travel tips

How to Create a Vacation Checklist When Visiting California

If you’re like most people, you probably think of California as a place to go on vacation. With its sandy beaches, world-famous theme parks, and stunning mountain ranges, it’s easy to see why. However, before you can start enjoying your vacation in the Golden State, you must ensure that you’re prepared for it. This blog will discuss how to create a vacation checklist to make the most of your time in California!

Photo by Natu00e1lia Ivankovu00e1 on Pexels.com

The first thing that you need to do is decide what kind of vacation you want to take.

California has something for everyone, so it’s essential to narrow down your options before you start packing. For example, are you looking for a relaxing beach vacation? Or are you interested in exploring the state’s many tourist attractions? Once you know what kind of vacation you’re looking for, you can begin creating your checklist.

The next step is to start planning your itinerary.

If you’re visiting California for the first time, it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time so that you can make the most of your trip. First, decide which sights you want to see and how much time you want to spend in each place. Once you have a general idea of your itinerary, you can start filling in the details. California has a lot to offer when it comes to activities to add to your itinerary, such as visiting the beach, touring wine country, or checking out Disneyland. Cafes in California are also a must-try!

The next item on your checklist should be to book your travel arrangements.

If you’re flying to California, you’ll need to book your flights and ensure you have all the necessary documents. If you’re driving, you’ll need to map out your route and make sure that your vehicle is in good condition for the long journey. You should also plan where you’re going to stay while you’re in California. Booking a hotel or rental property in advance is always a good idea so that you can be sure to get the best rates.

The next step is to start packing.

This is where your checklist comes in handy. Make sure to pack everything you’ll need for your trip, including clothes, toiletries, and any medications you take. If you’re planning on doing any hiking or other outdoor activities, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellent. And, of course, don’t forget your camera so that you can capture all of the memories from your California vacation!

The last step is to make sure that you have all of the necessary documents.

If you’re traveling with a passport, you’ll need to ensure that it’s up to date and that you have all the necessary visas. If you’re renting a car, you’ll need to bring your driver’s license and proof of insurance. And if you’re traveling with any valuables, it’s always a good idea to make copies of important documents like your passport and driver’s license in case they are lost or stolen.

Following these steps will help ensure that you’re prepared for your vacation in California. 

travel tips

3 Simple Tips To Enjoy Costa Rica Like A Local

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You can do many things to blend in as a local in Costa Rica. You don’t necessarily have to look like a tourist all the time and inadvertently draw attention to yourself. For many experienced revelers, the best way to enjoy a foreign country is to identify with the locals – eat their food, learn language basics, gain insight into the culture, etc. You can be part of the 3 million visitors to Costa Rica who do more than ecotourism. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Brush up on your Spanish language skills

Spanish is the national and official language in Costa Rica. It will be essential if you wish to blend in. Indeed, nobody expects you to rattle like an expert. However, learning the basics of the Spanish language will be a great way to enjoy your time in the country. More importantly, it will be an opportunity to blend in somewhat with the locals and learn more from them. The truth is that they love it when foreigners deliberately make an effort to learn their native language.

It has nothing to do with cultural appropriation. Instead, it shows a willingness to enjoy your stay and make positive memories on this trip. With the help of technology, you can access language apps that teach basic Spanish lines. Be ready for giggles and amusement from locals if you fail to pronounce the words right. You might join them in laughing at your attempt.

  1. Add spontaneous activities to your schedule

One thing about tourists and foreigners is the likelihood of being too out of touch with the things that define the new country. This is often characterized by planned sightseeing at all the popular places a tourist will go. You may not have realized yet that locals do not frequent these places. Have you considered the possibility of some spontaneity? While this may raise safety and security concerns, you can prepare for them and veer slightly away from the status quo.

You can check downtown areas with the help of a willing local. You may have to pay a little fee for such a service. If you’re lucky, you might get a tour guide to take you around during their off-duty hours. Be sure to dress like a local and not give people the impression that you are a non-native. When visiting these places, it is advisable to avoid having valuables like an expensive wristwatch, phone, or sunglasses on you. Another spontaneous activity that helps you identify with locals is fishing. However, for a more organized process, you may want to use services such as Costa Rica Fishing Charters. Indeed, there are tons of places to visit that make it easy to interact freely with locals.

  1. Visit the countryside

A drive to the countryside, away from the city center, is a welcome addition to enjoy like a local. Before setting off, however, it would be wise to plan the route on a map and become conversant with the locality. First, it may be wise to identify landmarks that help you make out the terrain on your way back. This will be particularly helpful if you’re taking a hike. However, a GPS may be ideal if you’re driving.

It is a pleasant experience to identify with the locals of a new country and feel welcome in their midst.

travel tips

A Kenyan Travel Itinerary: What You Need to Know to Plan Your First Trip!

Photo by Git Stephen Gitau from Pexels

Planning a holiday is never easy, especially when travelling somewhere new. No matter what your budget or the time of year you should visit Kenya, the country has so much to offer that it’s difficult to know where to start. To get you started on planning your first trip to Kenya, read this article for everything you need to know about travelling to make the most of your experience in Kenya.

 

Nairobi

The capital of Kenya, Nairobi is a vibrant and energetic city. It has a rich colonial history, modern infrastructure, and a variety of cultural experiences. You can visit the National Museum of Kenya, the National Library, the National Gallery of Kenya, and Uhuru Park, just to name a few. If you’re interested in wildlife, you can visit the Nairobi National Park, which is home to a wide variety of animals such as lions, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos. Visit the Great Rift Valley, UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Great Rift Valley is home to many animals, such as zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and gazelles.

 

Safaris

Safaris in Kenya are an absolute must-do when visiting. They are the best ways to get a taste of the Kenyan way of life, see wildlife in their natural habitat, and learn about the country’s history and culture. There are many different types of safaris in Kenya, from budget-friendly to luxury. You can choose to go on an escorted or a self-drive safari. On an escorted safari, you’ll be accompanied by an expert guide who knows all the best places to go and see wildlife. Self-drive safaris are a bit more flexible and allow you to determine how long you stay in each place. 

 

Lake Nakuru and Lake Victoria 

Nakuru is a lesser-known Kenyan destination that attracts few tourists and is the perfect place to explore Kenya’s nature. With its diverse landscape, Nakuru is one of the best places in Kenya to see the Great Migration. While the Great Migration happens, you can see it up close at Lake Nakuru National Park. You can also enjoy watching the red flamingos and other species that flock to the lake when the migration is over. Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, is also a great place for wildlife aficionados. The lake is home to many species of birds, hippos, and crocodiles.

 

Baggage and Transportation in Kenya

The airlines in Kenya are very safe, with very few accidents reported. Kenya Airports Authority also ensures that all airports and safety procedures are up to date. If you are traveling from the US, the UK, Australia, or Canada, you do not need a visa to enter Kenya. If you are coming from Europe, you will need to show your travel documents at least 90 days before the flight. If you are coming from Asia, you will need to show your travel documents at least 30 days before the flight. If you are traveling by car or public transport, be aware of pickpockets and other petty crimes that can happen anywhere in the world. While crime rates are low in Kenya, there are areas where you are advised to avoid traveling, such as slums and border areas. You can always hire a car and driver if you would prefer not to take public transportation.

 

travel tips

Simple Ways To Fill Your Family Travel Fund

Getting and out and exploring the world as a family is such an enriching activity. Yet, any type of travel from 2-week family vacations to day trips costs money. The good news is it’s possible to create and fill a travel fund which means you will always have access to the money you need for your next family adventure. Keep reading to find out how. 

Save money on your meals 

One way to fill your family travel fund is by saving money on your grocery shopping. Happily, there is a range of strategies you can use to do this, including planning your meals. Planning meals means that you stick to a list when in the store and that you don’t end up wasting money by buying items that aren’t needed. 

There are many meal planning resources and videos that can help you create healthy and delicious weekly menus for your family. Although, recipe box kits are an even easier way of doing this as all you have to do is choose the recipes you want, and all the ingredients pre-measured are delivered to you. Thereby cutting food waste, and your grocery bill at the same time.   

Make money by investing 

In addition to saving money to top up your family travel fund, it’s also possible to make more cash from an additional income. One way to generate additional income is to invest your money in products like Contract For Difference trading, as it’s also known.  

CFD Trading is a popular investment option because it operates on margins, rather than the buyer and selling of the entire asset. This means you need less capital to begin but can still make good money. Of course, just like any other kind of investment, your money can decrease, as well as increase so it’s important to consider this risk before investing. 

Save money on running your vehicle 

Most families run at least one car, with many running two or more. This means that vehicle purchase costs, maintenance and fuel all add up to be one of the most significant expenditures. 

Fortunately, by reducing these costs it’s possible to free up money that can be used to pay for activities of your choice including vacations and day trips. One way of saving money on the costs of running a car is to drive it correctly. Indeed, driving in a forward-thinking manner will help preserve fuel, and prevent excess wear on the mechanics of your vehicle, thus saving you money in both the short and long term. 

Make money with photography 

If you are looking to fill your family travel fund, making additional money by selling images online makes sense. After all, you will already be in places of interest which will likely make for great pictures, so all you need to do is snap a few additional ones and then you can sell them on stock image sites. 

Just be sure to brush up on the regulations, and tactics you will need to sell your photos successfully, as this will help you maximize your income and so keep your family travel fund topped up!  

Israel, saving money, travel tips

Time for Another Travel Savings Challenge!

Several years ago, you followed along as I recorded my savings leading up to a trip to The British Isles followed by a cruise to The Bahamas. Now, it’s been two years since I’ve been outside of North America. I just got confirmation that I’ll be heading to a new country very soon, so it’s time to start another savings challenge!

But first, let me tell you a little bit about the trip I’m going to take. It’s not the kind of trip I normally go on. In fact, it’s different from any other trip I’ve ever been on or will ever take in my lifetime! In February, I applied to Passages, a leadership program that takes college students to Israel. I had heard about Passages years ago, but did not fulfill the requirement of being a college student at the time. This year, I’m back in college and just barely squeaked by with the upper age limit, so it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

One of the greatest parts about Passages is that the trip is heavily subsidized. Israel is an expensive country, and while I’ve always wanted to go there, I didn’t know how I could do it on my backpacker budget. However, there are still associated fees, but the cost of my trip should come in under $2000. (I normally wouldn’t pay this much for a 9-day trip, but the retail value would be over $5000!)

I got my acceptance letter on Friday, March 25th, with the stipulation that I had to send in my program and administrative fees by April 1st. That only gave me one week to earn and save that money! So instead of giving you monthly updates, I will be giving you weekly updates on how my savings challenge is going. Even after the April 1st deadline, I will still be saving money for my pre-trip expenses and Israel lunch money.

Here are a few ways I plan to enact my savings challenge:

  • Because a lot of my 2021 salary was socked into retirement funds, the majority of my trip expenses can be paid with my tax return.
  • I set up a Facebook fundraiser so those who want to support this mission financially can do so.
  • I switched to a high-yield savings account (HYSA) where I get a weekly payout. Even though that’s usually under $2, every dollar counts!
  • I’ll likely do some no-spend challenges, where I set a length of time where I can only spend on necessary bills and travel expenses. Instead, I’ll walk around, eat out of my pantry, and find ways to entertain myself that don’t cost a dime.
  • When I do have to spend, I’ll look for ways to save, such as promo codes, coupons, and price comparisons. (Example: I need to get a filling before the trip, but I’m going to drive the 30 miles to the Mexican border to get it done there instead of paying extra for a dentist in California.)
  • I’m not doing any freelancing right now due to work, school, and now the added responsibility of the pre-trip educational course, but if a doable opportunity comes up, that money can go toward the trip.
  • There’s sure to be more… but you’ll have to read my weekly updates to find out what they are?

What’s your best tip for how to pay for a big trip on short notice?

travel tips

Camping Tips To Keep You Safe In The Wilderness

Camping is a great way to get back to nature and enjoy the outdoors. However, it’s important to remember that when you’re camping in the wilderness, you’re completely exposed to the elements. If you’re not prepared, you could easily find yourself in danger. The following blog will discuss some tips for staying safe while camping in the wilderness!

Photo by Nathan Moore from Pexels

1) Don’t Venture Too Far From Your Campsite

One of the most important things to remember when camping in the wilderness is to not venture too far from your campsite. Once you’re more than a few hundred yards from your tent, it can be very easy to get lost. If you stick to trails and well-marked areas, you’ll be much less likely to get lost and end up in danger.

If you do find yourself getting lost, don’t panic! Stay calm and try to backtrack your steps. If you can’t find your way back to your campsite, find a high point and look for any landmarks that can help you orient yourself. Once you have a general idea of where you are, you can start heading in the right direction.

2) Be Careful With Fire

Another hazard to be aware of when camping in the wilderness is fire. If you’re not careful, a small campfire can quickly get out of control and destroy acres of forest. When building a fire, make sure to clear away any leaves and twigs that could catch fire easily. Keep your fire small and contained, and never leave it unattended.

If you find yourself in an area that’s on fire, don’t try to outrun the flames! Instead, look for a body of water such as a lake or river to take refuge in. The water will help protect you from the heat and flames.

3) Pack The Right Gear

Another essential tip for camping in the wilderness is to make sure you’re packing the right gear. Depending on the area you’re camping in, you might need special equipment such as a bear horn or snake bite kit. If you’re unsure of what to bring, it’s always best to consult with a local ranger or visit outdoorcommand.com before heading out into the wilderness.

In general, it’s a good idea to pack plenty of food and water, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, and warm clothing. By being prepared, you can help reduce the risk of running into trouble while camping in the wilderness.

4) Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

One of the best ways to stay safe while camping in the wilderness is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Pay attention to the animals and plants around you, and look for any potential hazards. If you see something that doesn’t look right, trust your gut and avoid it.

It’s also important to make noise while you’re hiking through the woods. This will help scare away any wildlife that might be lurking nearby. And if you do come across an animal, never approach it! Give them plenty of space and wait for them to move along before continuing on your way.

5) Know Your Limits

It’s essential to know your limits when camping in the wilderness. If you’re not an experienced camper, it’s best to stick to well-traveled trails and areas that are easy to get to. And if you’re planning on hiking through rough terrain, make sure you’re physically prepared for the challenge. It’s always better to err on the side of caution than to put yourself in a dangerous situation.

6) Have A Plan

Before heading out into the wilderness, it’s essential to have a plan. You should know where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and what you’ll need to bring with you. By having a plan, you can help reduce the risk of getting lost or running into trouble while camping in the wilderness.

If something does go wrong while you’re camping, make sure to let someone know where you are and when you expect to be back. That way, if you don’t return on time, they can send help.

7) Be Prepared For Weather Changes

The weather can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to be prepared for changes while you’re camping in the wilderness. Bring extra clothing and supplies in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. And if you get stranded due to bad weather, make sure to stay warm and dry until help arrives.

In conclusion, following these tips can help you stay safe while camping in the wilderness. By being aware of the hazards and being prepared, you can reduce the risk of running into trouble. And if something does go wrong, don’t hesitate to call for help. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your next camping trip is a safe and enjoyable one.

travel tips

Thirty-Three Nifty United States

Did you have to learn the names of all 50 states when you were a kid? In my elementary school, one of our favorite songs was “Fifty Nifty”, where we sang all the states in alphabetical order. As an adult, I’ve met other adults from other schools who also still know “Fifty Nifty” by heart. While I’m not going to sing it to you, I am going to list all of the states from my home country and tell you a bit about which ones I’ve been to.

Alabama- Haven’t been there yet.

Alaska- I’d love to, but it’s difficult to get there.

Arizona- I don’t remember my first time in Arizona because I was a baby. Apparently, I went to the Grand Canyon then, but visiting again when I was 29 was much more memorable. Other than Mexico, it’s the closest out-of-state destination from where I currently live, so I’ve also been just to see random roadside attractions.

Arkansas- I took a “get to know you” trip with two coworkers when I worked in Kansas City. We decided on Northwest Arkansas because it was somewhat nearby, yet none of us had been there before. I was pleasantly surprised that “The Natural State” lives up to its name.

California- I currently live here! I also lived here between the ages of one and three. And because I have lots of relatives in this state, and California itself is a good vacation destination, I’ve spent a lot of time throughout my life in this state.

Colorado- Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of living there, particularly in Colorado Springs. I visited a couple times as an adult to places like Boulder, Denver, and Estes Park, but in 2020, I got to temporarily live my dream by spending a month in the Springs. 

Connecticut- Nope, haven’t been there.

Delaware- During my high school’s East Coast trip, I rode a bus through a small part of Delaware while going between DC and Philadelphia. I don’t even know if that should count. What do you think?

Florida- Every kid’s dream: I got to go to Walt Disney World. In fact, I went to Walt Disney World four times before taking a Florida trip to someplace other than Disney. As it turns out, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to kick off a cruise vacation.

Georgia- I’ve made plans, but none of them have stuck yet.

Hawaii- I went to Oahu when I was nine and Maui when I was twenty-eight. I think I preferred Maui, just because it wasn’t as much about city life as Honolulu was. Each day, I took a trip to a different part of the island that provided diverse landscape.

Idaho- I’ve made the joke that Idaho doesn’t exist. However, for a nonexistent state, I’ve been there a few times, mostly on choir tours or other road trips. However, I’ve seen very few potatoes there.

Illinois- My experience with Illinois has mostly been just driving through. However, on my last drive through Illinois, I spent a jam-packed day in Chicago, doing everything from seeing my reflection in the Cloudgate Bean to standing on the see-through 103rd-floor ledge of the Willis Tower.

Indiana- Illinois was often paired with Indiana for driving through. So I’ve mostly made roadside attraction stops in this state, such as the park where Johnny Appleseed was buried.

Iowa- Because I’ve lived in both Nebraska and Missouri, Iowa has made it to my list. The two most memorable parts of Iowa were the amusement park Adventureland and the sculpture park in downtown Des Moines.

Kansas- Even though I lived on the Missouri side of Kansas City, I had to drive through Kansas state to get just about anywhere. We always cheered whenever we crossed back into Missouri. It’s not too exciting of a place, and the time I crossed the entire state in one day was probably the most exhausting day of my life.

Kentucky- I only barely crossed the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky border, but I had a great experience at the Creation Museum. Although that was my main destination, I also had fun horseback riding and sleeping in a bank vault!

Louisiana- Haven’t been there.

Maine- Nope, not yet.

Maryland- I can’t tell you much about my time in Maryland, because it was the same bus trip that brought me through Delaware. We did stop at this big rest area, though.

Massachusetts- It’s on my list of places to go.

Michigan- Despite having several housemates from Michigan, none took me to their home state.

Minnesota- I went out here three times for work trips when I lived in Nebraska. Once was just passing through on the way to Wisconsin, but the other two times were for recruiting events at Crown College.

Mississippi- No, but for some reason it was important I learned to spell it.

Missouri- My first time in Missouri was for a weekend conference. Somehow, we made it to Kansas City without ever touching Kansas state. I never would have guessed that I was going to move to Kansas City, Missouri nine years later. During my time living there, I saw a lot more of the state, but it was short-lived as I decided to move after only four months.

Montana- I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park. My sister has lived in Montana for years, and someday I need to visit her there.

Nebraska- I lived in Fremont for two years while interning, and later media managing, at my first year-round camp job. The first year, I was without a car, so my travel was limited to the mercy of coworkers willing to drive. I saw quite a bit of Omaha and a few other spots around the state, though.

Nevada- I’ve been to Reno a few times, and Las Vegas once (or twice if you count when I was two years old). But mostly, my time in Nevada has been just driving through dry, barren landscape. 

New Hampshire- I haven’t seen much of New England, including New Hampshire.

New Jersey- When my 10th grade class visited New York City, we stayed in New Jersey. Not much to recall about the state itself other than a standard hotel room and lots of traffic.

New Mexico- When I moved back west after my short-lived time in Missouri, I drove through New Mexico via Route 66. Okay, it was actually Route 40, but I did pull off to see several Route 66 attractions. 

New York- My school took a trip to New York City in 10th grade. That was a whirlwind of sightseeing. Quite a few years later, I rode a bus to Niagara Falls with a transfer in Buffalo. I think I enjoyed my time in Niagara Falls better, but it may be because I didn’t get to plan my own Manhattan schedule.

North Carolina- I’ve applied for a few jobs here, but never got to the point of visiting.

North Dakota- Nope. 

Ohio- I moved to Ohio sight unseen. To this day, I make fun of how terrible a place Ohio is, but there were a few things I liked about the state, especially interacting with the Amish in Holmes County. This was also the first time I worked at an outdoor education camp, which really shaped what I’m doing career-wise today.

Oklahoma- I’ve been twice within four months of each other. The first was an introductory trip with my new coworkers, where we stayed at an old west retreat center and played at The Gathering Place. The second time was when I was leaving that job, but because I was only driving across the panhandle in the snow, I didn’t do much sightseeing at that time.

Oregon- I’ve spent more time here than any other state or country. I was born here, I went to school here from preschool through community college (fun fact: my preschool and my college were located just three blocks away from each other, but they didn’t exist at the same time), and of course, I enjoyed all kinds of road trips through the scenic landscape. I always enjoyed driving down the coast, but there was plenty to do inland as well. 

Pennsylvania- Although I haven’t been able to spend the night in this state, I’ve seen quite a decent portion of it. My 10th-grade class drove through here between DC and New York and spent a day in Philadelphia. I also rode a bus along Lake Erie.

Rhode Island- Nope. It’s not even an island.

South Carolina- I haven’t been to the Carolinas.

South Dakota- This state is famous for Mount Rushmore, which is where I went my first time to this state. A short time later, I was back in South Dakota for a music festival. This was all during the first month of living in Nebraska, so I thought I’d visit South Dakota a lot while living there. However, I never visited again.

Tennessee- I took a trip to Nashville (and a couple surrounding towns) and Martin. This was the first place I ever stayed in a hostel, and now, I can hardly remember how I traveled without hostels!

Texas- I stopped in Amarillo overnight. I bought spray paint, ate Texas BBQ, and the next morning, I legally vandalized Cadillac Ranch. I was surprised to learn that spray paint doesn’t work too well in below-freezing temperatures. Yes, in Texas, which I always pictured as a giant hot desert, there was snow on the ground and temps in the twenties!

Utah- What a salty place! I could tell when I crossed the border between Nevada and Utah because the landscape went from brown mountains to white salt flats. I camped on the Salt Lake and floated with the brine shrimp. The next day, I went into the city and saw Temple Square.

Vermont- I haven’t seen it.

Virginia- My 10th grade class spent some time in Alexandria. It was mostly because it was cheaper to stay here than in DC, but we did some tourist things in Virginia as well, including a downtown ghost tour, Arlington, and Mount Vernon.

Washington- I visited the Oregon border town of Vancouver (not Canada) when I had relatives living there. Later, this was the scene for the first out-of-state trip I took without family, when I was twelve and went on my first choir tour. One of our tour stops was Seattle, which is still a city dear to my heart.

West Virginia- I’ve been to every state surrounding West Virginia, but not West Virginia itself.

Wisconsin- I went to two different camp conferences in two consecutive years, both in early March. One was in Lake Geneva, and I had to borrow shorts because it was so warm. The other was in the North Woods, which was so freezing and deep in snow that I walked on the solid lake!

Wyoming- I’ve been to Yellowstone, and this was also a state I visited twice while moving cross-country (one move in either direction).

As a bonus, I’ve also been to Washington, DC. As mentioned in conjunction with other states, this was part of my 10th grade East Coast school trip. Ever since then, I wanted to go back and spend more time on my own with the things that would interest me.

There you have it. I’d like to start working on getting to the other seventeen states on this list, because it would be really nifty if I could get to fifty!

camp, hike

Night Hikes: 5 Fun Activities to Try

This is an article I wrote that was recently published in Camp Business magazine that has gained popularity there. Although written for camp professionals, any adventurer can try these fun activities!

Night hikes are pretty common for stargazing, but what if it’s a cloudy night? Don’t worry—there’s plenty to do in any kind of weather—as long as it’s dark!

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / Aitormmfoto

First, here are some night-hike rules:

  1. No flashlights or lights of any source are to be used. While a light helps to see the small area that it illuminates, allowing our eyes to adjust to the minimal lighting in our surroundings actually allows us to see more of what’s around us. (If needed, the hike leader can bring a small red light.)
  2. Keep quiet. Night-hike leaders can decide how “quiet” they want campers to be, but the quieter they are, the more they will hear in nature.
  3. Listen carefully. Not only will hearing instructions help to stay safe on the trail, but those who are not listening may miss out on some cool information and activities!
  4. Stay on the trails. Of course you’ll choose a trail that’s not near a cliff for safety’s sake. A fairly flat trail with minimal holes or rocks works best. For hikers with concerns about running into predators, reassure them that if you stay on the trail and all together, these things won’t want to bother the group.

Deer Ears

Materials: everyone needs their own set of hands and ears

Talk about all of the nocturnal creatures and crepuscular creatures (that means animals that are most active at twilight) the group can think of. Whether bats, coyotes, deer, or rabbits, many of these animals have something in common: their ears! Their ears are big so they can hear better, which compensates for their reduced ability to see at night. Their ears also often can move independently. That means they can focus their ears the same way to hear better in that direction, or they can point them in opposite directions to hear more of their entire surroundings.

Create your own “deer ears” by shaping your hands around your human ears. Test the hike participants’ hearing by walking around them while saying nursery rhymes and see if they can tell what you’re saying. Change one or two of the words and see if they notice.

Colorblind Test

Materials: small squares of colored paper

Many people are surprised at the realization that they are colorblind in the dark. This is a good opportunity to talk about two of the photoreceptors in our eyes: rods and cones. Rods help us see in low-light situations, making them important for night hikes. And cones help us see color. This experiment will help hikers tell if their cones are being used at all during the night hike.

Give each hiker a small piece of colored paper. Ask them to guess what color they think it is, and then put it in a pocket or safe place so that they don’t litter on the trail. When they return to camp, they can take their paper out in the light and see if they guessed the color correctly.

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / IgorKovalchuk

Eyepatch Story

Materials: lighter, optional candle

Another experiment to show how night vision can be affected starts off with acting like pirates—no “aargs” or “ahoys” necessary! Have every hiker make an “eyepatch” with one of their hands covering the eye of their choice. With their uncovered eye, they will look at the small flame while you tell a story like this:

“Long ago, when pirates ruled the seven seas, there was one pirate captain who liked to pillage and loot just as much as the rest of them. But he noticed a problem. The crew on his ship liked to do their raids at night, because the townsfolk were often asleep and it was easier to get away. Even when they fought enemy pirates, they preferred nighttime because they had developed a strong sense of night vision … at least until the cannons went off. Whenever a cannonball was launched, a bright light from the cannon flashed and temporarily blinded every pirate who saw the light. While they waited for their eyes to readjust to the darkness, they were susceptible to enemy takeover. But this was a smart pirate captain; he probably went to (insert your camp/outdoor education program name here) when he was a kid, where he learned a few things about night vision. So even though he had two perfectly-working eyes, he decided to wear an eyepatch over one of his eyes, night and day. That eye under the eyepatch became well-adjusted to the darkness. Whenever he saw a cannon flash during a night raid, instead of being blinded, he simply switched his eyepatch over to his other eye. Then the eye that was still adjusted to the darkness could still see well, and he could overtake his enemies. Now, wait until I extinguish this flame, but when I do, you’re going to move your eyepatch to your other eye and look around. You can keep switching from eye to eye to see what a difference this small flame made on your night vision.”

Triboluminescence

Materials: Wintergreen Lifesavers

If you’re in a location and season where you can observe fireflies or glow worms, enjoy this bioluminescent part of a night hike. Even if you can’t experience naturally occurring bioluminescence, you can always have fun with triboluminescence!

Using Wintergreen Lifesavers, instruct hikers to get in groups of two or three and have everyone take turns crunching one of the mints with their mouth open. (If anyone has braces or other concerns about their teeth, they can get in a larger group of people and still suck on the mint if appropriate.) Hikers should see sparks coming from their partners’ mouths. While not fully understood by scientists, this triboluminescence experiment will nevertheless be the highlight of the hikers’ night!

Reflection Time

Materials: None

If you are blessed with a clear night sky, it’s nice to take a moment to look at the stars. Ideally, instructors should be able to point out one or two constellations, or at least explain what phase the moon is in. Yet nothing beats enjoying this special moment, even if it involves looking at a cloudy sky or off into the distant city lights.

Find a hill or clearing where hikers can spread out. Ask them to not talk to anyone else for at least two minutes, so that they can listen to and absorb the nature around them and reflect on their time at camp. For Christian camps, this can be a sacred time of prayer.

 

Jessica Lippe is the program manager at Pine Valley Bible Camp and the author of The Ultimate Survival Guide to Working at Camp. Visit her website at JessicaLippe.com.

travel tips

First Thrills at The Emperor: SeaWorld San Diego’s Brand-New Coaster

I am a thrill ride junkie. The week I turned eight, my family went on our first trip to Walt Disney World. In the Tower of Terror picture that you can see as you exit through the gift shop, everyone else in the elevator (all significantly older than me) looked terrified. My dad and I were the only ones laughing. The week of my thirteenth birthday, I rode it thirteen times. This trend continued when I celebrated my most recent birthday last May with a trip to Disney’s California Adventure. I rode their version of Tower of Terror, now retrofitted to be Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout, three times to celebrate my three decades of living.

But the birthday celebrations didn’t end there. I gave myself a really cool birthday gift: an annual pass to SeaWorld. I live less than an hour up the road from SeaWorld, so I was excited to use this pass to the max for unlimited entries. SeaWorld San Diego has several thrill rides, plus all the rescued animal exhibits that they’re famous for. The annual pass is a great deal even for budget travelers because it pays for itself on the second or third visit. I chose to buy the Silver Pass, which includes extra perks such as free parking, monthly freebie gifts, and in-park discounts.

Because I’ve used my pass dozens of times, I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth from it. But it got even better.

This past week, I was invited to the opening reception of SeaWorld’s newest roller coaster. The Emperor, named after the penguin, was amazing! It started out by loading in the large, roomy coaster car. Then the floor dropped out beneath us and we steadily glided up a big incline. That was a great opportunity for fantastic views of San Diego. When we got to the top, we could tell we were about to go down an incredibly steep incline. But just as we started to drop, we stopped. The hang was only for a few seconds, but it was the perfect amount to build anticipation while viewing the layout of SeaWorld, Mission Bay, and the Pacific off in the distance. Then it was time for the thrills!

This is the second coaster at SeaWorld San Diego that goes upside-down. The other, Electric Eel, had definitely been my favorite ride up to this point, but there’s a good chance that Emperor will take over! I didn’t count how many loop-de-loops we made, because we were going at such high speeds, there wasn’t much of a chance to think.

Pretty soon it was over. I grabbed a churro and from the nearby food cart was ready to ride again! (No, I’ve never gotten sick from roller coasters.)

While being one of the first to ride Emperor was fun, I did more during my time at SeaWorld. I also rode Electric Eel a couple times that day. I often ride Manta, Journey to Atlantis, and the Bayside Skyride. And I love seeing the shows! The daily shows include Dolphin Days, Sea Lions Live, and their educational Orca Encounter. But one of my favorite encounters, which is also the most popular due to being situated right at the entrance, is the cleaner fish touch pool, where cleaner fish always come swarming to my hands and remove the dead skin cells!

What’s YOUR opinion on roller coasters? Do you have a favorite theme park ride? Tell me about it in the comments!

Bucket List, destinations, Travel Life

My “Sweet Sixteen” Countries

Over the course of my life, I’ve visited sixteen countries. I had the goal of visiting 30 countries before my 30th birthday, but with the onset of pandemic travel restrictions, I switched gears to visit 30 states before my 30th, which I’m happy to have accomplished! Maybe one day I’ll share the list of states I’ve visited, but today, I’d like to tell you about my sixteen countries. Who knows? I hope in ten years’ time, I can tell you the 40 countries I visited before my 40th birthday!

  1. United States- I was born and raised and have lived here all my life. I’ve lived in Oregon, California, Nebraska, Ohio, Colorado, and Missouri, and most recently have returned to the state of my toddler years, California. As for states I’ve visited, well… as I just mentioned, I’ve been to over 30 of them (33 to date), so we’ll save that for another time!
  2. Mexico- For many Americans, their first time out of the country was a trip to Mexico. That was true for me: when I was 14, my family went on a cruise with stops in Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas. I’ve been to Mexico many times since, including a couple of mission trips. I currently live 30 miles from the Tecate border, so sometimes I go for a few hours just to enjoy the food! My most recent trip was similar to the first: a cruise with my coworkers to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.
  3. Peru- I took two mission trips to Peru with my church youth group. We partnered with Posada de Amor Children’s Home and Eliel Christian School in Cieneguilla. On both trips, we also spent a day in the capital city, Lima.
  4. Canada- Despite being the world’s second largest country in size and one that’s fairly easy for Americans to access, I’ve only visited a small piece of this country. While on a trip to Niagara Falls, I crossed the border a couple of times and even spent a night there.
  5. France- My first European nation! I started off my first overseas backpacking trip in Paris. After a detour into Spain, I returned to see the southern part of this country in Nice. 
  6. Spain- I started off in Madrid, headed over to La Alberca to volunteer with an English immersion program, returned to Madrid for a few more days, then headed onward to Barcelona.
  7. Monaco- My main reason for going to Nice wasn’t to see France, but to see the world’s second-smallest country. There are no hostels or any sort of affordable accommodation in this country, so I settled on a day trip. As it turns out, a day is all you need to see pretty much everything in this nation.
  8. Italy- I’ve spent more time in Italy than any other European country. For nearly a month, I explored cities such as Venice, Verona, Florence, Pisa, and Rome. And I saw just about everything there was to see in each of these places! But I still have a list of more places I want to go to and see if I ever get the chance to return.
  9. Vatican- No trip to Rome is complete without venturing into the world’s smallest nation. I border-hopped several times, and saw the Pope on two occasions!
  10. Greece- From Italy, I took a big, long ferry to Greece, then rode buses and trains around, so I saw a lot of the countryside. But I spent most of my time in Athens and Thessaloniki.
  11. Turkey- Although I only visited Istanbul, this city allowed me to be in both Europe and Asia! In fact, to date, it’s the only part of Asia I’ve been to. (For those of you counting, that’s a grand total of four continents.)
  12. Ireland- Several years after my first European trek with no international trips, I was itching to get back to Europe. I spent a week headquartered in Dublin, but took side trips throughout this beautiful island country.
  13. United Kingdom- My first time setting foot in this nation was on one of my Ireland side trips, where I went to Northern Ireland for places like Giant’s Causeway and Belfast. But a couple days later, I flew to England to stay in London with trips to Bath, Stonehenge, and Greenwich.
  14. The Bahamas- Before my trip to the British Isles, I was doing savings challenges to get enough money for that trip. While doing so, I stumbled onto a great deal for a Carnival Cruise. I chose to go to The Bahamas, with an itinerary that included Princess Cays (Eleuthera), Nassau (New Providence), and Freeport (Grand Bahama).
  15. Germany- I started off my third European adventure in Munich. From there, I explored Bavaria in places like Fussen (home of Neuschwanstein Castle) and a national park resort where I volunteered in an English immersion program. I had planned to do more around the country, but ultimately, the only other place I ended up visiting was Frankfurt. I’ll explain why with the next country…
  16. Austria- The first time I set foot in Austria was when I was on foot from Germany. I was in Fussen and decided to walk across the border through the beautiful German-Austrian Alps. A couple of weeks later, I got to visit Austria “for real” by going into Salzburg. However, even that was short-lived as coronavirus was quickly shutting everything down; I had to cut my trip short after barely escaping Salzburg!

It’s been a sweet life traveling to a sweet sixteen countries. What will be number seventeen? I’m looking into a few options for my next overseas trip that will include visiting a different country. I hope to update you on that soon. I only have nine years to check off 24 more countries if I want to reach 40 before 40!

How many countries have YOU been to? Even if it’s only one, share in the comments, and let me know which country you’d like to visit next!