16 Trips of 2016

I thought I dropped the ball when it came to travel over the past year. But after doing the near-mandatory end-of-year reflection that we should all do, I discovered that I did go on quite a few fun adventures. I may not have blogged about all these trips (hmm… maybe a New Year’s Resolution?), but I did spend the year doing other projects that cut into my time on this blog. I’m especially grateful that 2016 brought me a new car to take my adventures in, as well as a variety of jobs to keep them funded. So without further ado, here are 16 trips I took in 2016.

1. Festival of Trees

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This is actually a nearby annual event held in Medford, Oregon, but something I never got to see before. I was hoping to go on some sort of Christmas trip this December, such as going to the coast to see the light displays, but I also wanted to use my funds to buy some nice Christmas gifts. I was pleased to find out that the Magdalene Home got tickets to the Festival of Trees’ Night of Giving, and especially pleased that it fell on a night that I worked! So I ended up getting to see some beautifully decorated trees and doing some fun Christmas activities… and getting paid to do it!

2. Wilderness Trails

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I got to go to Wilderness Trails twice in 2016: Once for Valentine’s Day weekend, and again in October. (As you’ll see below, this is one of several trips I took more than once!) This was a mountain trip that I spent $0 to take. 2016 was definitely a year of budget travel for me, but no money doesn’t mean no fun! I went for free because I was volunteering as a leader for girls’ camps. We stayed in the lodge, played in the snow, and did fun camp-style activities. I was actually planning to go to Wilderness Trails for their open house today, but unfortunately I was struck with the flu a couple days ago and still need to recover from that. But with a work schedule change, I am planning to attend more camps next year!

3. WWII Valor in the Pacific Site

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In Northern California (and I mean REALLY northern, so far north that Oregon is only a couple miles away) lies the remains of a Japanese segregation camp from WWII. The National Parks Service now hosts Camp Tulelake as well as a nearby museum. I went to the museum in August, and stopped by the camp in September. This WWII Valor in the Pacific site is also just down the road from one of my most-visited 2016 destinations…

4. Lava Beds National Monument

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This spot has become my favorite getaway- I visited Lava Beds three times in the past year! The first was actually a spontaneous trip. My friend and I were planning a trip to the coast, but when I picked her up that morning, we changed our minds to take advantage of the free National Parks admission day. In fact, I went to quite a few National Parks Sites this year, and all of them were free either because I went on a fee-free day, or they were always free. I got more skilled at spelunking through the lava tubes with each subsequent trip. The second time I brought a helmet, and the third time, I attached a headlamp to that helmet. And although I visited during three different seasons, inside the caves, I enjoyed the same temperature year-round. I even got to spend the night at the campground on one of my visits, which was a good use of my new car and new hammock!

5. Table Rock

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I didn’t get to hike up Table Rock as much as I would have like to in 2016, but perhaps that’s something I can change in 2017. But I do love living in an area where I can see this marvelous natural feat every day! The strenuous hike up is a good workout, and is rewarded by a bird’s eye valley view at the top!

6. Crater Lake National Park

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I also got to visit this National Park three times in 2016, and each time was like visiting a new place! The only thing that was the same was the deep blue lake. During my visit in April, it was actively snowing. I only got to see the lake for a few minutes total because the fog kept it well-hidden. The second visit in August was completely clear. We drove around the lake and hiked some forest trails. The road around the lake closed up by November because the snow was back. Because the snow season just started, though, there was less of a pile-up. I also brought kids with me this time, so the highlight was playing in the winter wonderland.

7. Lassen National Volcanic Park and the Pacific Crest Trailimg_20160826_135223

Thanks to the movie “Wild”, the popularity of the PCT has increased in the past couple years. I actually didn’t see this movie until just a couple of weeks ago when I borrowed it from the library, but I knew early in the year that 2016 was the year I wanted to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail. (Just a day hike, though!) I assumed I would be hiking in Ashland, the closest PCT access point from my home. But as summer wore on, that didn’t happen. Finally, in late August, I took advantage of the National Parks Service’s 100 birthday and took a road trip to National Parks Sites with free admission that weekend. This was my first visit to Lassen National Volcanic Park, and I loved seeing the centerpiece volcano and the up-close volcanic activity. But the highlight was discovering that the PCT went through this park. Although it was a long hike just to get out to the PCT, I was glad to have that accomplished.

 

8. Sundial Bridge

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After visiting relatives in Northern California, I made sure to stop in two places that I always try to visit when driving through California: Corning’s The Olive Pit, and Redding. I like Redding because of its iconic Sundial Bridge. (It’s also home to Bethel Church, which I’ve never been to but think I should go sometime in 2017!) It was just after nightfall by the time I got there, which rendered the sundial pretty useless, but it was beautifully lit up. I accidentally visited the Sundial Bridge later that month. I didn’t expect my route home from Lassen to go through Redding, but when my GPS took me there anyway, I decided to stop by. Since it was earlier in the evening, this time I got to see more of Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

9. Rosie the Riveter

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To be honest, I didn’t know this place in Riverside, California existed until shortly before I left on this trip. I still didn’t even know what to expect until I showed up. But since I was trying to collect as many National Park Site passport stamps as I could in 2016, I decided to stop by. It’s unusual to drive up to an industrial center to visit a National Park Site! But this is one of the locations that so many “Rosies” of WWII worked. They even had some real-life “Rosies” there the day I visited!

10. San Francisco

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This was my “big” destination of the year! San Francisco is one of the closest major cities to my home, yet I had never been there before (unless you count a layover in the airport and seeing the tiny Golden Gate Bridge from my airplane window). I rode the cable car, saw the houses from Full House and Mrs. Doubtfire, walked around the piers and Fisherman’s Wharf, drove and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, went to the Walt Disney Family Museum, and visited all of the National Parks Sites!

11. Point Reyes National Seashoreimg_20160802_083213

My summer beach trip ended up being the chilliest trip of the whole year! I’m glad I decided to spend a night here before heading into San Francisco, even though I never knew this giant seashore existed before planning my city trip. I drove out to the famous Point Reyes lighthouse, stayed in the hostel, and walked barefoot in the sand.

12. Avenue of the Giants

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This was another close-to-home destination I had never experienced before! The night before, I drove south through Redwoods National Park, and stopped at Trees of Mystery to see their Paul Bunyan and Babe statues. (I didn’t actually tour the Trees of Mystery, but for Christmas I got my entire family tickets to this attraction, so that’s something that will definitely be done in 2017!) Then I spent the night in my car at a casino parking lot that offered free camping. That allowed me a full day to leisurely drive through the Avenue of the Giants and stop at each kitschy tourist trap. I drove through tree trunks, sat in the living room of a house made of one giant log, and even enjoyed the natural aspects of redwoods with a free tour at Humboldt State Park.

13. Southern California
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With most of my relatives living in Southern California, I’m actually kind of surprised that I only ended up there once in 2016. But my cousin did have a beautiful wedding in Dana Point, followed by a fun reception in Newport Beach. My mom flew down early to help my grandma pack and prepare to move later in the year, but since my dad and I only drove down there on an extended weekend, we unfortunately didn’t have much time to enjoy the area, not even this gorgeous beach that we could see from the wedding locale. Still a very worthwhile trip!

14. Golden Ghost Town

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There were a couple of weeks when I went to training classes in Grants Pass. I tried to take advantage of the longer commute by exploring the area around it. I visited a few historical places, the highlight being the ghost town of Golden, Oregon. The buildings are adorable, the historical markers are informative, and the surrounding area is beautiful and full of God’s creation!

15. Wildlife Safari

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Last Christmas, I got my sister two tickets to Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. In March, she decided to use them for a sister outing. It was a little scary to see giant beaks near my new car! It’s been years since I last went to Wildlife Safari, and this was the first time I could remember when we were allowed to open the windows and interact with most of the animals. Of course we enjoyed plenty of other things on this daycation!

16. Gold Beach

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February doesn’t sound like a good time of year to go to the Oregon coast, but Gold Beach has a good way to bring tourists in. Each year from February through April, volunteers hide glass floats along the coastline for a treasure hunt. If you find one, you get to keep it! It was a new experience for both me and the friend I took, but I think it’s something I’ll be doing for years to come.

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There were more adventures that 2016 involved, like seeing Franklin Graham in Salem, hiking to the Bigfoot Trap, Cipher Hunting, several trips to Jacksonville and Ashland, and perhaps a few trips that have currently slipped my memory. To get more ideas for past and future adventures, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

If you liked this post, check out the one I wrote exactly one year ago.

 

Why Do People Love Snow Holidays?

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My snow destination of choice is often Crater Lake National Park. It can be done as a day trip from my home, and snow is plentiful for most of the year. In fact, my most recent trip was a snow day at Crater Lake! My next snow trip will be to Wilderness Trails at the end of the month.

If you have never taken a proper ski holiday, it’s still time to experiment, and hopefully not break a leg! The heart of Europe – France, Italy, Austria and much more – has a tradition of amazing, snow-covered ski stations in which most of the population will spend at least a week every year. As the Brexit deal is not packed yet, it is still time to fly across and enjoy a proper snow holiday in the centre of one of Europe’s touristic ski stations. Don’t worry, if you are a beginner. There is definitely something for everyone, and that’s exactly why ski breaks are a favourite for many.

There Is Snow Everywhere And The Shops Are Still Open

Ski stations have one advantage over the British towns: They are not only used to snow, but they are also designed exactly for it. So, even though there may be a metre of lovely, white powder snow all over the mountain and in front of your charming wooden chalet, the roads are clear, and you can walk without risking to break a leg on the pavement. It goes even better: All the shops are open! You won’t need to survive on two packs of dried noodles. In ski stations, the snow doesn’t stop anything from working, and that is a real change. People are hyper-relaxed about it. In short, spending a week in a station will reconcile you with snow and all the logistic troubles that you might be used to associate with it.    

Snow Makes People Happy

The world is full of universal truths that help us in a day-to-day life, such as a warm cup of tea solves everything, it won’t rain if you take an umbrella with you, and snow makes everyone happy. It’s human: As soon as there is snow, people become more playful. Whether it’s a giant snowman, or a day out on skis, there is always a way to enjoy a good snow holiday, depending on what you feel more confident doing. One thing is for sure, though; the entire family will end up with the broadest grin ever on their faces. So, book a little piece of happiness for you and your family next year, with family snow holidays in Sweden, for example, or a rustic chalet in the Alps!

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There Is Always Plenty To Do For Everyone

You may be a born skier, and in that case you will consider ski stations as a giant playground. But you don’t need to love skiing to have fun in the snow! There are plenty of snow-based activities that don’t require a pair of skis, such as ice-skating, snow racket hiking (or snowshoeing for the experts), snow bike exploration, or simply enjoying a peaceful walk outside before a warm hot chocolate at the local café! You will always find something to do, so there’s no need to ditch the snow holiday with the excuse that you can’t ski. Besides, you will find sufficient ski classes for beginners to give it a good start anyway!

Better Together: Why You Should Try A Group Holiday

It’s funny we spend all our childhoods with our mothers telling us don’t talk to strangers and now we’re advocating that you travel with a bunch of them! We know it sounds a little strange that a fully grown adult, with plenty of holidays under their belts, would want to tie themselves to people they’ve never met in a country they’ve never been to before. However, hear us out because we think you’ll change your mind!

 

You Can Never Make Too Many Friends

There are the standard ways of making friends, such as at school, college and at work and then there are more unique meetings such as through social media, work away days and even on planes! Human beings are very social creatures, and we love sharing our experiences with our friends, getting advice and just hanging out chatting about nothing. On a group holiday, you get the chance to make a whole bunch of brand new friends! You’ll share funny stories, visit unique places together and learn from each other’s experiences. One of the best things about group holidays is when you’re back home again, and you get together, it’s only a matter of minutes before one of your tour mates brings up something that’ll have you all reminiscing for hours!

First Times Feel More Magical

One of the reasons we travel in the first place is to share our adventures with other people, get out of our comfort zone and immerse ourselves in a country’s culture. Trying something new, overcoming a fear or fulfilling a lifelong dream is fantastic, but discovering these things as a group instantly bonds you together with the way very few other experiences can. Once you’ve all tried exotic new foods, gone dancing at a local bar or survived a trek through a creepy crawly filled rainforest there’s very little you’ll feel unable to share with the group.

Your Leader Has All The Responsibilities

Where to go? What to see? How to get there? On a group holiday, none of that is your problem as a carefully planned, yet incredibly exciting itinerary has already been mapped out. Your only job is to make sure you don’t lose everyone, easily done when inside a large temple, get back to coach on time and have the best tour possible! If you find you want to do something last minute or have seen something not on the list but that you think the group could enjoy then your leader can make these things possible, if there’s time. Many leaders of hosted travel tours have spent considerable periods of time in that country; they know the cool places to go as well as the main sites and can communicate with the locals for you.

 

See The World Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Not everyone shares the same opinions, and it can be refreshing to meet someone who’s viewpoint challenges your own. Learning from others gives us the chance to expand our knowledge and broaden our horizons. It’s much better to have an animated, interesting discussion over cocktails than reading alone at your hotel.

 

Find A Job That Allows You To Live – And To See The World!

When thinking of the main things that people complain about in this day and age, our jobs are typically at the top of the list. If we could change one thing about our life, it’s usually job-related. It may be that we find ourselves working too-long hours. It may be that the workload of the job is too hectic, or that we are expected to do things not in the job description. It may be that you never have time off, which for a travel junkie is always distressing.

Of course, employment is a trade-off. The people who genuinely enjoy their work are in the minority. It’s hard to pin down exact numbers, but some surveys say that as few as 13% of workers worldwide are happy to go to work. We do it because that’s how we earn money – and can thus afford to travel like we want to. If you also enjoy your job, then that really is a bonus. What you need to focus on is work-life balance. You need to have time for other things.

You may not walk into the office with a broad smile on your face and enthusiasm for what’s ahead. But if the job is more than tolerable and you have the chance to chat with co-workers, it undeniably makes things better. You can then get home and chill, rather than simply recovering.

Librarian: Built-In Peace And Quiet

One thing that makes many jobs so stressful is a noisy, chaotic environment. In some jobs, you have people shouting at you on the phone. In others, you’re in an office full of people raising their voices to be heard. In a library, it’s just the opposite. It’s not a job without pressure – libraries need to meet budgets and are often subject to theft. But you can come home at the end of a day and relax a lot quicker. It’s also a job with quiet moments where you can plan, and read up about, forthcoming trips.

Administrative Work: Having Control Of Your Workload

Admin is an essential part of ensuring an office functions. One could not argue that it is without pressure and targets. However it is one of the increasingly few jobs where you clock in in the morning and out at night, and face little demand from the public. Companies often need seasonal admin cover, so if you have something you want to save for, a few months’ admin work can help.

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Many applicants discover Admin Clerk vacancies are the best way to control their workload. The pressures are mostly internal and, as long as you stick to the correct procedures, the job gets easier. There is also a lot of opportunity for advancement.

Hairdressing: Unleash Your Creative Side

A record number of jobs these days are in call-centers that can feel like a mental treadmill. Your interaction with the public is limited to apologizing and finding solutions within a narrow remit. Every day is the same, and your chances to broaden your mind are non-existent.

In a job like hairdressing or make-up artistry, you have the opportunity to speak to happier people and do something imaginative. Yes, you have to be on your feet a lot, and you’ll still have some annoyed customers. But it is a job where you can breathe and be yourself. Once you’ve got some experience under you, you can take it anywhere with you, too.

If you’re looking for a job to lessen the stress and improve your work-life balance, then the above are some options. There are others – just remember the focus is on a job you can leave behind at the end of the day.

 

Gappers’ Delight: Things To Do If You’re Considering Taking A Year Out

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You’ve finished university. What next? Do you slip into ennui, applying for jobs every day and doubting yourself more and more each time your application is rejected? Or do you travel the world? Find yourself, learn new languages, meet new people and return to the job market with experience and a more positive outlook. We know which option we’d go for. We’d recommend around a year out to fully experience world travel in true backpacking style. So here are a few things to consider before you take the ultimate gap yah.

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Where Do You Want To Go?

The world is your oyster, so pick wisely. You won’t be able to go everywhere as you’re realistically going to have time restrictions and financial limits. But this doesn’t mean you can only go down the road for a couple of weeks. Consider the places and sights you’d like to visit the most. Popular destinations include: Thailand, Peru, Australia, South America, Australia and South Africa. Wherever you choose, make sure you have a full plan of everything you want to see and do while you’re there. Make a checklist and form some sort of itinerary. Stick to this itinerary and you won’t feel like you’ve missed out on any potential experiences.

Where Are You Going To Stay?

Accommodation can make or break a trip. If you’re travelling far and wide, the cheapest option is hostels. However these can have notoriously bad reputations. Some rooms have multiple beds and both you and your belongings will be in reaching distance of strangers. If this doesn’t sound up your street, budget hotels for travellers might suit you better. Check out reviews of where you’re planning on staying before you book. Cleanliness and hygiene should be top priority. Try to get rooms with safes or safety boxes for your passport and travel documents.

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Who Are You Going To Go With?

Truth stands in the statement that safety comes in numbers. It’s ideal to travel with a group of close friends who you can trust and rely on. If you do travel alone, be careful what areas you go to and when travelling alone in dark or secluded areas.

How Much Will It Cost?

This will vary from trip to trip. There’s no clear cut answer to this. It all depends on what you how far you’re travelling, how long you wish to be away for, how many excursions and day trips you want to take. There are so many factors involved. A good way to work out the cost of your trip is to note down every expense. Flights, accommodation, transport, excursion fees. Absolutely everything. Total it up and add extra money onto this amount for emergencies.

Things To Avoid

Voluntourism

Voluntourism is when you head abroad to help the underprivileged or vulnerable within society and endangered wildlife. Projects include animal conservation, school building and teaching. Some voluntourism programmes are great and all volunteers enter into schemes with good intentions. However, some organisations are merely out to exploit good natured individuals and don’t give as much as they should to the people that need aid and help.

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Animal Cruelty

Many attractions in countries far and wide include animals that have been taken from the wild. For example, tigers in temples. Locals will make profit from taking pictures of you with these beautiful beasts. However, do you really think there are that many orphaned tigers roaming around these temples. These animals are often stolen from the wild. They are also drugged or sedated. Avoid endorsing and contributing to animal cruelty.

Ever Wanted to Visit Sri Lanka? Then Read This

We all must daydream about escaping to a far island one day. To bask in the knowledge that we are just there in that moment. Sri Lanka is an island that many people often don’t consider as a place to vacation. I suppose it isn’t on the radar of many people who opt for more well known destinations like Thailand or The Maldives. But Sri Lanka has so much to offer. So if you find yourself considering this island in the Indian ocean as a place you want to visit then here is a little about what to expect.

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Getting to Sri Lanka is much easier to do these days than it ever has been. Thankfully booking through a Sri Lanka Travel Agent, you can often sort your travel and accommodation out in one fail swoop. This takes any worry out of travelling to a new location.

Sri Lanka is most known for it’s array of rainforest and beautiful sandy beaches. Not to mention the Buddhist links. With historical monuments dating more than 2000 years old, there is certainly a lot to see and do on this unique island. One of the most popular destinations to sightsee would be the 5th Century citadel Sigiriya. These ancient Buddhist ruins is an ancient rock fortress.

But with nearly 1600 km of palm lined sandy beaches, many people choose Sri Lanka for that desert island feel. It oozes relaxation and with wonderful weather to coincide with it, what is not to love? However, if you are more of an adrenalin junkie and like your water sports, then this place will still offer you excellent surf. For things like windsurfing, kayaking, yachting and water skiing. Not to mention the wonderful opportunities to witness the sea life by scuba diving in some of the clearest blue waters.

Accommodation is varied on the island. There is certainly something to suit all budgets. You will find your usual five star luxurious hotels in some of the most popular resorts. But there are some hidden gems that are equally just as beautiful with less of a price tag.

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If nature is more your thing, then the varied terrain that Sri Lanka has to offer will simply keep you occupied throughout your vacation. There are some amazing nature trails that will make you feel like you are on a real adventure. But nature isn’t all about roughing it through the forest. It can also mean heading to this island for healing and purpose. Being closer to nature enables you to cleanse your spirit and mind. So many visitors return back to the island simple based on this charm alone. The country’s native healing system Ayurveda has been perfected for more than 5,000 years. It was once the only medical treatment you could get until western culture took influence.

There aren’t many places on this earth that still have a lot of unspoilt areas. But Sri Lanka is definitely an island you should add to your bucket list for sure. Have you ever been to Sri Lanka?

 

Traveling Around India: What You Need to Do

Travelling is such a wonderful way to see the world. Experiencing a country first hand gives you a newfound appreciation for other cultures, and opens your mind to new and exciting possibilities. Travelling through India is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have, especially if you plan to explore the country yourself on foot, or through a backpacking holiday. If you are thinking of going, here is what you need to think about before setting off on a journey of discovery, and what to do when you are there.

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Get To Know The Transport System

Using the Indian train network is a great way to get around. Trains can book up fast and the booking system can be more complex than it needs to be. There are train information websites like The Man in Seat 61, which breaks down the process. If you plan to get a sleeper train, try to book the upper or side-upper berths so you have more privacy.

Purify Your Drinking Water

Tap water in India should be avoided. While you can purchase water on the go, a more environmentally friendly approach is to purify your own. You can purchase water bottle filters that can turn the most brown liquid into fresh tasting clear water.

Many restaurants in India, water that has gone through the reversed osmosis process is available. It’s free, friendly to the environment and completely safe to drink.

Respect The People

Going into a new country where the culture is different to your own can cause problems, especially when a country that is rooted in religion and tradition is concerned. Make sure that you prepare by looking at what can be considered offencive there. For example, you eat with your right hand as the left hand is used for the toilet. Women need to cover their shoulders and wear clothes that go below the knee, and in areas with a strong Muslim population, midriffs should be covered.

Bring Your Own Toilet Paper

The left hand is used to wipe, so taking your own toilet paper and alcohol hand gel will reduce catching any nasty bugs.

Don’t Go Where The Tourists Go

Look for the places that the locals eat instead of going to the normal tourist haunts, look online for hidden treasures in areas that you plan to go to, like the Kolkata travel guide. Look for other forums and blogs where people give detailed experiences about their Indian travels.

Be Safe

Be vigilant if you are travelling alone. Keeping money secure and hidden away is a main priority. If possible, try to avoid carrying large amounts of cash and have a mobile phone on you for emergencies. If you are concerned for your welfare at any point, be confident and assertive rather than shy, and call for help if you need it!

If travelling around India, keeping an open mind is probably the most important thing to enjoying your experiences. Being reserved and tense in a country like India, which has its fair share of challenges, will not serve you well. Keep a sense of humour and an open mind will help, as unexpected things will crop up on your journey. Go with it. Enjoy!

Note from Jessica Lippe: I would love to go to India, and I’ll be sure to refer to this handy guide when I get the chance! I’ve been working on a few different projects lately (and I’m excited for the day when I can tell you about them!), but I’ll be back soon to tell about my August adventures to places like Avenue of the Giants, Point Reyes National Seashore, San Francisco, Lava Beds National Monument, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Crater Lake National Park! 

Lake Livin’

This summer I found what may very well be my new favorite company. They make products that have made my travel life and even my home life better on a day-to-day basis. They’re called Lake Livin’ but I’ve taken their products to the pool, to the bay, and even to places that don’t even have bodies of water!

It all started a few months ago when I dropped my phone in the toilet. AGAIN. Most of the phones I’ve owned have been lost due to some sort of water damage. I tried to dry it out and keep it overnight in rice, but since I had already cracked the screen last year while backpacking in Thessaloniki, there was no hope. I used this opportunity to get a phone upgrade. Later on, I went to Eddie Bauer and discovered that they had waterproof phone cases on clearance. I bought one, but it was impossible to use my phone while it was in this case. I’m so glad I found Lake Livin’, because their phone bag keeps my phone safe while still being able to call, text, take photos, and browse the internet!

But it takes more than one product to make a good company.

Ever since getting my new car, I’ve enjoyed exploring more places. The problem is I didn’t have a good place to set my GPS. I wanted to keep it next to the clock, but it slid off too much. The Lake Livin’ non-slip dash mat has been like having an extra set of hands in my car! I mostly use it to keep my gate opener in place because I have a hard time finding anywhere else, and also for my GPS when I use that.

Whether at home or away, the Lake Livin’ ringer tee has been pretty awesome to me. The first time I wore it, I actually got compliments about it from someone waiting in line behind me in the store! One of the places I recently wore my Lake Livin’ tee was on my trip last week. One morning I took pictures with it in the back of my hostel. Can anyone guess where I was?

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Countries You Need To Visit For Your Next Holiday (Only A Short Plane Ride Away!)

With flights increasing in price every year, it’s becoming harder to afford to visit faraway destinations. However, there are so many great destinations which are only a couple of hours away on the plane and won’t break the bank. Here are some countries you need to visit for your next holiday that are only a short plane ride away.

Portugal

One great country you need to visit for your next holiday is Portugal. It’s around three hours flight from London. It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Millions of people go to the Algarve and stay in popular areas such as Vilamoura and Albufeira. You can enjoy delicious seafood here and take part in an array of different water sports. Also, a lot of people also visit Lisbon, which is the capital of Portugal and has some great culture and history as well as beautiful beaches. Here is more things you can do in the capital, including visiting the great shops, and restaurants.

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Italy

Another top country you need to visit for your next holiday is Italy. It’s only two hours on the plane so it won’t break the bank to visit. It’s one of the most popular countries as it has so much to see and do. A lot of people visit Rome, the capital of Italy, to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican. Others visit gorgeous Venice where you can enjoy a gondola ride. It’s worth visiting if you love the cuisine. You can also enjoy a lovely coffee as there are so many different types such as a cappuccino and espresso. You can also visit the Italian lakes for classic Italian holidays. It’s a stunning area which has beautiful lake views.

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France

An additional country you need to visit for your next holiday is France. It’s less than two hours plane ride away, or you can even get the Eurostar across to the capital in a couple of hours. Paris is the most popular area you can go to in France, it’s the city of love, and there’s so much sightseeing you can do. You should take photos next to the Eiffel Tower, and you should also go for a boat ride down the River Seine. Also, if you are a fan of Disney, you should to Disneyland Paris to enjoy some great rides and get some great photos with your favourite characters! Other amazing places in France to visit include Nice, Lille, and Provence.

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Greece

Another amazing country you need to visit for your next holiday is Greece. It’s less than four hours plane ride away to get to mainland Greece. It’s full of stunning history and beautiful beaches. The food is also amazing, and you will love all the different meat you can try. You should also visit the islands such as Kos, Corfu, and Crete if you are looking for a great beach break. Here are some of the best things to do and see while you are Greece.

Santorini, Greece, Architecture, Cyclades

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Spain

Don’t forget to add Spain to your list of top destinations to visit that are only a short plane ride away! You can visit the beautiful islands of Majorca, Menorca, and Ibiza for a great beach break. If you want a short weekend away, why not head to Barcelona for a fantastic long weekend.

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On the Hunt for the Mysterious Bill Cipher

This winter, when I didn’t have the money, the warmth, or even the desire to travel much, I went on more virtual adventures. I read lots of books, and I caught up on some great TV shows. I finally finished what I thought was the greatest cartoon of all time, Phineas and Ferb. I was actually pretty sad when I finished the final episode. Those boys and their pet platypus knew how to make the best of each day and circumstance, and were able to have so many adventures! I was able to turn some of the show’s situations into real-life experiences, such as going to Mount Rushmore, dressing up as Perry the Platypus, and of course, climbing up the Eiffel Tower! Would I ever find such an inspiring cartoon again?

I did. And I didn’t even have to look outside of Disney. It was called Gravity Falls.

I first heard about Gravity Falls before it came out in 2011. All I knew was that it was about boy/girl twins and took place in Oregon. I was moving away from Oregon at the time, and combining the fact that I did not want to miss Oregon with the fact that I would not have access to cable, I did not watch Gravity Falls at the time. I actually forgot about it for awhile, but it had a way of finding me. Just a month before the series finale, I got hooked and binge watched every episode. I was looking forward to the finale just as much as the long-term Gravity Falls fans.

In February I watched the series finale, and then tried to move on with life.

Then came Easter.

Before heading to church on Easter Sunday, I was inspired to write a travel article. This one would be about places around Oregon that had a Gravity Falls-style feel. Of course one of those places would be the Oregon Vortex, a house of mystery that even the producers admitted they visited and took inspiration from for the show’s “Mystery Shack”. In fact, if you type “Gravity Falls, Oregon” into Google Maps, it will take you to the Oregon Vortex! Wanting to make sure that little fun fact was correct before I incorporated it into my article, I plugged it in and watched it zoom into my neighboring town of Gold Hill. But then, I noticed something interesting off to the side of the screen.

A marker labeled “Bill Cipher Statue” had been placed there. At first I thought it was really cool. Since Bill Cipher is the main antagonist of Gravity Falls, maybe I should head over there after church to see it for myself, take some pictures, and add that into one of the destinations in my article. But as I read the reviews, it seemed like they were all joke reviews and no one had actually been there. I did some further research.

At the end of the series finale, the post credits were slightly different, including a brief filmstrip of (spoiler alert!) Bill Cipher after he had turned to stone in the episode. I didn’t read too much into it, as the grainy film made me think it was just really good animation. But I didn’t realize with the brief clip that it was indeed a lifelike statue, and that there were ciphers in this episode that got the internet buzzing with the belief that this statue of Bill Cipher was somewhere out there, and it was up to us fans to find it!

Other than a clue about it being “beyond the rusty gates”, the only hint in the show to its location was that there was a fern nearby. Ferns don’t grow just anywhere, so that was actually a better hint than the gate!

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It’s a rusty post for a gate! The gate itself was actually torn off and down the hillside a bit.

I actually searched for the Bill Cipher statue in this location three separate times. Although this location was on BLM land right across the street from the Oregon Vortex, the problem was that there was private property blocking off a direct path. That meant I had to drive several miles up the road, and then swing back around until I reached some logging paths. (It was encouraging to go from a fern-free Gold Hill to a hillside covered with ferns, though!) I got out and started hiking these trails, but never made it to the GPS coordinates of the alleged Bill Cipher statue.

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Yeah, just parking in the middle of nowhere to look for a scary statue!

The first time I had come alone and unprepared, and it was going to get dark soon.

The second time I went with my mom, and while hiking she made me realize that we should have bear spray and maybe a larger hiking group.

The third time my dad joined us, and we made it a little farther than I did the first time, but we realized that if there was a trail going to the statue area, it would have to wind for several miles on steep mountains. The trail we thought might lead to it was very overgrown, and we had a hard time imagining Hollywood crew lugging a stone statue this entire way.

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It sure was a beautiful hike, though, that even most locals don’t know exists!

So I gave up for awhile, but whenever the opportunity presented itself, I kept my eye out for something unusual in the woods. Like I went on the Bigfoot Trap hike a couple weeks ago, and instead of looking for an ape-like creature, I was looking for a triangular one among the ferns.

Last week, a global scavenger hunt for Bill Cipher officially began. It’s already gone through Russia, Japan, and parts of the US, so it’s pretty fun to follow as a virtual adventure. Unfortunately, the next clue has come to almost a standstill as it’s been stuck in Los Angeles for four days now, but I have a feeling that it will pick back up soon. I also have a feeling that the hunt will pass through Gold Hill, either as a clue or (hopefully) the final stage that leads to the statue. And I’ll be shocked and impressed if it’s in the same location I thought it was in this entire time! I guess I’ll just have to wait until a clue leads to my area, and then I’m ready to jump on it!

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Until then, I’m going to be real observant whenever I hike near ferns!