How I Spent Ten Days in Paris (and How I Did It On a Budget!)

It´s time to announce my first stop of my Mediterranean Adventure! I don´t know if you can actually count Paris as Mediterranean, but it has been a place that I´ve always wanted to visit! Here are a few things I did, and also how they didn´t cost me an arm and a leg!

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I Stayed in a Hostel I chose to stay at the BVJ Champs-Elysees Monceau because it was the closest hostel to most of the attractions I wanted to visit. Plus, it was one of the few Parisian hostels that offered free breakfast! Sure, this hostel had its downsides. It was once the mansion of famous Parisian painter Henry Gervais, which was super cool, but the downside of that was that since this historic high-ceiling mansion couldn´t undergo too much remodeling, everything echoed at all hours of day and night. But I think the good definitely outweighed the bad as they offered free detailed city maps, free big breakfasts, free WiFi, and plenty of opportunities to meet other travelers!

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I Climbed the Eiffel Tower I saved hours of time with this by choosing to climb- yes, actually climb- the Eiffel Tower instead of taking the elevator up. The two elevator lines stretched across the entire base at all hours of the day, but the lines for the stairs were virtually non-existent. Not only is this a great way to save time, but it saves money, too. A ticket for the stairs is 5 euros, but after convincing the ticket salesman that I was indeed under 25, I got in for just four. You see the same sights anyway, which are incredible! Plus you sound pretty cool for saying you actually walked up all those steps! The stairs ticket allows you to the first and second levels, but you have to take an elevator to the top level. I chose not to do this. For one, the line to buy this ticket was incredibly long, but also because Paris is so flat, you don´t get to see much more from up there.

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I Smiled at Mona Lisa and Waved at Venus de Milo The Louvre is huge! I spent the first several hours inside the museum simply wandering from room to room and marveling at all I found. But of course, there is one thing that most people come to the Louvre to see. Everyone wants to see Mona Lisa smile! It is totally worth seeing and snapping a selfie with, but beware: it involves waiting in a crowd of hundreds and you really have to push if you ever want to get to the front, where Mona Lisa is several feet away and protected by thick bulletproof glass. By the time the security guard forces you to leave, you are really sweaty, but it´s probably not just your sweat! I am totally glad that I saw her, but I´m okay with never going through that ordeal again!

The other art on my must-see list was the Venus de Milo. There is also a pretty big crowd around this one, but because it is a sculpture, you can see it from all angles. You can also get much closer to her! When I didn´t feel like being in a crowded room, there were plenty of places around the museum where I was the only one around. Eventually, the Louvre outlasted me, and I left much of the museum unseen. So I may go back there someday, but I´ll pass on the Mona Lisa!

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I Saw Vincent Van Gogh and Other Art While the Louvre is great, I preferred the Musee d´Orsay simply because it was less overwhelming. I still got tired at this museum, but this place actually had napping couches! I don´t know if they were intended for napping, but the unique octopus-like couches on the top floor opposite the clock had one-person seats that made you practically lay down, and I was not the only one who took a quick snooze there! But seriously, the art is great. There is a small Statue of Liberty made by the same person as the original, and a self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh!

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I Took a Sewer Tour Yes, it smelled. But this was probably the most unique attraction I visited! Paris has a very old sewer and water system, and it´s amazing that it was created progressive enough to hold up all these years. Plus, I´m really thankful that Paris has this so that the Seine is no longer full of waste!

I should mention how I could afford all these museums and attractions. I actually did not pay an admission fee for anything in the city other than the Eiffel Tower! The rest was covered by my Paris Museum Pass. I picked up a four-day pass for €55 at the airport´s visitor center. They also sell passes for two or six days, but I found four days to be the perfect amount. I got to do everything on my must-see list, plus I had a little time to discover little-known features, such as the sewer! As a bonus, the pass allows you to skip the line at most attractions, especially beneficial for long lines at popular places like the Louvre!

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I Hung Out at the Arc de Triomphe I think the best views of Paris are not found from the Eiffel Tower, but rather from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is situated in the center of the largest roundabout you´ve ever seen! But I didn´t have to worry about crossing this nearly lawless route. There is an underground tunnel at the end of the Champs Elysees that goes under all that traffic and ends up at the base of the Arc de Triomphe. It´s free to stroll around the base or admire the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can buy a ticket to take the long spiral staircase to the top, or just wave the Museum Pass and get in for no extra cost.

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I Strolled the Champs-Elysees (and learned how to pronounce it!) This could be an expensive endeavor if you don´t do it right. I did spend a little money at two different places. The first shop I bought from was McDonald´s, of all things! But this McDonald´s has a special McCafe where you can get what I think are the best macarons in Paris. I know this because I also bought a raspberry macaron from Laduree and did a comparison.

Besides sampling the local cuisine, my favorite thing to do on the Champs Elysees was visit the multiple auto showrooms. Even if you aren´t that interested in cars, these places are a sight to see. One showroom had movie cars from Jurassic World. Another had an attraction that gave you the illusion that you were standing on the ledge of a skyscraper! A couple of them offered free photo booths. Other favorite places to window shop at included Sephora, A&F, and The Disney Store. As long as you´re just marveling at the size of the store and not picking up items to buy, the Champs Elysees can be an inexpensive experience!

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I Took Two Guided Tours Using a walking tour company called DiscoveryWalks, I had the opportunity to explore the Notre Dame and Montmarte regions very in-depth. The local tour guides will tell you secrets and show you places you won´t find in any guidebook! They also give you practical tips, like where to fill up your water bottle for free. (The green fountains aren´t just for decoration!) The DiscoveryWalks tours I chose were tip-based. After how wonderful both guides were, I wished I had brought more money in my daypack to tip with! The only thing that these guides (both male) weren´t good at was rocking the company´s pink vest. They both expressed how awful the color was and took it off as soon as the tour begin. Maybe sometime down the road, DiscoveryWalks can adopt a more masculine color!

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I Saw Notre Dame from Top to Bottom Most people want to visit the top of the Notre Dame because they know Quasimodo had great views. Some people go inside the free cathedral. Even fewer explore the depths below that show the remains of an ancient city. I actually didn´t know that crypt existed until I saw it listed on my Paris Museum Pass! I did have to wait in line for about an hour to get inside the stairwell that goes to the bell tower. I think it was worth seeing the bells up close, and getting a completely different view of the city. But I think my favorite part was going inside the actual cathedral. It looks like a long line to get inside, but it moves quickly. Inside you´ll find lots of art and relics, most of which you can photograph! And for those of you who have watched the Disney cartoon, I do have to tell you this: as I was walking off the island that Notre Dame is situated on for the last time, I realized that I had completely missed my opportunity to yell “SANCTUARY!” So if any of you go there, will you do me a favor and shout that for me?

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I Visited Other Historic Cathedrals, Too I probably could have spent my entire time in Paris just cathedral hopping! Actually, I´ll probably visit lots of cathedrals throughout Europe if they´re half as good as the ones in Paris. As wonderful as the inside of Notre Dame was, it wasn´t nearly as exquisite of that of Sacre Couer. I also attended mass twice in Paris, once at Notre Dame, and once at a little historic cathedral on the same hill as Sacre Couer whose name escapes me. I´m not Catholic, and I don´t speak French, so I was pretty lost during both French-speaking Catholic masses, but the people there are very welcoming of everyone. It´s also easy to take a hint from everyone around you if you sit in the middle or the back of the sanctuary and just stand, sit, or kneel when everyone else does. You could try to sing or respond with everyone else if you´re ambitious. Even when I had the words in front of me, I usually ended up just moving my lips.

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I Relaxed Like a Parisian at the Parcs There are so many parcs in Paris! Of course, the most popular ones among travelers are those surrounding the Eiffel Tower. But after getting tired of being asked to sign fake petitions there, I went out and explored the other parcs. In these parcs, you´ll see the locals getting together and lingering over a picnic. At one parc, I sat down to eat a crepe nearby a group of young Parisians. After I finished, I walked around the Sacre Couer, walked down to Moulin Rouge, met up with a DiscoverWalks group, toured with them for nearly two hours, and ended up at the same parc I had eaten lunch at. Guess what? That same group of Parisians was STILL THERE enjoying lunch!

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I Ate a Lot of Crepes Other foods consumed included quiche, baguettes, and croissants, but my favorite was definitely crepes. There are street vendors all over Paris who sell these wonderful creations, and they can be eaten for snack, dessert, or even a meal! My favorite spread on the crepes was Nutella, but the cheese was also delicious. I tried to buy crepes from vendors who would pour out crepe batter and cook the crepe right in front of me. There was just something more authentic to that than eating the mass-produced packaged crepes.

I ate a crepe on most days, but there were also a few times when I went grocery shopping. That was an experience in itself! My favorite store ended up being a chain called Monoprix. They bake their bread and pastries right there in the store. If you buy a food that needs to be heated, you can even use their microwave! I mostly just bought Nutella and produce.

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I Went to Disneyland Paris It´s the most magical place on Earth! Well, it is in Europe at least. After going to all the Disney parks in the United States (save for California Adventure), I wanted to live as a Disney fan in another country. Disneyland Paris consists of two parks: the classic Disneyland, and Walt Disney Studios, which is most like the Hollywood Studios park in Florida.

You may be wondering how Disneyland  could possibly fit into budget Paris. A day at Disneyland Paris is actually cheaper than a day at the original Disneyland. I wanted to get a Disneyland Paris Express ticket. Not only does this include entrance into both parks, but also offers bussing to and from several locations in Paris. If you live in the USA, you can buy one of these tickets online for $135. But when I went on the French version of their website, I noticed that they sold this same ticket for €99. That´s a lot cheaper! In order to get the lower price, I used the French version (translated into English, of course) and entered my hostel information when it asked for an address. You print the ticket from your e-mail anyway, so it doesn´t really matter what you enter for the address. After I bought this, I didn´t buy anything else from Disneyland. I brought my own snacks to sustain me, and I even got a free souvenir by asking at Guest Relations!

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I Took the Plane, Bus, and Subway I didn´t take the subway until my very last day, when I had very few other options to get to the bus station. I was a little nervous since it was my first time riding any subway. I was confused when buying the ticket and had to get some help, but after that, it was almost as if I´d been riding the metro for years! It´s only €1.80 for most of Paris. Places outside of the city limits, like the airport and Disneyland, do cost more. To save money coming into Paris from CDG, I found a bus service called EasyBus, which is the absolute cheapest way to get from the airport into Paris! I also took the Disneyland Paris Express bus to get to and from Disneyland. But other than that, I did everything on foot. Yes, it was exhausting, especially considering Paris´ unexpected heat wave. However, this way I was able to experience so much more of Paris that most tourists miss! It saved a few Euros to boot!

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I Saw the Last Leg of Le Tour de France! When I found out when Le Tour ended, I decided to stretch my time in Paris just so I could catch it.I was curious what the best place to watch it from was. I even asked on traveler forums, and most people responded with snotty things like “just watch it on TV” or “the best place to see it from is inside your hotel room”. NO! It was absolutely amazing to see it from nearby the Arc de Triomphe. It was amazing just in itself to see that roundabout free from traffic! But seeing a bunch of guys bike around the Arc several times is not all that there is to do. Before the final stretch begins, there is a women´s version of Le Tour de France, which is just as exciting to watch. Between races, there is a sponsor parade with some pretty crazy vehicles! And during Le Tour, when you can´t see the cyclists in person, there are several screens situated around that stream the race live. However, I think my favorite part was going through the street fair. Companies were giving away delicious samples like crepes, oysters, fruit, breads, and Paris Cola. I shouldn´t have even bothered to pack a lunch!

Just so you know, I was not sponsored or comped for anything I did in Paris. I had to fund all my time in Paris completely on my own. If I can conquer Paris on a budget, I know that you can, too!

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Not Your Grandma’s Compression Socks

On the day I left the United States, my mom got a glimpse of the socks I was wearing before we headed to the airport. I had told her that I was going to wear compression socks, so she was surprised to see some cute black socks with a gray and teal designs. “When you said compression socks, I was thinking the white ones that grandma wears!” No, these were not grandma’s compression socks. I then opened up my suitcase and showed her all my compression socks that were very fashionable and un-granny-like, thanks to Goodhew and Sockwell.

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I don’t think I’ve ever worn compression socks until just a few days ago when I began this trip. I guess I had always assumed that these kind of socks were only to help with certain health problems, like diabetes and age-related conditions. When I heard that their health benefits could involve everyone, I immediately thought of how great it would be to wear compression socks to backpack across Europe.

Before my recent flight, the longest nonstop flight I had ever had was nine hours, from LAX to Lima. I distinctly remember that, partway though the flight, my foot started to feel really weird. It was worse than having my foot fall asleep. I guess sitting in a tiny coach seat for so long affected the circulation of my legs! Since my flight from Salt Lake to Europe was even longer, I was glad to have knee high compression socks with me. For the entire flight, I didnt have to deal with tingly feet, ankle swelling, or anything of the sort!

I did initially want compression socks simply for the flights, but they are good to wear when exploring an area as well. I have walked a lot every day of this trip so far. When I travel, I like to save money and get a better feel for the destination by walking everywhere I can instead of riding a bus, subway, or taxi cab. I don’t think I even want to know how much I’ve walked the past few days because that big of a number would probably only make me more tired! It is important to take care of my feet since they’ve carried me so far. These compression socks are a treat for my feet.

I got four pairs of compression socks from Goodhew and Sockwell. All of them are made out of wool. While that sounds like it could be a sweat-inducing material, wool is great at wicking moisture away, so they actually are keeping my feet dry and smelling fresh. And the compression aspect supports my feet, which means that miles of walking haven’t made my feet very sore, and I’ve avoided foot cramps so far! I brought two additional pairs of socks. But honestly, I like my Goodhew and Sockwell socks so much, I’ve been doing extra washing so that I can wear them every day!

My socks range in color, style and length. The knee high socks we’re great for wearing on the plane. Because they compress, you couldn’t even see the sock lines through my leggings. Definitely a fashion plus! My favorite for walking around town are below the ankle, although I have some slightly longer ones that also do well at serving this purpose. The only downside is that it can take longer to get the longer socks on. The compression can make pulling a sock up your leg a bit more difficult! But that’s a small price to pay for a day of happy feet!

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If you are interested in getting compression socks like mine, I can’t encourage you enough to head over to Goodhew’s site or Sockwell’s site and order some fantastic socks!

Oh, and one more thing: while these aren’t like grandma’s compression socks, people who happen to be grandmothers are still welcome to wear them!

Stockwell and Goodhew provided me with the pictured socks for the purpose of testing them out for review. No other compensation was made, and all opinions expressed are solely my own.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m Off!

It seems surreal! I was so excited when I confirmed I was actually going to backpack across Mediterranean Europe. I did some things way in advance out anticipation, like get gear and pack. And of course, there were some things that waited until the last minute, which made these last few days confusing as I wasn’t sure if I was anxious for the right or wrong reasons! But now that I’ve set off, here are a few things you should know about my trip:

  • This will be my very first time in Europe. I have been to Peru and the three main nations that make up North America, but this will still be the furthest distance I’ve traveled!
  • For safety reasons, I will not be posting about where I am at any point in time. By the time you read about a specific location, I’ll be in another one.  But I will be posting throughout my trip as much as I can!
  • Even though I’m no longer in the United States, I can still accept sponsors! I probably won’t be able to deal with any gear sponsors since shipping will be tricky (although I’d be happy to review the product once I return in the fall). I am looking for accommodations, attractions, restaurants, and other non-physical resources. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, click here!
  • Although sponsors help a lot, at this point in time my trip is mostly self-sponsored. How will I make ends meet while on the road? I’ve spent the past year saving up for this by working several jobs and cutting back on indulgences. I’m traveling cheaply by staying in hostels, riding trains and buses between cities, traveling by foot within a city, going on picnics for at least one meal per day, not buying beverages, and volunteering. I will also do a bit of travel writing and reviews to earn money along the way. Do you have any suggestions for paid writing opportunities?
  • Since I’ve been denying myself some treats and experiences over the past year, I will still be living it up a little in Europe. I won’t skip a city I want to visit just because it’s expensive. I’m going to pay admission for my dream attractions like the Acropolis, the Vatican, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Eiffel Tower. I even bought a ticket for a day trip to Disneyland Paris!
  • There is no checked luggage on my trip. That means limiting liquids and packing everything into a carry-on. It actually wasn’t that hard to meet size limits, but I have been practicing walking around my neighborhood to get used to the weight!
  • I’m not sure how much detail I’ll be posting while I travel. After all, I want to spend as much time as possible out experiencing! (Plus, writing will take longer as I’m only bringing a phone and not a laptop.) But if you’re interested in visiting a place that I visit, or doing something that I did, stay tuned! When I return home, I will be writing more detailed  articles based on what readers want to hear about.
  • I’m excited for this adventure. But you already knew that, right?

Prayer Sponsorship

For awhile now, I have been collecting sponsorships for the trip to Europe. I am very grateful to the sponsors who signed up. Without them, this trip would be much more difficult!

Although I am still accepting sponsors, I don’t want to talk about that kind of sponsorship today. Instead, I am looking for a kind of sponsorship that anyone can do. I’m looking for Prayer Sponsors.

I strongly believe in the power of prayer. I believe in God more than I believe in travel, or anything else, for that matter. And I was not on board with this trip opportunity until I confirmed it was what God wanted me to do through lots or prayer. And I’m still praying for it! Now, I invite you to pray too.

If you’re not a Christian or don’t believe in God, that’s okay! While I’m guessing it will be mostly people of faith who take this up, it is open to anybody. Even if prayer is not part of your normal belief system, I welcome you to try praying anyways. Who knows? It just might make a difference, both in my life and in yours.

What to pray for? You can pray for the normal things that go along with any trip, like safety and understanding and wisdom and an open heart. Since this is a long trip, you can pray for things specific to the extended time as well. I would also appreciate prayers for opportunities, both for the ones I currently know of as well as any other ones that may pop up. So far I am teaching English, visiting missionaries, promoting ethical businesses, and visiting many historic Christian sites. One of the motivators behind this trip is so I can minister to other traveling hearts, who are often missed by normal church outreaches. I’m not sure exactly how this will work (I’m not a “preachy” person), but you can pray for a way to be shown. Some of my fondest travel memories involved working with orphans or children in crisis situations. I haven’t found any opportunities yet that would allow me to do this in Europe, but I would be very grateful if one (or more) was found!

I am looking for anyone willing to become a Prayer Sponsor to make a commitment today in regards to this three-month journey. You don’t have to pray for it every day. There is no magic number of prayers. If you pray once a month, once a week, or even just once ever, I thank you.

If you can commit to praying for my Mediterranean Europe trip, please leave a comment so I know that I have your support! You can tell me the specifics that you’ll pray for, or simply post “I’m praying”. Thank you, thank you!

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If you’re interested in an entertaining way to be inspired by prayer, I recommend the movie War Room. It comes to theaters next month, but here’s a pic of me attending an advanced press screening.

Top Ten Tips for Taking a Travel Journal

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For many of my past trips, I have taken along a travel journal. But will I take one on this upcoming trip? Journals are heavy, and three months is a long time to keep consistent in writing. But my new travel journal will not leave my side as I trek across Europe! If you are planning a trip, I have some advice as to why you should include a journal.

1. My journals are the most meaningful mementos of any travel. They remind me of many emotions and experiences that I may have otherwise forgotten, whereas souvenirs often only remind me about my experience at the shop. Plus, since you bring your travel journal at the beginning of a trip, it’s the only souvenir that won’t add pack weight as you go!

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2. If you aren’t into writing, don’t assume journaling isn’t for you. Some journals come with unlined pages, perfect for those who prefer to doodle. You could also have others write your journal for you. Just ask those you meet on your trip if they would leave a note in your book so that you can remember them. My journal has a pocket in the back cover that I use to collect notes, tea and candy wrappers, ticket stubs, and other small mementos. Some travelers bring a glue stick along with them and use these sorts of items to create an on-the-go scrapbook in lieu of a journal.

3. Don’t feel pressured to write every day. On transport days, it’s hard to come up with an entire page of how interesting it is to sit on a bus. I’ve often combined two travel days into one journal entry (often a busy day where I didn’t have time to write followed by a boring day of just getting to the next place). I still include the slow days in my journal because they’re still part of my journey and usually something notable happens, but you can skip days like these entirely if you choose.

4. Decide if your journal pages will be shared, or if they are for your eyes only. I never really thought about this until last summer when I was speaking with a Japanese traveler who wanted to practice his English. When he asked to look at the journal on my lap, I hesitated, but figured that he wouldn’t be able to understand most of it, and I was never going to see him again anyway. Since then, I have shared a few entries on this site, but I think many entries only display their full meaning to the one who wrote it.

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5. Remember that there is no pressure to fill up every page of your travel journal. My most recently used journal is filled with trips from the past several years (2009-2014), and it still has some pages to go. I actually like the blank pages at the end. They’re inspiration for future trips. Or you can leave those last pages eternally blank and start a new journal every trip.OR, you can turn your travel journal into a daily journal and write about your adventures at home. It is your journal, so do with it whatever you want.

6. This may only be for people like me who can’t stand improper spelling, but when you look back on your entries, resist the urge to correct any errors. that journal entry was written in its time just the way it is, and trying to change that is like trying to change history. Leave it be! That being said, when you are writing in your journal, make an effort to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your future self will thank you for it!

6. Use your journaling time to relax from your journey. I often incorporate journaling into my on-the-road bedtime routine. I’ve also journaled at a park or other place where I can write while lingering by a view. Having a journal is also a good way to look less creepy when people-watching. If someone looks your way, simply get really involved in your writing!

7. I try to bring along a medium-sized journal because it’s big enough to hold everything I want to write, but still light enough to carry around. I sometimes even carry it in my day pack when I go walking for the day. That way, it’s ready to go whenever or wherever I’m inspired to write.

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8. You can use your journaling time to also practice your faith. You could write a prayer journal if you desire. My last two journals have had scripture pre-printed on each page. Sometimes, when I get out my journal, I’ll also get out my Bible as well. Journaling tends to mentally and spiritually place me in a position where I am very open to prayer and meditation. Find out what works for you.

9. Back when I was in high school, for the few trips I journaled for, I just used a spiral notebook. I guess it served its purpose, and I still have those stored, but they’re definitely lacking something. I would say the same thing about computerized journals as well. Beautifully laid out pages make the writing experience more enjoyable. A ribbon bookmark helps you keep your place. And a hard cover makes a journal durable for any trek it comes across. I got all these features when my grandma gave me an Ellie Claire travel journal. I have used it over the past several years, but when I realized I was running out of pages for my upcoming trip, I went straight to Ellie Claire for another one! My new journal has an updated look, but still includes all my must-have features!

I still need a tip number ten! Do you keep a travel journal? What advice can you share?

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Thanks Ellie Claire for sponsoring my new travel journal! All opinions expressed are my own, and I was loving Ellie Claire long before they partnered with this website!

Taking a Practice Walk

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Pardon the mirror selfie, but I wanted to show off my pack after my test walk.

Before a road trip, you always make sure that the car is ready for such an endeavor, right? It’s a good idea to get the main mode of transportation ready for a backpacking trip, too. And for my upcoming trip, that transportation would be… me!

I have worn my backpack a bit around the house, but yesterday I decided to take it to the streets. Except for a few small items, my backpack is completely packed. It weighs a little over 20 pounds. I wonder what the neighbors thought as I walked down the road with this big ol’ thing on my back! Was I running away? Did I think this rural area was for tourists?

I ended up walking about a half mile. I returned home sweating, but I think that was mostly due to this triple-digit Oregon summer. Regardless, I’m still glad that I sprung for a hybrid backpack with wheels. My first walk in Europe will be over two miles!

Do you “practice” for anything before taking a trip?