Winter Weekend at Wilderness Trails

About a month and a half ago, I attended a dinner benefit for Wilderness Trails. That evening, I met the program director for the girls’ camps and offered to help out for camps and retreats. She was eager to get me involved, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I was available all weekend during a girls’ retreat. So Friday evening, I met the other leaders in a store parking lot and we loaded up the van and headed up the mountain!

Wilderness Trails is a free camp for kids in need. In the summer, they have outdoor camps where everyone sleeps in teepees, but in the winter, it’s a bit more luxurious. They have a six-bedroom lodge complete with bathrooms, a kitchen, and a large meeting area, where all the weekends retreats during the school year take place. The organization is based in Jackson County, Oregon, but this weekend’s camp served girls in Klamath and Douglas counties, so it was a quiet ride to the Cascade Mountains with just the adults! Since I had never been to Wilderness Trails before, I was in for a real treat when we arrived at the lodge that evening.

Wilderness Trails Lodge

I’ve been working at camps since I was twelve, the age of some of the girls at this camp! When I was fourteen I became a counselor, and I got a paying summer job at camp in high school. For the past three years, I was a full-time, year-round camp employee, a short career that I thought I had ended back in August. Apparently not. After this weekend, I definitely think I’ll continue working with Wilderness Trails in any way I can! This weekend may have seemed small for other camps I worked at, but it was a huge weekend for them: 33 campers with 7 adults! Forty is more than their lodge typically holds, so once all the bunks were filled, we covered most of the dorm floor with mattresses! The dorm I stayed in had eight beds, but since we had 11 people, it ended up looking like this:

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Yeah, it got pretty messy in just two days!

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Because it was raining most of the weekend, and cold all weekend, we spent most of the time in the lodge. We ate delicious meals, played games, did devotions, made crafts, did hair, and one girl even taught me how to finger knit a scarf! On Saturday night, we set up a projector and watched God’s Not Dead. I hadn’t seen that movie yet (I was invited to an advance screening before it hit theaters, but an ice storm hit the night I was supposed to go!), so I enjoyed watching it for the first time. Although I didn’t find it to be the greatest movie, it did have a good plot line and message.

Wilderness Trails Barn

When we weren’t in the lodge, we were in the barn. On Saturday morning, we went there to play games that were too active to play in the lodge. In the afternoon during free time, some of us returned for more fun. They had bows, arrows, and bales of straw for indoor archery practice. On one of the rafters hung a rope swing that many of the girls played with. They even had an auto-belay rock wall! I had a lot of fun, even though I myself didn’t do anything except shoot a few arrows. (I quickly gave up on that because the arrows were missing fletchings and none of the bows suited me… and I’m not a huge fan of archery, although apparently I’m an archery snob when I do end up doing it!)

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Since I hadn’t seen much of the camp property, when I got my one-hour break on Saturday afternoon, I spent most of it going for a walk. This meant bundling up in my heaviest coat and donning scarf and mittens, but it was certainly worth it. I began outside of the lodge, which is surrounded by picnic tables.

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I then walked past the barn and along a dirt road. I was hoping that this was the way to the entrance, since I wanted to take a picture of the entrance sign. I had seen a glimpse of it on Friday night, but it was dark when we arrived, which apparently messed up my sense of direction. I eventually made it to a trail marker, and I was so lost, it couldn’t even point me in the direction of the entrance.

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Instead, I ended up at the A-frame cabin, which was pretty cool to look at the exterior. Between the lodge and the A-frame, I’m tempted to organize my own group and rent out the camp!

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After walking for awhile, I figured I wasn’t going to make it to the entrance. (I found out the next day that I had been walking away from the entrance the entire time!) Plus, it was starting to rain, so I decided to turn back. But then, the strangest thing happened. It started to hail!

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Since it was only little bits of ice, the hail didn’t hurt, so I decided to take a longer way back to the lodge. This way, I spotted the tepee village where the summer camps are held. Of course the tents are taken down for the winter, but the play structures and outhouses were still there!

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On Sunday morning, we got a big surprise…

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It snowed! This trip had covered every type of winter weather: dry, rain, snow and hail! Because the snow had gotten fairly thick for such a short amount of time, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it to the church we had planned to attend. But we set to work anyway, packing up, cleaning up, and loading the vans. Fortunately, we were able to make it to Mountain View Christian Fellowship.

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Mountain View is a small cowboy church up in an area that’s mostly for camping vacationers. Even though our group more than outnumbered their regular attenders, they were wonderful to welcome us with open arms. After feeding us a big breakfast, they involved the girls a part of the worship session. I know some of these girls don’t attend church regularly, and some weren’t exactly sure how to behave, but the pastor was great with them. We he was taking prayer requests, many of the girls asked for prayers for their imprisoned parents, which was a pretty emotional time.

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After the service, we ate a quick snack, then we all got into our assigned vans headed toward our respective home counties, and said good bye. It was a great weekend that I hope to repeat!

Oh, and the church had two pet dogs too, which were pretty cute.

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Holiday Travel: Is It Worth It?

Seeing my first Great Lake (Erie) Thanksgiving weekend 2013.
Seeing my first Great Lake (Erie) Thanksgiving weekend 2013.

With Thanksgiving just around a few days away, people across the country are making travel plans, whether they are for next week or next month. Of course it’s justifiable: people want to see their families during winter holidays, and this may be only time of year that some people can take off from school and work. With millions of people planning trips, should the true traveler go along with the masses?

Thanksgiving is typically a low-key holiday for me. Most Thanksgivings growing up were simply spent at home with just immediate family. There were a few times we made the trip to California to spend the weekend with relatives, and once we even took a frigid Thanksgiving camping trip to Yosemite National Park, but I’m pretty sure every single Thanksgiving was spent in either California or Oregon. This coming Thanksgiving will actually be the first Thanksgiving in four years that I will spend the day with people that I’m related to. The past three years in Nebraska and Ohio, I have been blessed to be connected with a different coworker each year that invites me to be an honorary family member for the occasion. This has even provided me with opportunities to see new places. Two years ago, I discovered the area around little West Point, Nebraska. Last year was the complete opposite of the small-town holiday as I explored metropolitan Cleveland.

Riding the California Zephyr somewhere along the Colorado Rockies.
Riding the California Zephyr somewhere along the Colorado Rockies.

Although I don’t care much about what I do for Thanksgiving (as long as I celebrate it!), I have always gone out of my way to spend Christmas with my family. When I first moved out of Oregon, I wasn’t sure if I would keep this tradition, but I was able to take an affordable train trip from Omaha to Sacramento, and then from there to Klamath Falls where my family picked me up on Christmas Eve morning. In the following years it ended up being more reasonable to fly, but even then it proved to be an adventure, such as last year when the fog delayed me for three days so I had to go to Eugene to catch a red-eye flight!

One of the light displays at the Shore Acres Holiday Lights. The sequence shows the sea lion jumping into the water with a splash!

Even back when I didn’t have to travel to see my family, we would occasionally take a trip around Christmastime. If we didn’t go to Southern California for Christmas, we would always spend Christmas at home, but sometimes we would go on a little trip before or after the 25th. In fact, the first time we went to Mexico was when my family took a cruise the week before Christmas! Another fun destination was camping at the Oregon coast to walk around the intricate Shore Acres Holiday Lights as we sipped hot cider. In fact any trip to the coast was a warmer way to celebrate the Christmas season. When I visited two years ago, my family made an overnight trip to Brookings and went through a bit of California on the way there.

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Standing among Redwoods in Northern California, Christmas 2012.

So yes, I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and all the special occasions of winter. Of course, I also love to travel. And as you can see, I’ve done my share of holiday travel… but is it worth it? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:

Pros:

-Students are guaranteed at least a few days off.

-In many industries, it is easier to get this time of year off than any other time. Well, this doesn’t apply if you work in retail, but I was sometimes able to get a day or two off in December when I was a store associate!

-Traveling to see family or do something meaningful makes the holiday even more memorable.

-Sledding, snow shoeing, skiing, and other activities that can only be done during winter weather make for a great excuse to hit the snow caps.

-For those who want to avoid the cold, traveling south can make the winter more pleasant.

-There are some special events limited only to this time of year, such as light displays, living nativities, and old-fashioned Christmas parties.

Cons: 

-Prices jump on everything travel related! It’s not much of a stretch to think of the price of flights, gasoline, or hotels as doubling. Even budget travel resources, such as trains and hostels, have a tendency to rise for certain holidays.

-Many destinations get incredibly crowded. And you thought Black Friday shopping lines were bad!

-If this season eats away too much at your travel budget, this could prevent you from going on trips at other times of year when the weather is better, crowds are smaller, and prices are lower.

-Even in areas with more pleasant weather, you are more likely to be able to do more in the summer months at the same destination.

Although I could come up with more pros than cons for holiday travel, I think each of these cons are pretty negative. So what’s the verdict? Well, if I need to travel in order to properly celebrate a holiday, then by all means I will travel! But I’m not going to go out of my way to book a trip to Bermuda, or take off for an extended snow trip in the Rockies.

Because so many people are unwilling to work as Christmas comes closer, I think this is a perfect time to pick up some extra work. (And then use that extra cash on a later trip!) Several years ago when I worked part-time in retail, as soon as my school went on break I ended up with practically a full-time schedule in order to keep up with the extended shopping hours and cover for my coworkers who could not make it to work. Right now, I just finished my training for my seasonal job at the Harry and David call center, where pretty soon I could be picking up 70 hours per week if I wanted to! (Plus, I get free and heavily-discounted gourmet food and gifts, which- let’s be honest- that’s why I’m really there!) Naturally, jobs like these involve dealing with people who find the holidays to be more stressful than they should be, but when I think of dealing with each cranky customer as putting money in my travel fund, it puts everything in perspective.

Since I don’t have to travel for Christmas this year since I’m already living by my family, I appreciate the fact that the money I could be spending for just a few days of Christmas break can now be used to fund a couple weeks on a future trip. But even though I won’t be going on any extended trips to exotic locations until 2015, I do plan to take several smaller trips over the remaining weeks of the year. Just from writing this post right now, I think I may have convinced myself to make a trip out to the Pacific coast! With my connections and employee perks at Harry and David, I have the opportunity to go on their popular tour where you can see some of the world’s largest popcorn poppers and acres of pear trees. And although Christmas break is a popular travel time, travel business isn’t so great in the weeks before and after, so I may take advantage of discounted travel prices during this time.

In fact, I’m getting ready to go on a trip this very weekend! I’ll be leaving in just a few hours, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get back!

August 3rd, 2009: Somewhere Over Latin America

Context: This was the first entry of my second trip to Peru, written before landing in Lima.

Do you ever get the feeling that you just want to dance and have the energy to run to South America, but you’re forced to sit in one spot? That’s exactly what it feels like as I am now sitting on a plane headed toward my second-ever Peruvian voyage! To think, it all started yesterday afternoon as the group took a big bus ride from our church to Concordia University. I hung out in the dorm lobby, attempted to sleep on the lawn, in a hallway, and on the couch, got my hair done, read, and got a grand total of 1.5 hours of sleep before we had to leave at 2:15 to be at the airport by 3 for our 6 o’clock flight. I had muffins a teammate brought and a Wendy’s egg-n-cheese breakfast sandwich (and a lot of water!) We then boarded a plane to Atlanta, which had personal TVs. Unfortunately you had to pay to watch almost everything! We then ate Arby’s in Georgia and sat next to our boarding gate (oh, and we got to ride on one of those airport subways!) Now we’re on a 6+ hour flight to Lima. Everything’s free on our TVs this time, so I’m enjoying a movie marathon of Monsters vs. Aliens, 17 Again, and Race to Witch Mountain. In about an hour, we’ll be landing and getting ready to go to Loma Linda for the night. And tomorrow, we’ll see Posada de Amor! I miss them so much and I want to see how the kids have grown and I want to meet the newer kids. But for now, I’m stuck on a turbulent plane!

The mission team before we started our journey

Highlight of the Day: Not exactly a “highlight”, but an embarrassing moment worth remembering! On the first flight, I didn’t want to use the lavatory, so I decided to wait for the end of the 5.5 hour trip. After several hours (okay, I didn’t have to go the WHOLE trip; it just seemed that way) I realized I needed to go, so I was about to get up, when the seat belt sign turned on! They announced we’d land in 20 minutes. Well, 20 turned to 30, and I soon couldn’t keep still or silent. After a bumpy ride to the landing strip, I anxiously awaited for the seat belt sign to go off. Then I dashed off to the lavatory, which was in the back. When I came out, everyone was already in the aisle, so I have to wait a half an hour to get out, and the whole group had to wait for me!

Happy Half Birthday to Me!

Today I am exactly 282 months old, or 23.5 years. No, I’m not one of those self-centered people who try to make up as many occasions as possibly to celebrate my existence, but I’ve always used this day as a time of reflection. I’ve only had 6 months of experience being 23 years old, yet in just 6 months I will have a new age to experience! So let’s take a look at what has happened since my birthday, and then plan what to do with the rest of the year!

Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World's Largest Gavel!
Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World’s Largest Gavel!

My 23rd year started on May 10th, 2014. I wanted to celebrate my birthday by taking a trip, because my favorite birthdays have been while I was traveling. I celebrated my 8th, 13th, 18th, and 22nd birthday in Disney World. No, my parents didn’t take me to Disney World just to celebrate my annual milestone; my birthday just happens to be the best time of year to go! But there was no way I would be able to get to Disney World this year, so I looked more locally. At the time, I lived about an hour away from Columbus, but I had never actually spend much time there. So I decided to book a weekend at The Wayfaring Buckeye (reviewing this hostel helped me rediscover my travel writing passion), throw my bicycle in the back of my Explorer, and head toward the city. I may have spent my birthday alone, but it didn’t even matter because I got to go to a topiary garden, a humongous bookshop, a record-breaking gavel, a fun science museum, two street fairs, and Buffalo Wild Wings, accessing all this on just two wheels! I even went to the Capitol Building and art museum the next day, and of course I set aside some time to call my family and just kick back.

At the science museum, I got to ride a self-balancing unicycle that was two stories high!
At the science museum, I got to ride a self-balancing unicycle that was two stories high!

I had been working at a retreat center as an outdoor school instructor. Sadly, the school year was just about ending, which meant the job was transitioning. I had the opportunity to help build a new website, and unfortunately I was also given the task of being a lifeguard. Since my summer work was looking somewhat bleak, I started making plans for my days off to “escape” in the world of travel, which also included filling up the remaining weekends in May with even more travel!

Harding Memorial Tomb
Me at the Harding Memorial.

The next weekend I had to go to Marion, Ohio, which I had never been to before. I looked up things I could do while in that town, and was surprised to discover that President Warren G. Harding had lived there, and now he and his wife were buried there! I decided my first stop in Marion would be to visit the cemetery he was buried in. The Harding Memorial looked like something that should only be found in a place like Washington, D.C. But since it was in Central Ohio, it had the bonus of not being crowded with tourists! After finding a geocache near the cemetery, I eventually made it to the event that brought me to Marion in the first place. Secret Keeper Girl had invited me to cover their event so I could feature it in Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. Since it was a mother-daughter event for tween girls, it was a little awkward for me to go by myself. I’m neither a tween nor a mother! But it actually was a great program with some fun games, a message that everyone could take to heart, and a pre-show concert from Copperlily.

Copperlily performing on the Secret Keeper Girl tour.
Copperlily performing on the Secret Keeper Girl tour.

The next week was Memorial Day weekend, and coincidentally, that was the only weekend where I didn’t have any plans. But my work was having a camp out that staff could attend for free, so I turned the back of my Explorer into a bed (while somehow also fitting my bicycle back there) and enjoyed a few nights away from home.

My typical camp set-up included my car (with all my clothes and bedding in the back), my bicycle, and hopefully a provided table to read and eat at!
My typical camp set-up included my car (with all my clothes and bedding in the back), my bicycle, and hopefully a provided table to read and eat at!

Because I had so much fun camping in my car that weekend, the next weekend involved car camping as well! I was invited to a review stay at Turkey Hollow Campground near Millersburg, Ohio AKA Amish Country. I spent two nights there picnicking, sleeping where I could see the stars, walking some paths, and using the camp paddle boat on the pond. During the day, I experienced as much of the Amish life I could in Holmes County by feeding the exotic animals at The Farm at Walnut Creek, touring the schoolhouse, barn, and cyclorama at the Behalt museum, and of course enjoying the authentic shops and foods!

Zebras were one of the several animals I got to pet and feed at The Farm at Walnut Creek. Another highlight was when a giraffe tried to eat my hair!
Zebras were one of the several animals I got to pet and feed at The Farm at Walnut Creek. Another highlight was when a giraffe tried to eat my hair!

My weekend trip to Holmes County ended on June 1st, and sadly that was the first and last trip of June. I remember spending that month working, going to church, and reading. But that also gave me more time to plan a trip to Niagara Falls, which I had wanted to do for a long time! Since Niagara Falls isn’t too far away from Ohio, it would be cheap trip to get there, and I decided to make it even cheaper by taking the Greyhound bus for the first time. Since I had never taken the bus before, I wasn’t sure if the bus station had a parking lot. I decided to drive up to Mansfield to see for myself in early July. And of course, I decided to make a trip out of it!

Doing time in one of the nearly 1000 cells.
Doing time in one of the nearly 1000 cells.

After discovering that there was no parking at all and I would have to arrange for someone to drop me off, I headed over to the Mansfield Reformatory. The outside looks like a castle, and the inside looks like an abandoned prison, which is what it actually is. It has also been a set for a couple of movies and is supposedly a haunted locale. I also spent this day trip visiting a natural park and a natural food store.

Cave of the Winds Trip on the US side of Niagara Falls
Cave of the Winds Trip on the US side of Niagara Falls

The next weekend I headed off to Niagara Falls! I thought this would be my one big trip of the year (fortunately that was proven wrong!) and I enjoyed a weekend of hiking, eating, sightseeing, and visiting Canada for the first time! This trip also really helped me make a name as a travel writer. Starting the eve of my 23rd birthday, I had been comped a couple nights at accommodations for being a writer and reviewer. But this entire 9-day trip only required me to pay for one night of lodging, plus I got a few other perks! But of course, the best part was finally seeing the Niagara Falls in person.

Enjoying the view from the Canada side of Niagara Falls
Enjoying the view from the Canada side of Niagara Falls

A few weeks after returning to my normal life, I got the opportunity to switch my role from tourist to tour guide! My sister had just come back from living in Mexico, and she wanted to explore Ohio before settling back in Oregon. I showed her a few of my favorite places, like Amish Country, President Harding’s tomb, and President Hayes’ birthplace, and she even encouraged me to try out a few new things, like the Columbus Zoo. The few days she spent in Ohio were memorable, not only because they were jam-packed with fun, but also because I decided that I also needed to move back to Oregon after being gone for three years. After all, the main reason I liked working in Ohio was just because of all the trips I could take on my days off!

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Walking through a cute little park next to one of the several cheese factories in Holmes County.

After spending a couple weeks trying to pack what I could and sell what I couldn’t, I finally left Ohio. It was actually miraculous to see everything that occurred in those few short weeks, such as the way my car was sold, the connection to donate my beautiful bed, and the numerous gift exchanges that occurred. I then embarked on my second-ever Greyhound trip, this time for eight days. Although I tried to line up travel writing jobs along the way, it was a holiday weekend and I had a pretty tight schedule, so I couldn’t get anything comped. Yet still, I only ended up paying for one night of lodging (thanks to relatives, former workplaces, overnight bus trips, and one night in a bus station followed by convincing the hostel to let me check in early for free). Besides driving and sightseeing through ten states, I made overnight stops in Chicago, Omaha/Fremont, and Denver. So much happened on this part-moving-expedition, part-road-trip, that you’ll just have to read all five blogs I wrote about it (here, here, here, here, and here) to see what I did!

I don't play favorites when it comes to travel, but a definite highlight was stepping out on the Willis Tower Skydeck's transparent ledge on the 103rd floor!
I don’t play favorites when it comes to travel, but a definite highlight was stepping out on the Willis Tower Skydeck’s transparent ledge on the 103rd floor!

I have spent all my time since then within Oregon boundaries. I got a few nanny and babysitting jobs right off the bat, but while I continued to search for a more regular job, I took a few Oregonian excursions. This included going to the Bigfoot Trap, spending the night in Ashland, and touring the Oregon Vortex, among a few other day trips.

Due to the height change in the Oregon Vortex, my mom and I could finally see eye to eye!
Due to the height change in the Oregon Vortex, my mom and I could finally see eye to eye!

As I mentioned, in addition to my writing work, I started to in-home childcare since moving to Oregon, which now includes a regular part-time nanny gig. A few weeks ago, I was also hired at Harry and David World headquarters to help with the Christmas rush. Not too long after that, I was also hired as a housemother at the Magdalene Home, which is an organization that provides housing and resources to teen mothers and their children. Over the past week, I have been training for this position, and I’m really looking forward to it! My training ended today, just in time for my new training at Harry and David to start tomorrow! I’m actually surprised that working four different jobs is going this smoothly. In fact, the only downside is this means I have early starts every day for a couple of weeks, which will then probably switch to a crazy combination of late nights and early mornings.

So there you have it: just about everything I’ve done over the past six months! So what do the next six months have in store? Obviously there’s work, with the goal to save up enough money so I can enjoy a backpacking trip to Europe, and possibly other destinations! I will also be going forth as one of the few remaining editors of Christian girl magazines, since most of our competition has gone out of business. In response to this, there are plans to expand and improve Girlz 4 Christ, and I am planning to apply for it to become an official non-profit organization! So far I’m not aware of any trips coming up in the next six months, but I’m sure they will happen in early 2015, and I’m ready to take advantage of any opportunities made available to me! Other than that, I don’t really know what will happen for the rest of my 23rd year, but I’m excited to find out. I’ll give you an update on this six months from now- hopefully while celebrating a 24th birthday excursion!

Travel Pinspiration

I’ve found a ton of great travel pins on Pinterest. I like pinning to my travel boards; it’s almost like making my own personalized travel guide to the world! Here are a few interesting finds:

The best times and places to experience autumn:

This map shows the best time of year to see colorful foliage across the US.

Creative ways to remember your travels:

photos from each state they visited - glued onto a giant map and cut to fit the shape of the state.

Embroider a trip on the map and frame.

Money-saving tips:

How To Travel Through Europe And Not Breaking your Bank

Travel tips: handling money overseas. Moving to Madrid? www.matrixrelocations.com

Packing tips:

Backpack for Europe - Travel Packing List

Carry-on travel checklist

should i pack it?

Destination ideas:

American Road Trip Ideas!

Cool INFOGRAPHIC: Getting to know Vatican City and the Pope. Not catholic but still interesting. History buff.

And culture tips for basically anywhere in the world!

Cell Phone Ettiquette Around The World

Should Travelers Have Pets?

It’s a valid question: should travelers have pets? As I mentioned in my post on cheap living for travelers, pets cost money that will inevitably eat at your travel fund. Here are a few other reasons why pets aren’t traveler-friendly:

  • Traveling with pets really limits your choice of accommodations, and you may even have to pay an additional pet fee.
  • If you don’t travel with them, pet-sitters and kennels can cost a lot. You may also be worried for your pet the entire time you’re gone.
  • Even if you find pet-friendly accommodations, you’ll be limited on all the other aspects of your trip. You’ll have to plan carefully trips to restaurants, attractions, and stores.
  • Pets require time that you could otherwise spend exploring your destination.
  • Because you’ll have to make tough decisions and sacrifices with your pet, you could become the kind of pet owner you (and most other people) hate. Like the one who leaves their pet in the car. Or the one who takes their animal into a building that only service dogs should be allowed in.
  • Even low-maintenance pets can prove to be lots of work while traveling. Keep reading to find out more.

As you can see, I find it to be far too much of a hassle to have pets. And yet a week ago I adopted these two:

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These guys, along with hundreds of other fish, were unpopular prizes at the harvest festival I had volunteered at. I didn’t want anything to happen to them if no one wanted them, so I did what I could and took two with me. What else could I have done?

Fortunately, goldfish are probably the least expensive pet. Of course I got these fish for free, but if I wanted to I could have picked them up at the pet store for a quarter. I already have a bowl and rocks from previous fish ownership, and of course the few gallons of water they use is a negligible cost. So the only expense for these guys right now was a little over a buck for fish food, which looks like it will last a long time.

Still, I’m concerned for these fish. My last few pet ownership experiences took a turn for the worse as soon as I decided to travel. My previous pets were two hermit crabs named Ferb and Shelldon. I owned these two fellows when I was living in Nebraska. They acted just like any other normal hermit crab would, and I took pretty good care of them, making sure that they always had a moist tank and a variety of food. I took two trips when I had them, but fortunately, I knew some girls who were eager to pet-sit. But then I wanted to move to Ohio, and somehow, they knew. I hadn’t even started packing yet. In fact, I hadn’t even received a job offer, but both of them died within a few weeks. I guess they really didn’t want to move to Ohio!

Ferb the Hermit Crab

Before that, my previous four pets were goldfish when I previously lived in Oregon, which I kept two at a time. The first pair died the day I left for a choir tour. I guess they just missed me too much! The second couple was a little better. One of them died a few weeks into ownership for an unknown reason. The other one was much better, and lived for a couple of years. When I moved to Nebraska, I couldn’t take him with me, so he became my family’s pet. He lived several months longer, but eventually gave up on living.

Now that I have learned more about animal care, I’m determined to keep these little fishies swimming for as long as possible. Just this morning, I saw the gray fish laying on his side at the bottom of the tank, barely moving. Many people would just flush him (or her?), but I figured this was something that could be remedied. I guessed that there was something wrong with his swim bladder, so after moving him to his own container, I went online and did a few quick searches. Indeed, he showed the symptoms of a swim bladder disorder, and I made some changes that would help him heal. Not much later, he bounced back after a quick recovery!

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They seem to be okay while I’m here, but what about when I travel? As I mentioned before, I’m currently taking a travel hiatus, so these two fish will spend that time growing bigger. They’re small feeder fish now, but they have the potential to grow up to several inches long! When I do inevitably start traveling again, they’ll hopefully be big enough that I can introduce them to the other goldfish in my parents’ pond. They’ll then spend the rest of their days socializing with other fish in a semi-natural environment.

But for now I am committed to raising them to be strong, healthy goldfish! The sad thing is, I haven’t even chosen names for them yet. So today, I’m making a call-out for friends, family, and even strangers to suggest names for these two critters.

What should I call the gray and orange goldfish?

A Simple Song

Here’s a fast thought for your Friday:

Books are great. If I’m not exploring the world, I’m probably at home with a good book. Today was one of those days, as I am currently rereading this:

A Simple Song

Melody Carlson has been my favorite author for a long time, ever since I first read Diary of a Teenage Girl in middle school. She’s written over 200 books, and it would be wonderful if I have the opportunity to read all of them throughout my life. Because I get Melody Carlson’s monthly newsletter that features announcements and contests, I won a prize from her last April for sharing a story about an April Fool’s joke that was pulled on me. (I may share that prank with all of you later…) My prize was a box of her books, and A Simple Song was one of them. It’s a story about an Amish girl, Katrina, who lives in Holmes County, which was relevant to me since I only lived an hour’s drive from there!

Now that I’m on the other side of the country, this book has even more meaning as a read it for a second time. Katrina has the opportunity to go to Hollywood and compete on an American Idol style of show. She goes back and forth on this decision, but eventually leaves for the West Coast. Although I’m not Amish, and I would probably only be brought onto a singing competition as the comic relief, I feel like I have a lot in common with this fictional Katrina Yoder. We both left Central Ohio for a more promising west. It was a difficult decision, and while we know it was for the best, it still makes us uneasy even to this day. Being in locations close to Katrina’s journey really brought this story to life. Also, Melody Carlson lives in Oregon, so that makes this book even more relevant to my life. I hope I can run into her someday.

A good book is typically less costly than a trip, but it can take you on an even wilder adventure!

Travel I Can Cross Off My Bucket List

Yesterday, I posted my current Travel Bucket List. However, while I’m looking forward to hopefully accomplishing all those things in the future, I think it’s important to also look back on previous accomplishments. While I don’t plan every single trip around my goals, once I have a trip planned, I try to take advantage of any opportunities available to apply that trip to working towards a goal. I often accomplish several goals in one trip, which is why you’ll see that I have often done several goals at the same time. Here are some things that are no longer on my bucket list, because I actually did them!

1. Go to Chicago. (September 2014)

2. Eat pizza in Chicago. (September 2014)

3. Go up the Willis Tower and stand on the Skydeck. (September 2014- Okay, I’m done with the Chicago goals!)

On the Willis Tower Skydeck...before eating pizza...in Chicago.
On the Willis Tower Skydeck…before eating pizza…in Chicago.

4. Live away from the Pacific states. (August 2011)

5. Visit Amish Country. (October 2013 in Holmes County, plus two other trips within the following year)

6. Go to the Creation Museum. (March 2014)

Hanging out in the ark room of the Creation Musuem
Hanging out in the ark room of the Creation Musuem

7. Vacation in Hawaii. (April 2001, Oahu)

8. Go to Walt Disney World. (May 1999, plus three more times, all in May during my birthday!)

9. Bike around a major city. (May 2014, Columbus)

Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World's Largest Gavel!
Going on a bike ride around Columbus, Ohio happened to bring me to the World’s Largest Gavel!

10. Be in two places at once a la A Walk to Remember. (March 2013, Nebraska/Iowa, also internationally in July 2014 at New York/Ontario)

11. Visit a different country. (December 2005, Mexico; July 2007 in Peru was the first time I stayed the night inside the country)

12. Visit a different continent. (July 2007 and August 2009, Peru, South America)

Playing with kids at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, Peru
Playing with kids at the Posada de Amor orphanage in Cieneguilla, Peru

13. Visit Canada. (July 2014, Niagara Falls)

14. Go on a mission trip. (July 2007, Posada de Amor in Peru, plus several other trips after)

15. Go to Seattle. (March 2004 was my first trip)

16. Go to Nashville. (September/October 2012)

In front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville
In front of the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

17. Go to Niagara Falls. (July 2014)

18. Take an overnight train trip. (December 2011, from Nebraska to Oregon)

19. Go on a cruise. (December 2005, California and Baja)

20. Support overseas orphans. (Not including Latin American mission trips, I’ve sponsored Nelly in Zambia since 2013.)

Nelly, the teenager I sponsor through Every Orphan’s Hope

21. Fly first class. (January 2013, from Denver to Omaha)

22. See Mount Rushmore. (August 2011)

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

23. Be in the nation’s Capitol. (June 2007 in Washington DC, also in Peru’s capitol of Lima in July 2007 and August 2009)

24. Go to New York, New York. (June 2007)

TIESS3 209
On a class trip to the East Coast

25. See historic Philadelphia. (June 2007)

26. Travel out-of-state without my parents. (March 2003 to Washington, and many, many, many trips since!)

27. Travel by myself. (This one’s ambiguous: in 2001 I flew by myself but was picked up by family at my destination, in August 2011 I moved to Nebraska for an internship, in September 2012 I went to Tennessee for two weeks but one week was spent with a friend, in August 2013 I took a solo road trip to get to Ohio for my new job… if none of the previous count to you has having traveled by myself, then I definitely took several trips over the past year that would certainly count!)

In the airport at the beginning of my move to Nebraska
In the airport at the beginning of my move to Nebraska

28. Drive more than an hour. (First time was February 2013 from Twin City area in Minnesota to somewhere in Iowa)

29. Drive the entire way on a road trip. (First time was August 2013 from Fremont, NE to Marengo, OH)

30. See a Great Lake. (First saw Lake Erie November 2013, within the next several months also saw Ontario and Michigan)

Walking alongside Lake Michigan in Chicago
Walking alongside Lake Michigan in Chicago

31. See the Atlantic Ocean. (June 2007)

32. Go to Colorado, but not just inside an airport. (October 2011, Estes Park, visited twice later on)

33. Buy a car (August 2012, bought a y2k red Ford Explorer, sadly sold August 2014)

My SUV Dora (named so because she was an Explorer)
My SUV Dora (named so because she was an Explorer)

34. Go to Yellowstone National Park to watch Old Faithful, see large wild animals, and stand on the Continental Divide. (July-ish 2002?)

35. Take a tethered balloon ride. (July 2010)

36. Sleep (inside a car) in a Walmart parking lot. (September 2013)

37. See Multnomah Falls. (September 2014)

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls in Northern Oregon

38. Go on an extended whitewater rafting trip. (May 2011, Rogue River)

39. Take a trip with only carry-on luggage. (September/October 2011, Tennessee, and nearly every trip ever since!)

40. Ride the Greyhound. (July 2014, and again in August/September 2014)

Good Ol' Greyhound
Good Ol’ Greyhound

41. Go waterskiing/wakeboarding. (July 2004 was my first waterski attempt, July 2006 proved more successful and was also my wakeboard introduction)

42. Sleep all night in a hammock. (July 2012, at the top of a 60-foot tower overlooking the Platte River)

43. Stay in a hostel. (September 2012, Music City Hostel in Nashville; hostels are now my favorite accommodation!)

44. Attend a Christian music festival. (September 2011, Lifelight South Dakota)

Among over 10,000 fans at a Lifelight concert
Among over 10,000 fans at a Lifelight concert

45. See The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. (June 2007)

46. Visit the three main countries that make up North America. (Started at birth in the U.S., ended in Canada July 2014)

47. Hike from base to summit of a mountain. (The tallest so far was Harney Peak in South Dakota August 2011, but was preceded by Mount Humbug and both Table Rocks in Oregon)

This building is at the very top of Harney's Peak and it was a strenuous four-mile journey to get there
This building is at the very top of Harney’s Peak and it was a strenuous four-mile journey to get there

48. Ride a roller coaster that goes upside-down. (May 2003, Disney’s Rock n Roller Coaster, and of course with visits to more “adventurous” theme parks like Six Flags Marine World, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Adventureland, I’ve been on dozens more)

49. Be invited to a movie screening before it comes to theaters. (July 2011 for Courageous; I’ve also gone to Grace Unplugged, Moms’ Night Out, and When the Game Stands Tall)

50. Become a travel writer (started professionally writing November 2008!)

So there you have it: my top 50 travel accomplishments! I’m looking forward to adding more to this list!

My Travel Bucket List

I’ve already accomplished a lot of my travel goals, but all my goals are far from complete. Here are the top 75 items that are currently on my travel bucket list:

1. Backpack Europe. Accomplished July-October 2015

2. Return to Washington, D.C. to explore everything more in-depth, including every Smithsonian museum.

Here I am at the DC Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I absolutely MUST go back!
Here I am at the DC Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I absolutely MUST go back!

3. Go to Memphis.

4. Explore states along the Gulf of Mexico.

5. Sing the Full House theme song while going over the Golden Gate Bridge. Accomplished August 2016!

6. Skydive.

7. Visit all 50 of the United States. (I’m over halfway there, and it’s starting to get tricky!)

Knocking out two states at once!
Knocking out two states at once!

8. Appear on national/international television or in a feature film.

9. Help at an orphanage in six different continents. (Two down, four to go!)

Posada de Amor, the orphanage I've volunteered at in South America.
Posada de Amor, the orphanage I’ve volunteered at in South America.

10. Do something worthwhile in Antarctica. (A cruise would be nice, but I’d like to do something of benefit.)

11. Go to all the major oceans. (I’m not sure if the Atlantic counts since I took a boat over it, but never actually touched it, but so far I’ve only been there and the Pacific.)

My experience at the Atlantic Ocean involved seeing the Statue of Liberty!
My experience at the Atlantic Ocean involved seeing the Statue of Liberty!

12. Win a contest where travel is the prize.

13. See all five of the Great Lakes. (I knocked out three of them in just the past year!)

My first time seeing a Great Lake- Lake Erie in Cleveland!
My first time seeing a Great Lake- Lake Erie in Cleveland!

14. Live in the Mountain Time Zone. (It’s the only zone in the continental U.S. that I haven’t lived in yet!)

15. Fly in a helicopter.

16. Live in a van or RV while going on an extended road trip. (I lived in an RV for one month, but it didn’t go anywhere!)

17. Take a balloon ride. (I once took a tethered ride, but I’d like to go higher and for longer.) Completed May 9th, 2015!

The balloon that I took a tethered ride on
The balloon that I took a tethered ride on

18. Meet another travel writer and go on a trip together.

19. See the Grand Canyon and remember it! (I don’t remember the trip I took there as a toddler.)

20. Walk through the Holy Land of Jerusalem.

21. Officially go on a press trip.

22. Explore at least one Caribbean Island.

23. Take a trip that does not involve being on any motorized vehicle.

24. Work full-time in travel and writing.

25. Go on a backpacking trip. I don’t think I want to conquer the entire Pacific Crest Trail, but I’m game for an overnight hiking trip.

26. Be part of a live studio audience.

27. Find a thousand geocaches.

The first of what will eventually be 1000 geocaches
The first of what will eventually be 1000 geocaches

28. Tour Boston.

29. Spend a week speaking English at a Diverbo program.  Completed August 2015!

30. Visit the smallest country (Vatican). Completed September 2015- I saw the Pope there too!

31. Go through New England in the fall.

32. Become proficient enough in driving stick shift that I can actually drive on real roads.

33. Go zorbing.

34. Be in four places at once in Four Corners.

35. Proficiently surf.

On the day I rented a surfboard, the lifeguards declared too harsh of tides. So I spent that week strictly boogie boarding!
On the day I rented a surfboard, the lifeguards declared too harsh of tides. So I spent that week strictly boogie boarding!

36. Go on the Eiffel Tower. Completed July 2015!

37. Visit a non-U.S. Disney Park. Completed July 2015 at Disneyland Paris!

My most recent experience at the United States Disney World
My most recent experience at the United States Disney World

38. Go to India.

39. Be among the Alps.

40. Go to Istanbul or another intercontinental city. Completed October 2015!

41. Become fluent in at least two languages.

42. Become conversational in at least three languages.

43. Go jet skiing.

44. Find a location where Back to the Future was filmed and quote lines that were said in the movie at that location. Completed April 2015!

45. Attend the Olympics.

46. Go to the new World Trade Center.

Ground Zero when I went in 2007- construction for the WTC had barely begun
Ground Zero when I went in 2007- construction for the WTC had barely begun

47. Visit a nation where freedom of religion is limited. Completed October 2015!

48. Eat Mediterranean food by the Mediterranean Sea. Completed August 2015!

49. Adopt children and take them on adventures.

50. Stand on a significant longitudinal or latitudinal line, such as the Equator, Greenwich Meridian or International Date Line.

51. Be inside a zeppelin.

52. See a giant panda.

Does this red panda that I saw at the Columbus Zoo count?
Does this red panda that I saw at the Columbus Zoo count?

53. See Northern Lights.

54. Use my travel experience as inspiration to write a professionally-published book.

55. Spend a period of time living in another country.

56. See the real Parthenon. (I already saw the one in Nashville!) Completed September 2015!

Inside the Parthenon... in Nashville
Inside the Parthenon… in Nashville

57. WWOOF

58. Tour the Capitol Building of my home state.

59. Tour the Capitol Building of every state I’ve ever lived in. (One down, at least three more to go!) (Added California Capitol in April 2015 after seeing the Ohio one the year before. Now I have to see Oregon’s, Nebraska’s and anywhere else I happen to move to!)

60. Take at least one trip every month for the rest of my life.

61. Work in orphan care or adoption.

62. Go rafting on class five rapids.

This trip only got me up to class 4 rapids
This trip only got me up to class 4 rapids

63. Rappel off something incredible, such as the Grand Canyon or CN Tower.

64. See the Hoover Dam.

65. Recognize a celebrity on the streets.

66. Go to the North Pole.

67. Go to the South Pole.

68. Be invited to a speaking engagement.

69. Go on a zipline canopy tour.

70. Become capable of cooking authentic ethnic cuisine dishes from around the world.

71. Own a species of South American camelid.

As for now, the closest I get to camelids is the annual Alpacamania
As for now, the closest I get to camelids is the annual Alpacamania

72. Meet a lifelong travel companion.

73. Go somewhere, probably Germany or France, where the last name “Lippe” is more common.

74. If time travel or teleportation are ever invented, do whatever it takes to get onboard with this endeavor!

75. Make new goals and never stop adventuring!