Month: September 2016

The Good Life

The good life isn’t always the easy life.

After deciding to take off for a year and embarking on our journey, things have been fantastic. We have visited 17 states and 6 countries. We have had great food, enjoyed amazing music, hung out with the locals and ventured into some of the best sceneries mother nature has to offer.
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But lest you sit there thinking to yourself how easy we have it just know the good life isn’t always the easy life. Things don’t always go as expected. You are sometimes thrown curve balls and you have to learn to be far more flexible than an 8-5 weekend get away would have you be.

For instance, our first volunteer position was delayed due to our axle catching on fire the day before we were due to arrive. We were stuck in a no-where town for two days in a hotel we were not expecting to pay for, and a repair that cut into an already tight budget. But nonetheless, we arrived in South Carolina and gave our all with some slight adjustments.
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Another fine example would be our month in Yellowstone. We arrived expecting to find water hookups and a solar generator. What we found was slightly different. We had a solar trickle charger for a dead battery and a gravity-fed water spigot 50 feet from our door. This meant carrying pots of water and making a three-hour drive to Bozeman, MT for a new battery.

It turned out to be one of my favorite weekends and made for a chance to not only visit a town I have long wanted to explore, but also discover a new gem in Red Lodge, MT.

Our fridge and heater decided to stop working in 30-degree weather and our water pump decided to start leaking, but then I walk out of my camper at 9:30 at night and the little dipper is greeting me brighter than the sun on a cloudy day and the Milky Way is glimmering magnificently. We hike Mystic Falls and the landscape that unfolds is a river within a golden field within a green backdrop, almost appearing as a river within a river, and everything is worth every penny pinching, camper mishappening, plan changing that brought us here.
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No, the good life is not always the easy life, but then again I’m spending a month in Yellowstone and can’t imagine it could be any better any other way.

The Teton Redemption

Yellowstone, like all of our adventures so far, is off to a rough start.

We’ve been posted at the Lewis Lake Campground in south Yellowstone for nearly two weeks with no running water, no electricity and a poor septic hookup. And to top it off our heater, fridge, water pump and battery died within the first week.

Despite our best efforts to be comfortable, things are far from perfect.

Mornings are the worst. The camper gets so cold overnight — we can’t leave the portable heater on while we sleep — that everything inside the camper is covered in condensation. The lighters that we need to boil water for coffee don’t work because they’re drenched. The ceiling leaks on the bed. Water runs down the glass of the windows and mirrors soaking everything they touch. And I’m not a morning person, which just adds to the challenge.

It was miserable… but then I discovered the Grand Tetons.

tetons394hdrThe fall colors are at their peak. The jagged mountains dominate the landscape. The water is clear and deep blue. Grand Teton National Park exceeded my expectations.

And the stars… you’ve never seen so many stars. The Milky Way is vivid and spectacular. Shooting stars are impossible to miss. The big dipper is brighter than before.

One look at that Teton perfection and the camper feels a little warmer; inconveniences are less of a hassle; and frustrations fade. I’m reminded what this year is about. I found redemption.

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Grand Teton is officially my favorite national park, so far. What’s yours and why? Comment below. I love hearing from you guys. And thanks for reading.

The Scotland Four

We recently took a detour from our USA road trip to visit our brothers and sisters across the pond. We flew the night flight to Iceland and then on to France. Once in the mainland we spent about nine days touring France, Luxemburg, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands. Although I want to tell you about the other nine days of our trip in Scotland, let me say that if you love canal cities, old architecture and great conversation in the local pubs Bruges, Belgium is a must visit and ranks at the top of my list.

After a couple days in Amsterdam we caught a flight to Scotland where we met some dear friends of ours from Denver to do a four-day hike in the Highlands and spend a few days roaming Edinburgh and Glasgow.

We made our way to Tendrum where we stayed in a hostel, which was a first for me. Tendrum was a neat little town with a few hotels, a couple places to eat, and a great starting point for our next four days and 44ish miles.

We were about to embark on a four-day hike in which a company would transport our bags from one hotel/hostel to the next and we simply had to pack a sack lunch, rain gear and bug spray (which we didn’t) and take off to our next location. We hiked seven miles, 12 miles, nine miles and 16 miles. A big portion of this trek was in the rain, but honestly the view and the company made it all worth the weather and the attacking midges (a hybrid fly-flea-mosquito-demon dragon sort of thing). However, at the end of each rainy day, we had a bed, food and drink waiting to greet us.

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One of the highlights of the four days was the Bridge of Orchy. This day also happened to be Jared’s and my birthday. This was one of the nicest places to stay and we enjoyed some good food (haggis), good drinks and the girls surprised us with a cake, which the waiter delivered as he sang to us. The four of us quickly devoured the majority of the cake. Okay in all honesty, the girls had a couple bites and we ate the rest.

picmonkey-collageThe hiking was great and we saw some fantastic sites, including a summit with views of the Glencoe mountains, the rain forest just before Fort William and the old military road, which a portion of our hike was devoted to. There were several streams, lakes, mountain peaks, sheep and old, abandoned farms.

wp_20160906_10_29_57_proAlthough I would not necessarily say this hike was for a beginner, I would also say you do not need to be an expert. This is a trip that I would highly recommend and a great way to ease into a multiday hiking trip. Just be sure to take your rain gear and your midge spray.

Dreaming of Bruges

Wednesday marks one week in Yellowstone and it’s been a rough seven days.

Everything in the Tin Can is busted. We can’t use our fridge, heater or bathroom for the next month. Running water is limited and the pit toilets in our campground are already getting old.

Despite today’s amazing weather, we’ve had a lot of rain, sleet, a little hail and freezing temperatures overnight. It’s going to be a challenging month to say the least, so I’m taking a break from reality and returning to the fantasy land of Bruges.

I have been to Europe a handful of times now and it is always difficult to pinpoint my favorite spot from each trip. But not this time.

Bruges, Belgium is a dreamland of canals lined with colorful, ornate old buildings dripping in architectural details. Every street, every building, every rusty bike and flower box and archway was picture-perfect.

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I ogled Michelangelo’s “Madonna and Child” in the Church of Our Lady and stared at a vial that supposedly contains Christ’s blood at the Basilica of the Holy Blood.

This guy guards the vial with his life.
This guy guards the vial with his life.

I’m not typically a waffle-lover but I could live on (melt in your mouth, unbelievably delicious) Belgian waffles.

And the beer. The house triple at De Garre was awesome and, according to the bartender, cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world.

We shared our table with a Belgian couple that has visited the bar for that triple every night for 40 years. We talked politics and travel with three British gents and swapped Colorado stories with an Indian couple from Colorado Springs at the table across the way. We made room for the Austrian biker and his Brazilian friend who showed up looking for seats and beer recommendations.

This is why I travel.

I will be back to Bruges, but for now, when I’m cold and wet and frustrated with our 50-year-old tin can in Yellowstone, I will dream Belgian fantasies of the colorful square, beer and waffles.

Experiences are what matter most whether it’s Yellowstone or Bruges. I will appreciate the lessons I learn here one day, hopefully soon.

Baggage abroad

Somehow I managed to pack 18 days worth of clothes, shoes and toiletries (that covered everything from hiking in the rain to nice dinners) into my 50-liter backpack and only a book, camera and journal in a small daypack. But when I finally arrived in Paris on August 23 I quickly realized it was not the luggage that was weighing on my tense shoulders. It was my emotional baggage.

img_4693It was a long travel day getting to Paris. Following two flights and about 30 minutes of sleep in a 36-hour period I was cranky. Now, we were finally in Paris and I was hunched over holding my Osprey pack on my back while balancing my daypack on my chest in a non-air conditioned train during a freak Paris heat wave.

We arrived at our Airbnb to find a filthy studio (also with no air conditioning and a broken fan). UGH. I was over it, but with only 48 hours in Paris there was no time to waste or waller.

I changed into the only pair of shorts I packed since the heat wave was much warmer than anticipated and we immediately hit the crepe stand below our studio. It took only one bite of that scrumptious treat for me to turn my attitude upside down.

These spouts of grumpiness returned a handful of times during my trip. They didn’t often linger long but here I am in the middle of a travel year and I am in Europe with my best friend: What the hell did I have to be grumpy about?

Looking back on the trip as we prepare for our next adventure in Yellowstone, I’m realizing, once again, that I have a lot to learn and traveling is going to push me to my limits. It turns out this is one of my favorite things about traveling.

For me traveling has always been about personal growth and, this year, about growing with James. Before our yearlong adventure began, I imagined that would be learning about and accepting other cultures and opinions and becoming more open-minded. Yes, that is a huge part of the travel-learning experience, but now I am looking forward to the personal challenges that the rest of the year brings.

It seems this will be the next step in finding out who I am and testing myself in ways I could never imagine. Traveling has already tested me physically, emotionally and mentally. It is challenging my marriage, my views, my plans for the future and I already feel stronger than I did before.

I am surprising myself every week. A year ago, hiking in the rain would have been miserable, but now it is one of my favorite travel experiences of all time. I would have never imagined living in a 23-foot camper would be doable or even fun but off to Yellowstone I go.

I told James before our trip began that I felt like preparing for our yearlong adventure was “too easy.” I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be tested and to have to sacrifice for this amazing opportunity. Well, be careful what you wish for. Today, I heed the challenges and I am so excited about the new “adventures” (this is how James and I have been referring to the struggles of our trip) and new lessons I will learn and the growth that will take place because of them.

{"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3,"deviceTilt":0.01796901784837246,"customExposureMode":0,"extendedExposure":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"focusMode":0}Because I know you’re anxiously awaiting more detail about our European adventures — I’m working on photos from our trip now so keep an eye out on Instagram and Facebook for those and an upcoming blog post!

What do you find most challenging about travel? Please comment below. I love hearing from you guys!