planning and even then, it’s minimal.  I like to keep plans loose to allow for spontaneous moments. 

Is it planned or is it more like wherever the wind blows you?

A little of both but tend to enjoy the wind more.  All of the most memorable times I’ve had traveling are from an unplanned adventure.

Watching the sunset with Max in the desert

Watching the sunset with Max in the desert

What was your trigger to go on such a long ride? 

I was stuck in a job I hated and that was killing my creative soul.  I felt I just needed to get away and explore.  

Do you consider adding a partner?  Sometimes, but ultimately, Max is partner enough.

Are you happy you made this decision to go on this trip?

I have had many trips and yes,  am happy I made this decision, although there are trade off’s to this type of lifestyle.

How long do you see yourself living this lifestyle? I plan on exploring new places until I die. 

Do you wonder if you would have difficulty going back to a non-mobile lifestyle? 

I have a balance of travel and a home base these days.

How did you start traveling?

I just decided to leave in 2008 in a teardrop trailer with my dog, Maggie.  I didn’t plan much, I just left.  It was the most difficult year but somehow, I keep at it and can’t see myself going too long without being on the road again.

What is your favorite music for driving? 

I listen to Pandora stations but lately, I have been listening to my NPR app or other podcasts I love to learn from.  I love documentaries and learning something new. 

What is your favorite place to camp?

A place where I am the only one there.

My favorite picnic spot of all time

My favorite picnic spot of all time

How many pairs of socks do you carry? About 5

What do you list as a mailing address for mail?  I have forwarded mail to a friend for one trip and now I have a home base.  I have friends who purchase p.o. boxes and another that you can have someone gather and forward occasionally. There are several options.

Which countries are you going to visit?

My next country is Nicaragua in November

Would you purchase another RV/van/camper again if given the chance? If not, what is the one feature of your current set up which is most critical?

I love Campy and the van community.  I also loved the van I had in Iceland which was more of a sprinter type van.  It was pure bliss to be able to stand up right away and having a bed that was always set up. The current feature in Campy that I love is how compact it is and how it drives more like a car.  I love that the stove and fridge are there anytime I want a cold drink (when it works), and I can make coffee at any time if I wanted to.

Money

(The most asked about topic)

Vanlife and living a nomadic life is getting extremely popular and because of that, I get a lot of questions from young people wanting to live their life on the road. For the most part, everyone wants to know how how much it costs or how you make money while on the road.  I wish I had a magic answer.  In short, I saved and invested for years before I decided to quit.  I may seem like a young person (sigh...), but I didn't hit the road until I was 37.  

How do you finance your trips? How do you sustain yourself financially? Do you have a job? How can you afford all this travel stuff? How can you do nothing but travel? How do you afford to travel so much? How can you afford traveling around as much? How are you financing your adventures?

I have several income streams from different places that help finance my trips.  The largest is from saving a chunk of my income for 10 years working in advertising sales, investing the maximum amount in my 401K, and making smart investments.  Also, I am able to travel by renting my home on a large vacation rental website, securing sponsorships, and licensing my images. I am also very frugal and spend wisely.  

Camping with Max on the edge in Gooseneck State Park, Utah

Camping with Max on the edge in Gooseneck State Park, Utah

How much are your monthly expenditures on the road?

You might hate to hear it but it really depends.  I can keep costs extremely low by camping for free and not moving around so much. 

How do you keep expenses low? 

I try and spend as little as possible on the road.  I make all of my meals, I look for free camping where I can, and I don’t spend money on things I don’t need.

So, there you have it.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question to me.  If you have a last minute question, feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer.  I hope you follow your dreams and do whatever it takes to achieve what you want to do.  There is no perfect road and looking back, it's the imperfections of the road that you will remember most.

Two Days In Chattanooga

When I was invited to visit Chattanooga for a few days by the tourism board, I gladly accepted the offer to visit a city I’ve never been to.  

My itinerary was completely up to me.  I wasn’t given any suggestions of attractions to visit, where to stay, or restaurants to go to, which is exactly how I prefer to travel.  I usually don’t plan anything when I head out on an adventure and this trip wasn’t much different.  I did some research before hand as many would do on the internet, looking for the best sights and places not to miss.  With a short handwritten list, I headed out on my adventure.

Day 1

The first thing I did was head to Rock City to see the view from lookout mountain.  This attraction has a lot of great reviews online and there is no shortage of promotion of this destination.  Once I arrived, I knew it was going to be a place to remember.  They give you a map of the grounds and send you on your way for a self guided tour.  As you casually make your way through gardens and squeeze between boulders on the path, the star of the show is the view from lover’s leap.  On a clear day, you can see all seven states right from this viewpoint.  After a few hours of touring around, it was time to move along for lunch.

Walking on the suspension bridge in Rock City.

Walking on the suspension bridge in Rock City.

View from Lover's Leap

View from Lover's Leap

At the top of my small restaurant list was the Bluegrass Grill.  This charming and cozy diner on the South side was very casual and it felt like you were dining at a friends house.  Everyone I’ve met in Chattanooga so far has been so warm and friendly to me.  I asked the waitress where I should go next.  It was a hot day so she suggested a few local swimming holes just outside of town.  She sat with me for about 20 minutes telling me everything I should see, from a local perspective. As she was sitting next to me, writing down things to do on a guest check, I couldn’t recall a time where I received that kind of focused attention at a restaurant...ever.

From that moment on, I decided that the locals were going to decide my itinerary for the next day and a half.  I went to three restaurants and asked my server to write down 3 or 4 things I should do when I am in town and I decided that I would do a few from each list for the remainder of my stay.

I thanked my sweet waitress for the suggestions and headed out to find the blue hole (Well, AFTER I took a pit stop at Milk and Honey for an ice cream). I had a general idea on where to go, so I headed out.  Once I found the correct road and started seeing cars parked alongside that road, I knew I was in the right place.  From her description, I had a long hike in front of me so I asked a few locals there which direction to head and I began my hike towards their outstretched pointed finger.  About 45 minutes in, I started hearing people jumping into a swim hole and once I approached it, it was time to jump in! 

I love swimming holes and dogs so swimming with a dog at a swimming hole is the best! 

I love swimming holes and dogs so swimming with a dog at a swimming hole is the best! 

One of the best feelings in the world is taking a dip in a natural swimming hole.  I submerged myself in the warm water, found a shady spot, and starting watching the kids and dogs climb up and jump off boulders into the water.   I could stay and float in the water all night but I needed to hike back to the parking lot and leave before the 7pm gate closure.  

Dinner was at The Public House.  I was happy to find a place serving dinner late when I arrived.  The ambiance was romantic and friendly.  As with the Bluegrass Cafe’, my waitress was extremely friendly and was happy to write a list of local must do’s.  When I told her that I went to the blue hole a few hours earlier, her immediate response was, “how did you hear about that and how did you find it?”  From a local, of course. 

Day 2

Even though I took in the view from Rock City yesterday, I had to see it from Sunset Rock, which was another suggestion from a local.  However, there wasn’t any mention on the best place to park to get to the rock so after some website searching, I read that there was a trail from the Nature Center at the bottom of the mountain so I decided to take that trail.  To my surprise, I had the trail parking lot all to myself.  I headed up on the “Kiddie” trail that led into the “Gum” trail that lead to the final trail to Sunset Rock.  It was a little under two miles of ALL UPHILL trails.  This hike was very challenging especially when it’s hot and humid.  The most rewarding view of all is when you spend a great deal of time hiking to find it.  The cool breeze and forever views was the sweetest reward.  

This view was my reward after the uphill hike to get to Sunset Rock

This view was my reward after the uphill hike to get to Sunset Rock

After basking in the view for a few minutes, it was time to take the downhill hike back to the parking lot.  Next stop was the Hunter Museum of American Art.  Before I took a tour of the museum, I went for lunch at Rembrant’s in the Bluff View Arts District and for the last time I asked my server what to do.  Since I was downtown, I toured the museum, walked along the glass bridge and then the pedestrian bridge across to the northshore side of town.  That is where I had to stop and have a scoop of ice cream at clumpies.  This was a much welcomed treat after the long hike.  From local suggestions, I decided to take another quick trip to see another swimming hole, but this time with a waterfall.  

Underneath Foster Falls

Underneath Foster Falls

I arrived at Foster Falls that afternoon and what a treat that was!  I was so thrilled to jump in another local swimming spot and swim under the falls.  Just like the other hike and everywhere else I went, the locals were friendly and always saying hello with a smile.  I also noticed that everywhere I went was dog friendly.  I missed Max on my quick trip but it was nice to swim around with my new dog friends. 

That evening, I headed back to the Southside and had dinner at The Flying Squirrel.  I found myself gravitating more to the Southside of the city and enjoying all of the eclectic shops and historic architecture.  The open air restaurant/bar was the perfect setting for my last meal in Chattanooga.  

I didn’t know much about this city when I ventured out but after only a few days, I settled right in with the locals.  I am so glad that I was able to experience this amazing place, if only for a few days. If you want to see a city like the locals, be sure to ask your server where he/she goes for fun.  It turned out to be the best way to uncover Chattanooga.

Iceland

I never thought that a country would wow me as much as Iceland did.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life.  Granted, I’ve never been to Europe so this was my first time in this part of the world, but I have to say... it was love at first sight. 

Waking up to the sounds of glaciers grazing the rocks as they float by

Waking up to the sounds of glaciers grazing the rocks as they float by

I partnered with Camp Easy CamperVan rentals for the nine days I had in the country.  As much as I wanted to be present in the moment, each day had me wishing I had more time in the country.  Each day was a unique experience in every way.  Although I only had a little over a week, I decided to drive around the country on the ring road.  All of the travel books said you need at least 10 or more days and looking back, that would have been a bit easier to have more time but I am so glad I took that route.

Morning at the Blue Lagoon

Morning at the Blue Lagoon

My first stop was the very popular Blue Lagoon. Tourists come in bus loads so I wanted to be the first one there when it opened at 9am.  For anyone wanting to go and experience it with the least amount of people, I would recommend doing the same.  I have to say that the experience was surreal.  I’ve read so much about it and looked at photographs so actually being there to experience it was something I will never forget.

Once I soaked for a few hours, I started my journey on the ring road.  I didn’t prepare where to go or what to see.  I had a guide book that I would look at each day and look for some of the sights it mentioned.  Most of the time, I would drive and pull over if I saw something interesting.  Needless to say, I pulled over a lot.  

Icelantic horses greeting me as I passed by

Icelantic horses greeting me as I passed by

I soaked up the waterfalls towards the South.  I spent the night near one and woke up to an amazing sight without a tourist in sight.  Once you veer off the ring road, you are pretty much on your own and alone.  The further west I traveled, the less busses and tourists I saw.  Traveling in April, the weather was still cold but I had sunlight until around 9pm.  I came across the Glacier Lagoon and decided to stay overnight.  Hearing the seagulls while the sounds of ice crashing against each other was unreal.  Also, there were endless families of seals weaving in and out of the glaciers.  It was pure magic.

IMG_5099.JPG

I headed to the Western Fjords which was a sight to see.  I suppose I should just say that everything was amazing.  Once I turned the corner on the ring road to head back East, it got colder and a tricky windy unpaved road of snow kept my heart rate up.  That was the only time I kept thinking, “is this right?” “is this the main road?”  After about 40 minutes of steep incline of snowy road with no guardrail, I got to a valley of snow and at least I knew I wouldn’t slide off the side of the road.  The snowy hills went on forever without a human in sight. 

The next few days were spent exploring the North until I came around to the Peninsula on the west.  This area had to be my favorite.  Although, it’s difficult to choose a favorite experience.  The key to being able to travel during this time is heat in the van from Camp Easy. Having wifi was a huge bonus for directions and looking things up on the spot.  

If you want to visit Iceland, I would recommend booking one of the many different camper vans from Camp Easy.  Sure, you can stay at a hotel and take the huge tour bus to the few attractions nearby, but you won’t have the freedom to explore.  

As usual... my head in the clouds

As usual... my head in the clouds

It was an experience I will never forget. 

To see more images of my trip, follow me on Instagram

To book at camper van with CampEasy, click here or on the photo below

My camper van for the week. 

My camper van for the week. 

Spring Newsletter

Max finally got around to writing a newsletter with some information on what has been going on with us, as well as a teaser on what's to come.  If you didn't receive a copy in your email, you can check it out by clicking on the photo of Max below.  If you would like to get updates via email, subscribe below.  We can't wait to share with you what is coming up!

Start

At the end of each year, I usually recap what I've accomplished and do a blog summary, but this year, I want to look forward instead. I know it’s the yearly recap time with an overwhelming push to burden onself with self improvement lists.  Well, here’s another... 

I sat down and wrote a hand written list of things that I have done in my life that might be useful to you, as well as things that I want to start doing, or do more of.  It’s all positive stuff and even though it can be extremely difficult when you think of a huge end result, the key to remember is to START.  Believe me, I am far from perfect. Often, it takes everything I have to begin. This includes writing, working out, cleaning, etc.  Once I start, I don’t regret it.   It’s pretty self explanatory so take what you need (or what you’ve already been thinking of doing) and leave the rest.

  • Unsubscribe & Unfollow - If you add up all the time you spend deleting junk mail on your computer, you could have used that time for something productive.  Take one day and unsubscribe to all of the companies that send you email every day or every week.  Don’t worry, they will always be there when you think of them.  Also, unfollow people on facebook who put you in a bad mood.  That person you just thought of?  Yeah, them.
  • Unplug - Take a day each week to not look at the computer, phone or TV.  It might be hard to do but it slows you down and forces you to break your habits and try something new.
  • Read - Go to the library, it’s free.
  • Stop Caring What People Think  - It’s your life.  Do what YOU love.
  • Sign up for a class - Take the plunge and sign up for something you’ve always wanted to do.  Don’t just think of it, sign up and hold yourself accountable.
  • Get Outside
  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • get rid of clothes that you don’t wear - Who wants to go in a closet and be reminded of clothes they don’t fit into?  Stop beating yourself up and get rid of every item that doesn’t fit or make you feel good.
  • Clean something (sometimes this is where the great idea comes from)
  • Go to a museum and learn about a new artist
  • Eat what you have now. Don’t go to the grocery store until you’ve eaten everything you have in your home.
  • Compliment a stranger
  • Start journaling (even if you write, "I don't know what to write")
  • Drink Water
  • Stretch
  • Take a trip by yourself
  • Adopt a pet
  • Stop buying Start Giving
  • Take a small step - you know what you’ve been putting off (take a small step towards the goal)
  • Eliminate an animal from your diet
  • Cancel cable
  • Cook at home
  • Move more
  • Be Grateful for what you have

I suppose the underlining message is to simplify your life and be mindful.  It doesn't take a lot to feel good.  I never see anyone taking a hike with a frown on their face.  Sometimes, taking things away is what you've been needing. I hope you have a peaceful new year.  Do what you love.

Letting Go Of Things

A year ago today, I embarked on my dream trip of traveling New Zealand for three weeks to wander around in a camper van.  It was a gift to myself for my five year anniversary of not having a drink of alcohol. Today marks my sixth year.

Once I arrived in Auckland, I took a city bus to the camper van rental company to get a quick orientation of how to drive and camp (thank my lucky stars that someone finally told me how it's done).  Once I got the nerve to drive out of the lot on the left side of the street and made my way through the city on the left side, singing "left, left, left, left, stay left, stay left" out loud to myself, I finally came to a stop to get some gas and a bite to eat. 

My daily, "where should I go today" morning.

My daily, "where should I go today" morning.

When I returned to the van, a couple approached me to tell me that they saw two people break into my van.  I stepped closer to look in the window to see that everything was gone. Since I just arrived, I haven't unpacked so grabbing my large duffel and backpack was a snap to the thieves.  I stood there staring at the back seat thinking that it would magically appear again.  In my mind, I started thinking about what I had... my expensive camera, kindle (you know...in case nature gets boring and I need to read a book), all my clothing gear for all types of weather situations, and everything else I packed that I thought I needed to live in a borrowed van for three weeks.

So, exactly a year ago I was sitting on a patch of grass waiting for the police to show up and not really knowing what I would be doing next.  You never know exactly how it feels unless it happens to you, and for some strange reason, I wasn't upset.  I mean, how could I be? I was in New Zealand!  Even though my view consisted of cars coming in and out of the gas station, it didn't matter.  I was on an adventure and people taking all of my gear wasn't going to stop me from having fun.  I started appreciating things that perhaps I wouldn't have taken the time to notice.  A worker at the coffee shop saw me sitting on the grass and came over with a coffee and a lemon custard bar.  That was the best damn lemon bar and coffee I've ever had.

After I spent the entire day with the police officer going over what had happened, I spent the night in the parking lot at the police station and was finally on my way the next day... traveling LIGHT.  I stopped for a few essentials but I was fortunate to have grabbed my passport at the last second to put in my purse before I left the van at the gas station. 

Even though I wore the same clothes for the trip, it didn't matter.  I was seeing an amazing country and experiencing moments that perhaps I wouldn't have noticed before the robbery.  Stuff is just stuff and it can be replaced.  When I reflect back to my most treasured moments in life, it's not the outfit, camera or fancy shoes I remember.  It's the experience and the feeling.

I was lucky to have had my iPhone on me when the van was robbed.  I took a photo out of the van window at many of my stops to give the viewer a sense of what it's like to be there.  This is a sample of my "vanscape" series that I did on this trip.

I was lucky to have had my iPhone on me when the van was robbed.  I took a photo out of the van window at many of my stops to give the viewer a sense of what it's like to be there.  This is a sample of my "vanscape" series that I did on this trip.

Once I detach feelings and emotions from "stuff", it gets easier and easier to live on less.  To me, it's a freeing feeling to donate things and getting them out of my life and into someones else's. I have boxes of things that I've kept over the years and every time I see the boxes, I immediately feel overwhelmed, trapped and stuck.  Just by looking at stuff, I get that feeling.  It's been a constant job of mine to go through every box I have and get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose.  If I don't use it, it's easy to justify it by thinking it has meaning because, "my grandmother gave it to me."  The fact is, it doesn't matter.  Sure, good feelings are nice to have and of course memories are precious, but is it worth it to pack that item up and shove it in a corner to feel overwhelmed each time you look at the boxes? To me... no.  My memory of my grandmother is always with me and I can spend time reflecting on her whenever I want to.  

If you are young, now is the time to stop.  Stop collecting things and putting them in boxes to carry to your next home.  If you use it, great.  If not, donate it.  You'll thank me later, trust me.  

Walking on a swing bridge in New Zealand.  Something I thought I would never do since I am afraid of heights.

Walking on a swing bridge in New Zealand.  Something I thought I would never do since I am afraid of heights.

My Favorite Travel Apps

When I first hit the road in 2008, I relied on a paper map which didn't always take me to the safest places.  I have some great stories as a result, but now it's so much easier to find places and get directions with your iPhone.  I've been asked what my favorite apps are so I thought I would put together a few of them and share with you.  All of these apps are just my personal favorites and I am not affiliated with any of these companies.  Click on the name to learn more.

Instagram

My all time favorite.  I love to see what other road warriors are up to and for me, it's like an inspiration pin board that's always changing.

ALLSTAYS Camp & RV

This is my go to app for camping.  When I am tired of driving and want to know where to camp, I pull this out to see where the closest camp is, how much it is, what it looks like, reviews, etc. I have found many free campsites on here as well.

VSCOcam

It's my favorite photo editing software for my iPhone photos. It takes a drab image and makes it sparkle!  There are several palates to choose from that will suit your style.

Diptic

A fun way to put several photos together.  Here's Max enjoying the off leash experience in Utah.  I took the images with my iPhone and uploaded them to the Diptic app.


Mint

I'm spending how much on gas?  If you want to see where you're spending your money, view bills coming up, and budget your adventure, Mint can do that for you.  

GoPro

How do I get the shots when I am so far away?  Here's my secret... I use the GoPro app on my phone so I can set up my camera, walk far away and see where I am in the shot.  Mystery solved!

Postagram

The best way to send a personal postcard all from your phone!  Snap a photo with your iPhone, load it on to the app, put in an address and just like that, you sent a postcard.  Everyone loves getting postcards and it's even more special since you can pop the image out and pin it on your wall or fridge at home.  Parents and grandparents will appreciate you thinking of them on your trip.

Videoshop

I have only scratched the surface on this app, but what I've seen so far, I like.  Here's a time-lapse I took of Max in the back of Campy as we drive through Joshua Tree.

Photoblend

Here's a fun way to create double exposures with your images.   This image was taken on Valentine's Day.  This couple came together and looked at the ocean but at different times.  I photographed them individually and put them together as if they were enjoying the view together.

Movefone

When I am not in the middle of nowhere, I enjoy going to the movies.  This app tells you what is playing near you, wherever you are.

Roadside America

Where is that big ball of string or the giant picnic basket?  You can find fun and interesting attractions that are nearby from this app.

Reserve America

There are times where you can't just show up and get a campsite. Some places are known to sell out fast so you might want to see what is available (or not) before you head out.

Pandora

I took most of my music off of my phone so I can take more photos.  Pandora is a must for me when I am driving all day.  There is a monthly fee to use the service.

InstaSize

Sometimes I don't want to crop an image to a square for Instagram and InstaSize comes in handy for that.  It will post your full image photos without needing to crop.

There you have it.  Some of my go to apps when I am on the road.  What are your favorites?

 

My Favorite Campsites

How do I even begin to list my favorite places to camp?  Well, more importantly...how do I even remember the places I've camped to even compile a list? 

The good news about blogging and now, Instagram is that you can look back and remember places you've been.  Now the kiddos must be thinking, how can I forget?  Well, just wait... give it time... so... what was I saying?  Anyway, yes...a list... 

As with my favorite places list, this is all subjective and I am sure I may have left out a few places by forgetting or just by keeping it a secret. How does a campsite become a favorite?  It's a feeling I have at the time of arrival and throughout the stay.  Top things that make me enjoy a camp are courteous neighbors, no neighbors, dog friendly, view friendly, and bonus points for it being free, having water, showers and reception.  The recipe is tricky and varies at each place.  What is important to me in a camp might not be that important to you.   In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:

Gooseneck State Park, Utah

I've been here twice in six years and both times was pleasant.  The second time (Feb, 2015), I had the park to myself.  Just me and a herd of cows that walked by in the morning. The nights are dark, the stars are bright and the sound is deafening. You are camping on the edge without a guardrail or an assigned platform.  It's just you and the view.  There are around 10 sites with benches and campfire rings, but I believe you can camp on the edge further down the road. $10 with vault toilets.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Dirty Devil Primitive Campground, Lake Powell, Utah

As with most places I am listing here, I stumbled on this one by accident.  I was touring Natural Bridges National Park.  When their 10 site campground was full, I kept moving on highway 12 to find another spot.  I drove for quite a ways looking into other areas in Glen Canyon but when I stumbled upon this primitive camp, I knew it was the one.  You can park anywhere (be careful of drop offs) you can drive.  I had this area all to myself and it was one of the most amazing camps I've ever had.  I believe it was 5 or 10 dollars with vault toilets.

Kirk Creek, Big Sur

Here's a site that's right on the bluff in Big Sur.  For $25 a night, you have a private ocean view.  Most of the campsites have an ocean view since they are stacked.  If you know you will be going, I would suggest making reservations in advance, since it usually fills up fast. There is a walkway to the water but depending on the weather and conditions, it may or may not be open. Also, there is no reception so prepare for that.  It's a nice getaway with an ocean view for $25.  Pit toilets.  Oh yeah, if you want to keep your food be sure to pack it up or the raccoons will be happy to pack it up for you.

South Beach Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington

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One of the few places where you can camp so close to the water in the National Park.  I believe it was $10.  In the summer, it fills up fast.  I was lucky to get a spot when the northern Kalaloch camp was full.  It's a self serve station where you grab a slip, find a spot, pay and put your slip on the board.  During busy times, you will see people standing (or lurking) around the board around 11:00am at checkout waiting for someone to leave.  Listening to the waves as you fall asleep has to be one of my favorite things in the world.

San Juan County Park Campground, San Juan Island, Washington

Driving your van on the ferry to Friday Harbor from Anacortes is half the fun.  I went without a reservation in August (I do not recommend) and was lucky enough to get a spot.  It fills up fast and I am sure it's already booked as I type this but you never know.  I usually never make reservations and have only been turned down a handful of times in 8 years.  It was raining when I was there so that could have helped me to secure a spot.  The sunsets are amazing and overall, the island is something to see.  

Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida

Max loved it here. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay over $30 for an amazing spot.  The beaches along Florida's panhandle are simply amazing.  The sand squeaks as you walk in it and you have miles and miles of white sand to explore.  Dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park, but you can find areas along the shore where they are welcome.  Max loved the beaches here. 

Bahia Honda State Park, The Keys, Florida

This is the closest state park to key west and trust me, it's popular.  I was lucky to grab a spot by showing up early the same day and waiting in the lobby for the ranger to come in at 11am to grant me a spot.  However, you can avoid the "please let me get a spot, I beg of you, please..." method and book online. If you want to splurge and pitch your tent right on the water (picture shown above), fork over $80 to stay at Boyd's.  Yes, it was the most expensive spot I've ever had in my life but waking up in a tent as if you're floating on water...well, it was pretty amazing.  Both Bahia Honda and Boyd's have showers.  Bahia is $38.50.  Oh yeah, the trip is not complete until you eat a key lime pie slice dipped in chocolate on a stick.  You're welcome.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

There is nothing like the feeling of driving on sand.  At first, I was a little nervous since campy is so heavy and the last thing I want is to be stuck in the sand. It's like you are floating on air.  On top to that great feeling, you can camp on the beach.  For $8 or less, there is a dedicated campground or if you dare, you can stay overnight right on the sand.  It gets windy so be sure to check the weather before you go.  You know, to avoid any hurricanes and stuff like that.  Just so you know, there's a reason why all the homes in the area are built on stilts. 

Clam Beach County Park, Trinidad California

I've stayed here a few times for good reason.  It's only $10, miles of beach to yourself, dogs are allowed and it's right at the gateway to the Redwoods. There are only a few sites and it's pretty much a parking lot but you can't beat the price for the area.  Once you head north, camping will cost $35 at the state and national parks.  Don't get me wrong, those are beautiful and a must see but this camp is a good place to stop and get a nice sunset walk in and sleep before you head up the coast.  Max loves running for miles here.  

Arches National Park - Devil's Garden Campground

Well, it looks like I was lucky a year or so ago when I stayed here.  I just looked online and you now need to make a reservation prior to even showing up.  I went in the winter and was able to get a walk in site so that's always an option.  Anyway, you really can't get a bad spot at this campsite.  For $20, you will wake up to miles and miles of beautiful rock formations.  So many hikes and arches to explore.  If you can't get a camping spot here, there are sites along the river in Moab.  Sometimes those fill up so maybe your best bet is to reserve a room at motel 6 just in case.  Or, you can go during the off season and have the park to yourself.  

Pinyon Flats Campground - Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Amazing views for miles and you can literally walk for miles in the dunes directly from your campsite.  Max and I went in the winter so you can imagine it was pretty cold but I would recommend going when it's on the cooler sand for both your feet and your dog's paws.  Unlike White Sands in New Mexico, this sand will get HOT.  You can't go wrong with any site at this campground.  All have amazing views. No showers, but flush toilets.  $20.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Do yourself a favor and get out of the casinos and take a short drive to Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park.   The park is beautiful with red rocks as far as the eyes can see.  Max and I have been here a few times when the weather was cool (highly recommend) to their off season of the summer months (only for those who like to suffer). The good news is that there is drinking water and showers.  Every campsite is roomy with hikes and places to explore right from your leased patch of land.

Well there you have it!  My top 10... I mean 11 favorite campsites.  Did you see I went to 11?  

Of course I have to give you a disclaimer that this is in no way the ONLY campsites to enjoy or that are great.  As with my favorite places, it's just a list that came to me from the top of my head as I write it. I am sure after I click, "publish" I will think of another.  I will just have to keep updating it.  Now go out and make some reservations if you want a guaranteed spot!  Where is your favorite spot?

Max and I enjoying the sunset at White Sands National Monument.  - Listed in our favorite places blog

Max and I enjoying the sunset at White Sands National Monument.  - Listed in our favorite places blog