Category Archives: saving money

16 Trips of 2016

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

1. Festival of Trees

img_20161202_192010

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

2. Wilderness Trails

1455492988753

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

3. WWII Valor in the Pacific Site

img_20160924_164558

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

4. Lava Beds National Monument

img_20160924_153628

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

5. Table Rock

img_20160916_123821

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

6. Crater Lake National Park

img_20160828_133020

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

7. Lassen National Volcanic Park and the Pacific Crest Trailimg_20160826_135223

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

 

8. Sundial Bridge

img_20160806_204536

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

9. Rosie the Riveter

img_20160805_125941

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

10. San Francisco

img_20160804_165623

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

11. Point Reyes National Seashoreimg_20160802_083213

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

12. Avenue of the Giants

img_20160801_090243

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

13. Southern California
socal

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

14. Golden Ghost Town

IMG_20160318_144303_610

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

15. Wildlife Safari

DSCF4933

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

16. Gold Beach

12440800_10154039311713783_2881019246664324017_o (1)

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

16-from-2016

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

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

 

The Nearsighted Traveler with a Long-Term Vision

You’ve seen pictures of me that look like this:

DSCF5023

And you’ve also seen pictures of me that look like this:

DSCF3937

The obvious similarity between these two photos is that I have awesome selfie skills, but do you see the big difference? Yep, I’m a part-time glasses wearer!

When you see a picture of me not wearing glasses, it isn’t because I’m wearing contacts. I’m nearsighted so I need to wear my lenses for activities like driving, but the rest of the time my vision is good enough that prescription eyeglasses are optional, depending on whether I want to be able to make out the details in my sightseeing. I’ve actually never worn contacts; glasses seem so much more traveler-friendly!

Contacts require a lot of equipment: several spare lenses depending on how long your trip is, plus contact solution in a bottle that is probably too big to qualify for a carry-on liquid! They also take time to put on that could be spent enjoying travel. I really like how glasses can just be carried around in their lightweight case and thrown on as needed. Unfortunately, there are downsides to traveling with glasses too. One is a style issue. Your glasses will stand out too much if they don’t match the style of the clothes you’re wearing! I’m also afraid of losing or breaking them. My health insurance only covers one new pair of glasses every few years, which allows no leeway for a spare. That’s what led me to search for cheap glasses online.

I found a solution to my vision problems with GlassesShop! Well, I guess my optometrist was the one that found the solution, but I just took the prescription I was given at the doctor’s office and used it to order a second pair of glasses online. The folks at GlassesShop offer kind customer service, a wide variety of frames to choose from, lenses for both customized prescriptions and sunglasses, and discounts! (Keep reading for a free coupon code!) Because these glasses ship from China, there’s not as quick of a turnaround as you can expect from your neighborhood optometrist, but that’s a small price to pay for such a big savings! The retro-looking cateye glasses I chose arrived recently, and I’ve already gotten so much use out of them!

IMG_0411

My cousin got married in June, which meant a lot of miles and hours driving along the I-5 to get to Southern California and back. I tried my GlassesShop glasses when it was my turn to drive, and they worked great. I love how I can now alternate my glasses to best match my dress. I may even end up getting another pair from GlassesShop because they’re so cheap! And I’ll let you in on a little secret to make them even cheaper: use the coupon code GSHOT50 at checkout to receive 50% off eyeglasses or sunglasses with free lenses (sales frames excluded). 
IMG_0403

Do you wear glasses? Even if you only wear sunglasses, tell me how you travel with them! 

Please note that I was provided with a free pair of glasses for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was made. The above information is my honest opinion about my new glasses.

 

Summer 2016: Adventures with Girlz 4 Christ

As both an avid traveler and the editor of a magazine for teen girls, I do have to be sensitive to the fact that teens are pretty limited when it comes to travel options. Even though I think my teen years involved more travel than most, I couldn’t do much more than family vacations, school travel, and youth group-sponsored trips. Designing my own adventures was basically impossible. However, I still want to encourage wanderlust and give a sense of adventure to the girls I write and edit for.

About two years ago, I attempted to start a travel section in the magazine called “Girlz on the Go”, which would have a feature of an interesting place and other articles containing travel tips. Unfortunately, it did not receive any positive response. Looking back, it wasn’t very realistic of me to suggest these things to teens and preteens. But I have since learned from my mistakes!

Summer 2016 Cover - real official

With the summer issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine that released today, I tried something a bit different. Instead of encouraging travel that probably isn’t attainable to the readers, I rounded up ways to make an adventure out of whatever they’re doing this summer. Since even those of us who are no longer teens can often feel “stuck” when it comes to travel dreams, I’d like to offer some of what is in the magazine here too.

-I’ve suggested it before, but attending church is something that can be done for free just about anywhere in the world! Even if you don’t regularly go to church, I’d encourage you to visit and get a new grasp of local culture where you travel, or even a different perspective of your hometown! Author Kristen Hogrefe explains four benefits of this practice in the issue.

-One of my favorite reasons to travel is that it helps me discover more about myself. Another way to learn more about ourselves is through counseling. Whether it’s for mental health management, planning out achievement potential, or something else, we could all benefit from adventures through counseling. The lovely Adelee Russell writes about her experience and gives tips on how to handle an adventure that can initially seem as scary as new travel!

-When I can’t travel, I still like to learn about culture! I connected with two international Girlz 4 Christ readers so that they could share their life with all the other girls around the world. One lives in Rome, and I actually attended her church when I was there last September, so it was a nice walk down memory lane for me. The other is from Australia, an area where I haven’t even come close to, but I want to go now more than ever!

-Another exciting interview I had the privilege of conducting was with John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. They share tidbits of their life between Louisiana and Virginia. And since the theme of the interview was accomplishing goals, the advice they give can definitely apply to the goal of travel!

-Emily Joy shared how she connects with people from all over the world through her social media ministry, Encourage All. Just looking at her Instagram photos was inspiring enough!

-The more I travel, the more I consider how I can help the people in need around me. While voluntourism is a controversial topic, I definitely got some at-home training by watching Poverty, Inc.

-One of the fashion articles is actually just about how I’m preparing for my upcoming trip to Maui. I share how to shop on a budget, how to effectively pack, and how to make homemade, natural beauty treatments.

-When I’m not traveling, I take mental vacations largely by reading books. Scattered throughout the current issue are eight suggestions for your next “bookation”. These include books by Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family, a book by amputee Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, and even a book giveaway from Kimberly Rae!

-And because travel isn’t always smooth sailing, (in fact, life itself is rarely problem-free) Adelee Russell wrote another article about how to deal with those awkward and embarrassing moments.

//e.issuu.com/embed.html#2652356/36635671

These are just some highlights of this jam-packed issue of Girlz 4 Christ. The magazine itself is very traveler-friendly: it can be accessed on virtually any device and subscriptions are free! Click here to visit the website and get this freebie!

 

PS- If you want to see other travel writing I’ve done recently, check out this post about Letters to Juliet in Verona, Italy!

Transitioning to Travel Life

I’m going to guess that most people reading this don’t get to travel like it’s a full-time job, likely because they have a full-time job. However, many travel bloggers you can find on the internet do get to travel full-time, or at least most-of-the-time.

I am not one of those bloggers.

Although I was basically jobless for the three months I backpacked Europe (I made a little from freelance writing, but probably under $100), I have spent the rest of my adulthood scheduling travel around work. If I didn’t work, I couldn’t travel.

Now I’m thinking that most of you readers can relate to me better.

Most of the best travel blogs out there are written by people who travel like it’s their job, because it IS their job. When they go over how they manage things, it’s a little hard for the rest of us to relate.

I’d like to try something on this blog over the next few months that I’ve never seen successfully completed on other “indie” travel blogs. Instead of waiting until I am successful to tell you about my success, we’re going to start with explaining what I’m doing right here, right now.

Web Marketing for Booking Site

092
I booked this stay at Sacramento International Hostel through Hostelz.com!

I got my newest job just a week ago! I now work for Hostelz.com as a web marketer. I’ve written hostel reviews and location descriptions for this site for years now, so it’s nice to finally work for them for more substantial pay. The biggest advantage of this job is that while the company is based in Texas, I’ve never been to Texas and won’t have to go there for any work reasons. I can work from anywhere that I can connect to the internet. Another advantage is that part of this job involves visiting travel blogs that I may have not noticed before, so I’m getting some new travel information. Of course, there are downsides, but they’re pretty typical of location-independent work. One thing I’m not sure is an advantage or disadvantage is that I only get paid for completing something. The downside is that, unlike most jobs, I don’t get paid to take breaks. The upside is I have more control over how much I make.

Travel Blogging

wpid-wp-1436543162223.jpeg
While travel blogging doesn’t earn much, the perks are nice, like getting to review this Ellie Claire journal on my Mediterranean Trek!

This is still definitely more of a hobby, but I try to monetize when I can. For over a year now, I’ve included affiliate links to Hostelz.com, and recently when I’m trying to earn extra money with Swagbucks, although these haven’t been too successful yet. (But I do appreciate when you go through my links to book- it earns me a bit of money with no extra cost to you!)

You may have also noticed that I recently posted my first sponsored post. FatJoe contacted me a few months ago asking if this blog would be willing to host sponsored posts. My initial reaction was worrying that I would end up trapped posting subpar content advertising things I didn’t care about. But when I found out that I had control over what I could accept and that they would only submit things to me when they knew they were relevant for this site, I became more willing. Having only received one post from them over the past few months proves that they know their clients well, but resulted in only a few dollars coming my way.

It’s been somewhat profitable to guest post for other travel blogs. I recently was published for my third time on Travel Fashion Girl. I try not to write for free on blogs unless I can tell it will greatly help with networking. I think TravelingMom has potential for this. I’ve also joined a few travel writing networks such as The Aspiring Travel Writer, which has helped a lot with motivation.

While travel blogging hasn’t done much in terms of finances, it has always been nice to have sponsors!

Non-Travel Writing

summer 2016 announcement
I’ll get to West Monroe, Louisiana eventually. But getting to interview Duck Dynasty stars may be the next best thing.

Who said the digital nomadic life had to be entirely travel-based? While I do write a lot online about travel, much of my writing is about different topics. Some of the recent work I sold will be used in Devozine and Young Salvationist.

I am also the editor of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, a free magazine for teens. I’ve been working on it for five years as a labor of love, but I’ve been making connections for advertisers and review products. More recently, it seems like it will become more successful financially! As a bonus, I’m able to rework some of my content from this magazine for others. (Anyone want to buy an interview with Duck Dynasty stars John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson?)

Still Working Locally

DSCF5003
Sometimes you can even find faraway lands locally. How about this Japanese garden in Lithia Park?

All of the above is nice, but I’m not ready to leave local work yet. I did, however, leave the job that took up most of my time a week ago. I’m still doing childcare and working at the Magdalene Home.

Right now, I’m not willing to give up local work because of its many intangible benefits! It keeps me better connected and involved in the community. My hours are flexible enough that I can still travel. And of course, it’s nice to have a semi-regular source of income.

And What About Traveling?

Medford Airport to Mediterranean
My backpack and I are always prepped for any adventures offered!

When I moved back to Oregon and started planning my European trip, I thought travel work would go right in hand with actual travel. Not so! Although I haven’t read any other travel bloggers admitting it, I think the secret to location-independent work is to make sure it works at one location before throwing travel into the mix.

So I haven’t done much travel lately, except for local day trips. I do want to make sure that my above location-independent jobs (especially Hostelz.com) are a viable source of income and keep my interest over the long term. Since my disposable income isn’t much right now (mostly because I bought a car), I’m having extra fun researching ways to travel for even less, or maybe free! But just in the past 24 hours, I’ve already started planning two different trips that I can take thanks to this kind of life!

As I continue transitioning to a more travel-oriented life, what details would you like to learn? 

Two Days, Two States, Two National Park Sites!

It has been quite the weekend! In addition to Earth Day on Friday  and celebrating the entire weekend with Earth Day-themed posts, I was out celebrating nature as well! Just between yesterday and today, I took two trips, both to National Park Service sites. And one of them even called for hopping the border between Oregon and California!

Saturday: Lava Beds National MonumentDSCF5020

For several weeks, my friends and I have planned to go on a trip to Northern California this Saturday. We were supposed to go to the Redwoods, but people and plans changed, so my friend Steph and I made a last-minute switch and headed to Lava Beds National Monument instead, which is east of the Redwoods in Northern California. Although both of us had been here many years ago, with the length of time since our last visits and flying by the seat of our pants, we weren’t sure what to expect. Yet we left incredibly impressed with all that there was to do!

DSCF5016

  • We admired all the volcanic rock we passed on the way in the monument.
  • We watched an informational video at the Visitors’ Center about the history of the lava tube formation and American Indian tribes that were forced out of this area.
  • A park ranger taught us about the white-nose fungus that is killing bats and quizzed us on our past caving experience to see if any of our clothes needed to be decontaminated. Once we passed, she gave us a caving permit.
  • We drove around the Cave Loop and stopped at any caves that were open. (Some were closed to protect the bats living inside.)
  • Since caves are 55 degrees year-round, I was glad I had left a coat in my backseat! We ended up getting warm from all the exercise we did, anyway.
  • Although the Visitors’ Center loans out free flashlights since battery-powered lights are required to enter the cave, we decided to use our cell phone flashlights just so we’d have one less thing to lug around. I learned that my phone flashlight turns on and off by shaking it. Typically I might think that was convenient, but it wasn’t so helpful when I stumbled around caves!
  • One of my favorite cave names was called “Hopkins Chocolate”, which is named because some of the lava coating inside looks like dark chocolate is dripping down the cave walls!
  • There were other neat-looking things in other caves. Some of the caves had what looked like moss growing on it. (Not sure if it was something living or just the way the rock was colored.) When scattered among the dripping moisture creating stalactites, shining a flashlight on it makes the green specks look like fool’s gold, and the white looks like specks of silver!
  • The next time I go, I’ll probably want to bring a helmet, a headlamp, and maybe gloves so I can go further into some of the lava tubes. Since we weren’t equipped, we decided not to go anywhere that required crawling, but there were quite a few areas that involved ducking down!
  • There were some nice places to walk, too! Both Steph and I really wanted to hike up Schonchin Butte, a .7-mile uphill trail that leads to a fire lookout. The lookout itself is closed for the season until tomorrow, but we got some great views!
  • Although there was so much more we could have done, we decided that the last activity for the day would be to walk around Captain Jack’s Stronghold. This was an area where the military fought against the natives to force them out of this area. Although the history is sad, it was neat to see some of the rock structures that they built that are still standing today.DSCF5028

Sunday: Crater Lake National ParkDSCF5042

I had so much fun on Saturday, I decided to continue the National Park and volcano-themed weekend my closest National Park, Crater Lake. Since this wasn’t as long of a drive, I decided I could make it to church (although I did attend the 9 am service instead the 10:45 service I normally go to), and then head out. With only slightly more planning today than yesterday, I ended up going alone this time. I went to Crater Lake almost exactly a year ago, and it was so odd to see how different it looked this year!DSCF5031

  • It was already a rainy day, and I was praying that it wouldn’t rain while I was at the park. That prayer was answered, but not in the way I expected! As I crossed the park boundary line, I noticed that all the trees were covered in snow. In fact, it was actively snowing most of the time I was there! It’s late April!
  • My first stop was the Visitors’ Center, where I watched the video about the surrounding nature and how Crater Lake was formed by a giant volcano eruption followed by years of collected rain and snowfall. I had to enter and exit the Visitors’ Center from the side entrance because the front entrance was covered with snow all the way up to the roof!
  • I then drove up to Rim Village (being careful in the Avalanche Zone), and parked next to the lodge.
  • After browsing the gift shop in the lodge, I went up to the top floor, which is supposed to have an observation window. Maybe it works on clearer days, but with all the snow and clouds, it was impossible to see the lake from here! Instead I read the museum-style informational signs.
  • I decided that the only way I would have a chance at seeing the lake was to walk through the snow myself. Fortunately, I still had my coat in the back of the car, although I definitely would have benefited from more winter gear!
  • I followed the others who were also outside to the farthest point that could be reached without crossing the safety line. As I looked out, I could barely see Wizard Island, the large island in Crater Lake. After a few minutes in the cold, the air cleared up for some precious seconds where we got to take pictures. It still didn’t display the bluer-than-blue color I’ve seen on sunnier days, though!
  • I warmed up in the lodge for awhile longer, when a park ranger told me to look out the window. You could barely make out part of the back rim, but he said that was the clearest it had been all weekend. Yesterday they basically couldn’t see the lake at all!
  • I went out to the safety line for one more photo shoot, but then decided to turn back and head home. In the summer you can usually drive around the whole lake, but since it snows year-round at Crater Lake National Park, they limit their snowplowing in the winter to only the roads to the South Entrance, Visitors’ Center, and Rim Village.
  • On the way back, I stopped for a short walk by Union Creek. My family used to go camping there when I was a kid. I walked by the Rogue River Gorge and saw the Living Stump!
  • My family had a dinner all together tonight, and since I knew my sister had gone to Crater Lake National Park last weekend, I asked her how well she could see the lake that day. She looked at me confused as she told me it was a perfectly clear day and that many of the visitors were wearing shorts! It’s funny how much the weather can change from one week to the next!DSCF5036

Where to Next?

Hmm…good question! I had been admiring the National Parks Passport for some time now, and finally decided to purchase one at Lava Beds National Monument. This is an informational book about all the National Parks in the United States. Every time you visit a National Park, Monument, or Historic Site, you can get a page of the passport stamped. Since I knocked out two parks in just this weekend, I already have two stamps! Now it will be used as encouragement to visit more National Parks.

The Oregon Caves National Monument is fairly close to me, so I may go there sometime soon. Of course, we need to reschedule our trip to the Redwoods that we had originally planned for Saturday! Although we were going for the Trees of Mystery and the Tour-Thru Tree, I can stop by a Redwoods National Park center for a passport stamp.

Although I would love to become a National Parks junkie, it was really only financially possible for me to visit two National Parks in just one weekend because it was part of National Park Week, and the National Park Service allowed all parks and monuments to have free entrance. Normally Lava Beds and Crater Lake each have a $15 entrance fee per car. I would definitely love to take advantage of the upcoming entrance days in August, September, November, or any of the other free days listed here. To save money on National Parks in the future, I may consider getting an annual pass (I can’t wait until I’m 62 and can get the discounted lifetime pass!), or I may try to find out which of my friends have a fourth-grade child, since a car with a fourth grader in it can enter National Parks for free! Some National Parks and Monuments are always free, which thankfully, the Oregon Caves and Redwoods both fall into the free category!

Day Trip on the I-5

Although I am from Oregon, I can’t stand the rain! That makes coming up with day trip ideas complicated. But yesterday, my sister Jen and I took a very fun day trip along the Southern Oregon I-5. Since the majority of what we did involved being either indoors or in the car, the rain didn’t bother me at all!

Stop One: Spider Cars, Wolf Creek

IMG_1606

They’re bugs that are also bugs! This wasn’t a stop as much as it was a drive-by photo op, since these art pieces are on private property and meant to be viewed from the road. But it sure was nice to take a break from the interstate for a couple miles and catch unique scenery!

By the way, I found out about these bugs from RoadsideAmerica, which I often use to find fun stops on the way to a bigger destination.

Stop Two: Seven Feathers, Canyonville

DSCF4868

Seven Feathers had five different restaurants! Only one was open for lunch on Sundays, so we enjoyed fried-pickle-topped sandwiches at Cow Creek Restaurant. In front of Seven Feathers is the largest bronze casting of an eagle in the world.

DSCF4867

Although Seven Feathers is a casino resort, we didn’t go there to gamble. When we entered, there was a blue line in the carpet separating the casino area from the restaurant entrance, which minors are not allowed to cross. Because Jen recently turned twenty, I had to tease her by showing off how I could go across the blue line!

Stop Three: Wildlife Safari, Winston

This was the goal of our trip! I had given Jen a Groupon for Wildlife Safari as a Christmas gift (they’re still available on Groupon if you want to snag one!), and she finally had the opportunity to use it! Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, is a drive-thru animal park. I’ve only been to one other animal safari (in Ohio), but Wildlife Safari is definitely unique in its own right. First, it is the only drive-thru safari in Oregon. It also has more unique animals, as opposed to mostly farm animals like at many locations. Best of all, it’s certified by animal welfare groups, so I can go here knowing that my experience won’t be detrimental to the animals.

The drive takes you through three regions: Africa, The Americas, and Asia. I went here a few times as a kid, and I don’t remember being allowed to roll down car windows back then. This time, we were told at the entrance that windows down and seatbelts off were totally okay, as long as we didn’t get out of the car! This meant that some animals (especially the large bird species, like ostriches, emus, and rheas) would come up and poke their heads in to check out my car’s interior. Since there were wild animals, we got to see some of them fighting, and we may have cheered two bison on in their head-butting! No worries, though. Dangerous animals such as bears and big cats were separated from cars with fencing.

After our drive through, we went into the Safari Village. Up to this point, this had been a great rainy day trip (which was good since it was pouring buckets all day!). Safari Village is mostly outdoors, so we got a bit cold and wet, but we made the best of it. There were several animals here that were not part of the safari drive, which were fun to see. For kids (and kids at heart!) there’s a children’s petting zoo which has the standard goats and miniature horses, but it also has a black-tailed deer with a unique coloring: it’s white with brown patches! My favorite area was the Australia section. That wasn’t a continent included on the drive-thru, so it was cool to see the wallaroos, black swans, and kookaburras there. (Speaking of Australia, the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has visited Wildlife Safari and documented it on his show! His wife, Terri Irwin, is from this area.) However, I think the highlight of Safari Village was meeting Pancake the cheetah up-close! While warming up in the gift shop, Pancake and the trainer walked in, followed by Pancake’s companion dog. They were raised together since they were a cub and puppy, and as such treat each other like siblings. (Jen and I also saw this phenomenon at the Colombus Zoo a couple years ago.)

At Wildlife Safari, every ticket is good for two drives through the safari. I think this is a great idea because we got to see and interact with some animals that were hiding during our first drive. Unfortunately, the one animal I was hoping to see that we didn’t see either time was the giraffe. We asked about it, and apparently they really don’t like the rain. I don’t blame them! But I think going on a rainy day ended up being a good idea, because the crowds were minimal and most of the other animals have no problem getting rained on.

Stop Four: Noah’s Ark, Winston

DSCF4943

Wildlife Safari was definitely the highlight, but we had one more place to stop by in Winston. Noah’s Ark is located just across the street. It’s hard to miss since the building is shaped like a big boat and surrounded by wooden animals! They offer a restaurant and tour through Biblical history, which I may take advantage of in the future. But with an all-day excursion, we mostly just wanted to see what it looked like. It had a nice view outside and a decorated bookshop inside. After that, we headed home in the rain!

DSCF4945

Glass Float Treasure Hunt

This past weekend, I was finally able to get some real use out of my new car! Sure, I’ve taken it to work and to run errands, but it’s about time that it got to go somewhere fun out of town. And for about sixteen dollars in gas (which was the only expense of this trip), my friend and I were able to spend a fun and adventurous day looking for glass floats in Gold Beach, Oregon.

12795063_10154039312433783_2294133375615448373_o (1)

Last year, I saw a TV ad from Gold Beach tourism. They announced that every week between February and April, they hide over 100 glass floats along their coast for visitors to find. If you find one, you get to keep it AND enter a drawing for a free weekend trip! I wasn’t able to make it out to Gold Beach last year. However, after deciding to buy my car this month, I began coordinating schedules with friends to find a time to head out to the coast. Steph and I both had time off this past weekend! (She was even the photographer of all these images because I forgot my camera and my cell phone was acting up over the weekend.) We headed out on Saturday morning.

My car’s maiden voyage was a success. I learned a few new things about it, like where to pop the gas door, how to play music through the stereo with an auxiliary cable,  and how to spray wiper fluid on the front windshield. The drive to the coast is beautiful. There actually isn’t a direct route west to the coast. Directions to Gold Beach led us into California and through the Redwood Forest before heading back up along the coast, which always makes for a beautiful ride. Along the way, we saw lots of interesting things that we made note of to stop by on the way back.

It was past lunchtime by the time we made it to the coast. We considered the restaurant options, but decided to just eat what we had packed. We parked at the Gold Beach Visitor’s Center, which has a picnic area, bathrooms, and an information building. Inside that building, we were given a map outlining the perimeters for where the floats were placed. After eating, we started traipsing through the tall grass. We figured it was most likely in this area, because the tide covered most of the sand, and floats are not hidden anywhere that would cause them to be swept into the ocean. We looked under driftwood, in holes, and between rocks, to no avail. We saw other people searching, but no one who actually had found a float. After this hunting method resulted in only finding garbage, we decided to walk down to the jetty, which was a boundary on the map. We hoped that the further away we got from the Visitor’s Center, the more likely we would be to find something.

On the walk there, I had to mentally prepare myself for disappointment. I knew the chances of us finding a float were slim, so I considered the alternatives. If we gave up, we could go shopping at some of the stores in town. If we spent at least $25 at certain stores, we just had to bring the receipts in to the Visitor’s Center and get a glass float from there. But that didn’t sound like as much fun as finding one on the beach for free. Fortunately, a glimmer of red caught my eye. It was a glass float!

12440800_10154039311713783_2881019246664324017_o (1)

Not only did I find a glass float, but we ended up finding several all within a few minutes! The treasure hunt rules ask participants to only take one per person, so we left a few of them for others to find. Steph ended up with a small teal globe. I picked my favorite, a larger blue one. We slowly headed back to the Visitor’s Center (stopping to admire the beach and shoot photos on the lighthouse). The staff at the center told us that they were impressed that we were able to find even one that day as we filled out our contest entry forms.

It hadn’t seem like we walked that far (until the next day when my legs were sore), and it also didn’t seem like we had been beach combing for that long. But we had walked several miles, and were out for about three hours! I didn’t realize this until we hopped back into the car and saw the clock saying it was 4:30. But we still had enough daylight to see the things we wanted to see on the way back.

12747932_10154039316733783_2741029845922871646_o

We didn’t stop in the nearby coastal town of Brookings, but as we drove through it, we got a good look at the sinkhole that’s slowly taking over the highway. That was pretty scary! We also drove over Oregon’s highest bridge and saw a huge herd of wild elk. Our first actual stop was near the redwoods, on a nature trail with carnivorous plants called Darlingtonia (pictured in the marsh above).

12764757_10154039320383783_5044618060661753712_o

The second stop was just a couple of miles down the road at a waterfall. I would tell you what this waterfall was named, or really any information about this waterfall, but I can’t. There were no signs or plaques, so it’ll just be called “The Waterfall We Saw On the Way to Gold Beach”.

12792175_10154039330458783_3683189505727718052_o

There were several other places worth seeing through the comfort of the car window. If you’re visiting from further away, some of them may be worth stopping at, but we’ve grown up with the sights of the giant redwoods and the mountain roads that twist, turn, and tunnel.

12029760_10154039339843783_3718692029023249501_o

While I’m not sure if we’ll be so fortunate in each finding a glass float in the future, I do hope to do this again and encourage you to try it out, too! Click here for more information on Gold Beach’s annual three-month treasure hunt!

Lent + One Thing I Said I’d Never Do

Today I did something I’ve told myself for years that I would never do.

But under the circumstances, I think it was the best choice.

I’m a very frugal person. I always have been, and I always will be. I won’t even go into the time I was interviewed to be on TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates. (True story.) If you’ve read a few blog posts here, you know that travel is my indulgence, but even then I take trips as cheaply as possible. And, like most frugalitarians, I refused to pay a premium on cars and never buy new.

Well, that all changed today.

12671824_1292308680796182_2333167729902022227_o

Please meet my new 2016 Subaru Forester, in a cool jasmine green. I’ve wanted an SUV by Subaru for a couple of years now, and I’ve been without my own car for over a year, so I figured it was time to buy one. I’ve been searching for a used Forester or Outback for a long time, but the only ones I found had incredibly high mileage. So I decided to get a new one. And even though the frugalitarian in me doesn’t like the number that my bank account dropped to today, at the same time it is rejoicing because so far, it’s turned out to be a good deal.

  • I paid for it in cash. (Yay! No debt!)
  • Thanks to my dad helping with negotiations last night, I got it for my asking price. (And all the paperwork and negotiations were done in under two hours. Go Dad!)
  • I had no idea how much a warranty would cost, but the sales guy gave me a discount on it and it’s nice to have an extra buffer of protection.
  • The dealership covered some of the DMV-associated costs, such as license plates.
  • I was expecting the bare basic model, but this one came with roof racks and alloy wheels! (Although I still don’t get the point of alloy wheels.)
  • It came with a coupon book for things like free oil changes, free wiper blades, and free inspections.
  • It’s comforting to know that this will be so much more reliable than the twenty-year-old cars I’ve driven in the past.
  • If I drive it for 15-20 years as I plan to, I’ll earn back the cost of the car in fuel savings. (It’s an SUV, but by far the least gas-guzzling car I’ve ever had!)
  • It’s a cool car!

12697082_1292308650796185_1205759326621913479_o

The odd thing is, I’ve been reading a book for review called Your New Money Mindset, as well as doing other frugal-focused activities such as watching 7DollarYear. In a weird way, these actually gave me a peace of mind about buying this car, even though I’m sure that was not their point at all. That’s why I believe that God not only wants me to have this car, he wants me to use it as a ministry tool. I was actually thinking about that a couple of weeks ago, if I buy this car, how can I use it as a ministry? Then when I told the people at my small group Bible study that I had plans to buy a car, during the closing prayer, someone thanked God for this opportunity I had and said something to the degree of “And let this car be a ministry tool. I don’t know how, but You do.” I hadn’t even mentioned anything about wanting to use it for ministry! So while I still don’t know the exact purpose of this car (other than the obvious use of getting me around), I am coming up with ways that it can be used for His glory. And already inviting some people to join its maiden voyage out of town!

12710781_1292308677462849_1117257245467460654_o

Since this car somehow has something to do with God, it’s also appropriate to mention that this is the first day of Lent. Since minimalism is almost a lifestyle for me, it hasn’t always been very meaningful for me to give something up for Lent. This year, I was challenged to add something to Lent. So each day, I’ll pick a theme inspired by my daily Bible reading, and take a picture based on that theme. I had already planned to read in the Pentateuch for most of the Lenten season (I just finished reading through Genesis), so it may be a challenge some days! Of course my first picture had to do with the thankfulness of having a new car. Follow on Instagram for the rest of my Lenten adventures!

12715286_1292308304129553_1963293828989668550_n

How to Travel with Free Gift Cards

I’m in the beginning stages of planning my next big trip. This time around, I’m challenging myself to see how much of a quality trip I can obtain for free. And now, I am pursuing that goal in part with the earning site Swagbucks. (If you are not yet a part of Swagbucks, click here so you can sign up. Both of us will earn a sign-up bonus if you do!) So, what can you get for free with Swagbucks? Well, basically anything related to travel!

Free Attractions 

South Dakota 010

You probably already know that Groupon offers great deals on travel and attractions. It’s not uncommon to go to the site and find deals for 50% off. But what if you could use Groupon to get 100% off? You can with Swagbucks! Use your earned points to buy Groupon gift cards, ranging from $15-$100.

I just quickly visited the Groupon site with my Oregon zip code, and in return I was offered a ton of travel deals! Steep discounts on hotels in popular tourist cities, half-price admission to various animal encounters. and deals on water activities like whale watching or white water rafting were just a few. If you need clothing or food for a trip, Groupon has offers for that too.

You can also use Groupon to earn swagbucks! If you’d like to purchase a Groupon, purchase it through Swagbucks’ site. For Christmas, I bought my sister a Groupon to a local attraction. By using Swagbucks, I got back 7 points for every dollar I spent. This is a fantastic deal, as most of the shopping deals only return 1-3 points per dollar!

Free Gas and Auto Repairs

Explorer

The Rewards Store on Swagbucks as an entire category labeled “Gas Cards”. Click on it and you will see gas cards for several different companies in various denominations. If you’re going anywhere that involves driving, gasoline seems like an expense that you can’t get out of. But if you use your swagbucks to get one of these free gas cards, that’s one expense you can eliminate!

Need to change your oil or have some other work done on your road trip car? You can take care of this too! Next to the gas cards, you will find some gift cards for Jiffy Lube.

Free Food

wpid-img_20150726_124256_721.jpg

Restaurant.com seems to be a popular way to get discounted dining lately. It is kind of like a Groupon site specifically for local restaurants. Also like Groupon, you can turn Restaurant.com from a good deal into a free deal by using your swagbucks to buy a free gift card.

If you don’t have enough swagbucks to get a Restaurant.com gift card, you can purchase one through swagbucks and earn 12 points for every dollar spent.

For specific restaurants, you can trade swagbucks for gift cards to places like Starbucks, Burger King, Cold Stone Creamery, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, and Applebee’s, just to name a few. Would you rather shop for groceries than eat out? Swagbucks has you covered. Get a free gift card to Sam’s Club, WalMart, or Whole Foods

Free Outdoor Activities

00000023

If you like outdoor adventure or simply more rugged travel, then you have at least stepped inside a store such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, or Cabela’s. Guess what? You can earn gift cards to all these places, plus other companies like Columbia or Foot Locker, and sport quality gear on your next outdoorsy trip.

Free Travel-Specific Gift Cards

031

How does free airfare, hotels, or cruises sound? Okay, it may take a long time to earn enough swagbucks to get a completely free rate, but these gift cards will at least bring in a nice discount!

Currently the only airfare gift cards are from Southwest. For cruises, you can choose from Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises. Hyatt offers gift cards for their hotels, and you can also get gift cards for travel sites such as Hotels.com and Orbitz. The hotels brands offer a special deal even if you purchase the gift cards in cash. Earn between 1 and 3 points for every dollar spent when you order through Swagbucks.

Free Money for Anything

wpid-wp-1442219197240.jpg

Everything I’ve mentioned above makes up for just a tiny part of what is free for the taking at Swagbucks. You can also buy gift cards for clothes, beauty supplies, and even charity donations. I think they can pretty much cover any expenses associated with travel, but we all know that sometimes, there are those random expenses that just pop up. That’s where cold, hard cash comes in. You can use Swagbucks to purchase PayPal gift cards.

When I get PayPal money, I immediately transfer it to my bank account. Then I use my rewards credit card to pay for things, and pay off the credit using the money I got from PayPal. That means I’m getting money back for spending money that was essentially free to me anyway!Travel Free Gift CardsHave you ever earned or gotten something for free? Share about it in the comments!

Money Mondays: Don’t Buy Drinks!

Money Mondays is a weekly post about how you can save money without sacrificing your travel dreams.

I can’t believe I only have half a week left of my three month Mediterranean Trek! I will miss seeing foreign countries every day, but I am also looking forward to a change of pace (even if it is pretty much back to the old routine). But even though I’ve been on the road for a long time, I can easily count all the times I paid for a beverage:
-I bought a bottle of Perrier in Paris because I wanted to enjoy the fizzy water in its home country.
-I bought a quart of milk in Barcelona so I would have something to go with my cereal. ( The hostel didn’t provide breakfast.)
-I bought two bottles of Gatorade  in Venice because I got sick and desperately needed that potassium and rehydration salt.
-I bought a slushie in Thessaloniki because buying a drink on a boat would entitle me to a free cruise around the bay.
That’s it.

I guess you could say I technically bought beverages when they were part of a prefixe meal, such as a tapas tour in Madrid or three course meals in Rome. But because these drinks were part of the package, if I had paid for everything else individually, it would have cost more than the price of the meal with beverage included. I think that’s almost like saying I pay for the tea and juice included in a hostel breakfast. I guess in a way I do, but I would be paying the same whether or not I accepted these free drinks.

So what have I been drinking? I occasionally come across a free beverage (last week in Athens, a restaurant offered me a free one to convince me to sit down at one of their tables), and you may remember that I brought some Traditional Medicinals teabags with me. But mostly, I’ve been drinking tap water.

Tap water is safe for Americans to drink in most European countries. Just make sure to look it up ahead of time. Today I’m heading to my final destination, and it’s the only place I’m going with unsafe tap water. I guess I’ll have to buy some water there! The good news is, bottled water is typically pretty cheap in places where you can’t drink the tap.

Needless to say, not paying for beverages can save a lot of money on a trip, and drinking only tap water doesn’t really change the experience. This is also something that can be done prior to your trip, and the savings can go to future travel. How much you’ll end up saving depends on your current habits. If you already mostly just drink tap, it won’t make much of a difference. If you drink a soda every day, consider how much that costs you over the course of a month or a year. If you go to bars, stopping drinking could save you a ton! Also factor in that beverages in restaurants, vending machines, and tourist destinations will probably cost more than at home.

image

Here are some more tips to help you save on beverages:
–  Bring a large refillable bottle. My Camelbak worked well for me on this trip. But these water reservoirs are uncommon in Europe, so I got some weird looks and questions when I drank from its tube!
– Go to street fairs. I’ve been to three on this trip. The first one in Paris provided me with juice, cola, and lots of different food. The second one in Rome scored me milk, juice, bottled water, and Nutella Bready. The third one in Athens provided me with a hat, tee, and pin. If this trip is any indication, then two out of three street fairs will get you free beverages!
– If you really want a beverage, go to a grocery store for the cheapest selection.
– Some restaurants try to sell you bottled water, or may charge for tap. Discuss this with the waiter before you order, and make sure to bring a bottle with you so that you can drink from it if all liquids cost money.
– Look around town for places to refill your water. Oftentimes, if the water is flowing and there’s no sign that says “non potable”, it’s safe to drink.
-For those times when you do have to buy bottled water, buy it in bulk instead of individual bottles. You can always use a big jug to fill smaller bottles, and this translates into less waste and often lower costs!

There are times when it’s more than appropriate to buy a beverage. You don’t want to miss out on a local drink that’s part of the experience. But if you’re addicted to soda or crave coffee, a simple switch to water will improve your health, the environment, and your spending!

What’s your favorite thing to drink? How long do you think you could go without it?