Where in the EU am I Backpacking?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted specifically about my upcoming European backpacking trip, even though that’s what I spend most of my waking time thinking about! So I thought I’d share a quick update with you.

As a US citizen, I can spend a total of 90 days in most of the European countries. There are a few nations that do not follow this rule, but after three months it would probably be best for me to return to North America anyway. Ever since I started planning this trip, it seemed overwhelming. How would I split up 90 days over about 20 countries without feeling rushed through each city? Plus, transportation fees were also an issue. Eurail is probably the least expensive way to effectively travel throughout Europe, but an unlimited all-nation pass isn’t exactly cheap!

I finally came to a realization that would save me money, travel time, and ultimately, make me a happy traveler who could do more of what I wanted to do:

I would go on a Mediterranean Backpacking Adventure!

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Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Sea

The plans aren’t set in stone yet, but starting in either France or Spain, I would travel along the European countries lining the Mediterranean, spending one to two weeks in each city I’m interested in visiting, until I reach the Asian border in Istanbul, Turkey. Switzerland is a landlocked country, but I’d probably go there as well because I like cheese and chocolate. But it wouldn’t be just backpacking. I will volunteer with an organization that teaches English to businesspeople in Spain, retrace the steps of the early church, use my marketing skills to allow small tourism businesses to prosper, visit missionaries, and hopefully find some sort of orphan or childcare organization to help with somewhere along the way!

In total, I am planning for visiting potentially nine countries (including the two smallest nations in the world) and two continents (possibly three if I can find a cheap way to get between Spain and Morocco) in a half of the world I have never seen, leaving in about five months! And I can use all the help I can get!

What advice do you have for me regarding this trip, either for before or during this journey?

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15 Actual Ways a Budget Traveler Can Save for a Trip

Have you ever seen these not-so-unique ways to save for your trip?

Instead of a hotel, book a private room inside a hostel. That would be great, except I already stay in the absolute cheapest dorm room in hostels. If I took this piece of “budget” advice, my trip would probably cost twice as much!

Use a credit card to rack up enough airline miles for your trip. I’m sorry, but have you ever stopped to calculate how much you’re spending on your credit card versus how much it costs to just buy a plane ticket? Most of these rewards programs require that you put at least $1000 a month on your card. I don’t even know how I would spend $1000 every single month, unless I was buying a thousand-dollar plane ticket every month!

Fly with an airline that offers free checked bags. Here’s a better idea: don’t take checked bags! Seriously, it’s been so long since I’ve taken checked luggage on a vacation, that I don’t even remember how I filled that bag! A carry-on and small backpack provide plenty of space, and is less that can be lost, stolen, or slowing me down!

If you’re like me, you want to save a lot of money so you can have an amazing trip. But after hours and days of scouring the internet looking for some advice, all you find are these not-so-budget-minded “savings” tips. For awhile, I was convinced that I saved so much already, that there was no possible way that I could save anything “extra” for my trip. But every once in a blue moon, I would find a golden nugget of travel tips. Here they all are in one place so you don’t have to waste as much time as I did!

1. Keep your cash safe for free. Money belts can be handy, but the key to not getting all your money stolen is to distribute your cash throughout your person. A twenty dollar bill inside the sole of your shoe is a place that thieves won’t easily be able to get to!

2. Don’t spend money on beverages. Many saving tips say to order water in restaurants (and if you’re in Europe, be sure to order table water to avoid being charged for a bottle), but this can translate into not even buying beverages at the grocery store. When I travel, I carry a reusable water bottle or reservoir with me, and most convenience stores and restaurants don’t mind me using their fountain when I need a refill. (However, I always ask first, especially if I’m not buying anything else!) This rule applies to alcoholic beverages too, especially since they tend to be the priciest. I don’t drink, and the thought of spending hundreds to thousands of dollars per year on alcohol is one of the reasons I never want to start that habit! If you like to travel but also like to drink, consider that cutting alcohol for one year could save enough to fund a decent trip for yourself!

One more note on water: there are some countries where drinking the water would be unsafe. Do your research ahead of your trip to confirm this. If your destination does indeed have dangerous drinking water, you will have to buy bottled water, but there’s still a way to do it cheaply! Instead of buying individual water bottles each day, buy the biggest bottle you can find in the store. (When I was in Peru, all the convenience stores offered 3-liter water bottles which we would use to refill our personal-sized bottles.)

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I would buy the largest bottles of Inca Kola in Peru, too!

3. Buy multipurpose products. My hands can get dry in certain climates. I also sometimes have trouble falling asleep in uncomfortable or unfamiliar places. And although I enjoy the rush of traveling, it sometimes makes me nervous. I could purchase lotion, melatonin tablets, and anxiety medication to solve each of these problems individually, or I could just get one bar of lavender-scented lotion. (Lavender is a natural herb that can calm nerves and help you fall asleep.) Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap is a traveler’s favorite, as it can be used as soap, shampoo, dish soap, and laundry detergent, just to name a few. A thermos not only holds soup and hot beverages, but it can be used as a water bottle, and it could even carry meal leftovers! Even a large scarf can quickly transform into a shawl, swimming cover-up, blanket, or head covering. Multipurpose products not only save you money by putting less on your shopping list, but as a bonus it will also save room in your suitcase.

4. Earn more from your savings. No matter how you travel, planning for a trip involves saving up a chunk of cash. Talk with your bank and tell them your plans to see how you can gain the most interest. Sometimes, putting money in a CD can earn you the most interest, even if you have to pay a small fee to cash it early. If your banker knows about your travel plans, they might be able to provide you with special offers, such as exchange-free credit cards and short-term savings plans. These will all vary by your bank’s services and your personal saving habits, so it’s best to schedule an appointment with your bank to see how they can maximize your savings.

5. Make your own food. Cooking at home can greatly help contribute to your trip savings. Generally, the less packaged and processed your ingredients are, the more you’ll save (and it’s healthier that way, too)! Before I leave on a trip, I try to eat out of my pantry as much as possible to avoid food spoiling while I’m away. I also prepare some snacks to take along with me. As long as I have oatmeal, I can throw in just about anything from my kitchen (nuts, sweets, spices, dried fruit, seeds) and make a batch of granola. I also try to eat out for only one meal per day while traveling, but if you’re not as much of a cultural foodie I’m sure you could go with even less dining out. I usually stay at accommodations that provide free breakfast, and then I eat out at lunchtime (since that’s usually cheaper than eating dinner out). For dinner, I’ll either eat my lunch leftovers or fix something in the kitchen of the place I’m staying. Virtually all hostels and guesthouses provide a guest kitchen, and many hotels and even camps are jumping on board with this idea. Because it’s tricky to travel with perishable food, map out inexpensive grocery stores near your destination so you can buy food from there.

Bonus Foodie Tip: Turn your food-making into a memory, like I did with this dessert-building team.
Bonus Foodie Tip: Turn your food-making into a memory, like I did with this dessert-building team.

6. Use your feet. This tip could save you hundreds on travel costs, plus give you a good alternative to your gym membership! When traveling, I stay near downtown so that I can walk to all the attractions I want to visit. There have been days where I’ve logged upwards of ten miles, but that’s okay because it means that I’ll get a great night of sleep! It also adds a new perspective to travel, as the slower place allows you to notice more of the scenery and culture. You can use this tip before a trip, too. I’ve seen so many people park in the parking lot of one store, shop there, and then get back in their car and drive to another store…which is right next to the first store! It’s okay to leave your car in one parking lot. I will sometimes even stick my bicycle in the back of the car so I can bike to places near my destination.

7. Volunteer or get an extra job. The obvious advantage to getting another job is that you’ll make extra money. But even if you don’t get a paying job, I believe a volunteer job provides many benefits as well. Getting a job or otherwise involved in the community will introduce you to more connections. I worked a part-time retail job while going to college, and because everyone that worked there was broke to some degree, we often exchanged ways that we save. You may meet people that could turn out to be travel companions, mission trip sponsors, or simply someone who encourages you to reach your dreams. Some volunteer jobs offer things like free meals, free entertainment, and possibly free travel. This of course shouldn’t be your goal behind volunteering, but it is a nice reward. Another great benefit of spending some extra time working is that these are a few extra hours each day where you won’t be tempted to spend your hard-earned cash!

Sometimes, your job may involve doing some hard work, like going on an all-expense-paid conference in the Northern Wisconsin where you get to jump from the second floor of a building.
Sometimes, your job may involve doing some hard work, like going on an all-expense-paid conference in the Northern Wisconsin where you get to jump from the second floor of a building.

8. Ask for discounts! Many tourist companies that don’t post discount rates may still have them. If you’re a student, AAA member, AARP card holder, veteran, or anything else that could possibly qualify you for a discount, ask about it! Oftentimes at independent and locally-owned businesses, you can get a discount just by asking the owner (often cleverly disguised as receptionist in these small businesses). Even if they can’t offer you a discount on what you asked for, they may be able to throw in a freebie or offer insider information that could help your trip. Ask on a discount for everything, from the food you eat to the bed you sleep in. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no, and the best that can happen is you’ll get everything free! (But don’t expect to get anything for free, and definitely don’t be pushy or annoying when asking!)

9. Enter contests. This isn’t a guaranteed way to save, but someone out there has to win that all-expense-paid trip! I have yet to win a travel contest (probably because I forget to enter every day), but I have won books, food, gift cards, and scholarships that ultimately helped me put more money towards travel.

10. D.E.Y. (Do EVERYTHING Yourself!) I fully back up making homemade laundry detergent (especially since it’s concentrated for easy travel), but as a single person that only saves me about $20 per year. But combined with money saved from patching up my old clothes, making more creative gifts, growing herbs in the windowsill, and making some of my own toiletries and cleaning products, it eventually adds up to a lot! I know I spend hundreds on car maintenance, but if I could learn a few auto mechanic skills, I wouldn’t have to pay nearly as much. The more you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save.

D.E.Y.-ing doesn't mean missing out on the fun, it just means getting creative. Got invited to a costume party? Make your own costume!
D.E.Y.-ing doesn’t mean missing out on the fun, it just means getting creative. Got invited to a costume party? Make your own costume!

11. Don’t sell on eBay. Unless you are selling an in-demand product for an incredible profit, using sites that charge you to sell is often a waste of money. If you’re just trying to sell some items you no longer want, Craigslist is probably the best option. Plus, since you’re selling to someone nearby, you won’t have to spend money on shipping. To get even more local, many communities have Facebook groups where you can buy and sell from neighbors. In my experience, these tend to be fairly effective. Even posting your for-sale items on your social media could garner your friends’ interests!

12. Take care of yourself. The right foods, a little bit of exercise, enough sleep, and taking care of your physical and emotional self will work wonders. You’ll have a better trip (and ultimately, life), and you’ll save money on doctors, medications, and numerous other consequences that you can expect when you neglect your health.

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Biking does double duty: It’s a good overall workout, and it’s a fun way to travel locally!

13. Need something? Phone a friend. Ask your friends and family if you can raid their castoffs before they’re sent to the thrift store. (Of course, offer to let them do the same with your things- you could even plan a castoff swap!) If you’re looking for a specific item for your trip, such as a backpack or an ice chest, ask your friends before you buy one. These kind of items are often kept in storage, and your friend probably won’t mind you borrowing it for a few weeks.

14. Give up whatever you use most. Cut out one frequently-bought item cold turkey. Maybe it’s junk food. Maybe it’s movies. Maybe it’s coffee. Maybe it’s clothes. If you find that you’re craving it, ask yourself if you really want to spend your money on short-term gratification, or use it to take a trip with memories that last a lifetime. Even if you’re only spending money on necessities, think about cheaper substitutions you could make.

15. Take online surveys. These don’t pay much, but can help fill the time when you’re bored or waiting for something. They’re are a ton of survey sites that pay their users, so look up a few and choose which one you think is best for you. (Or sign up for them all!) You can use your earnings to buy gift cards, airline miles, or other rewards.

Am I missing any important travel information? Leave a comment with your best ways to save!

Adventures that Happen When You Don’t Travel

I strongly believe that, even when you’re not on the go, you should still be open for adventures. Take an example from what happened to me in the past 24 hours.

I could have chosen to spend a wild weekend at Wilderness Trails for the third time, but I decided that, since I had both Saturday and Sunday off for the first time in a loooooooong time, I would honor that by taking a real weekend. Besides, I had to work until 7:30 pm on Friday. So on Friday, I headed off to Job #1, but was excused an hour early.

When I got home, I checked my phone and realized that Job #2 had been trying to contact me. They were in desperate need for someone to work the overnight shift. Since I hadn’t worked there for awhile, and I actually like that job, I decided to spend ten hours of my free time working there.

I’m allowed to sleep on the overnight shift if I get all my work done, but only in two hour increments. After three two-hour naps and a one-hour rest, it was finally Saturday morning. When the next staff member came to relieve me, instead of going home to my own bed, I headed back to the site of Job #1. But I wasn’t working. There was something much better going on.

I had heard the long-time employees rave about the Employee Warehouse Sale. I wasn’t even sure if it would be worthwhile, but after hearing about it enough, I decided to at least check it out. Boy, was I glad I went! Being a foodie, and being frugal, I’m always up for a good deal on gourmet food. In the warehouse, there were all kinds of Harry & David foods at dirt cheap prices. My first discovery was something my mom had requested, so I called her up and said “Tins of Moose Munch are $1. How many do you want?” When she asked for ten and gave me a few other ideas for what to buy, I knew I would have to make a couple trips. Too bad I had to park my car so far away!

One hour and two trips running back and forth from my car and with only twenty dollars less in my wallet, I ended up with an overflowing trunk full of the following:

-Ten tins of Moose Munch

-Three Blocks of Cheddar

-Three Pear Trivets

-Two Organic Gift Boxes

-Two Kosher Gift Towers

-A Double Box of Honeybells

Ironically, the only thing I was missing was a partridge in a pear tree… although I think I got enough pears to fill a tree!

After getting some help unloading and putting away all the perishables, the cardboard boxes are still overtaking the kitchen table. I foresee a bonfire coming up! Immediately following a lunch consisting entirely of the bargains I picked up, I took a nap. I was exhausted!

Today wasn’t a typical day, but it was an adventure. And I’ll have plenty of fruit and candies to take along on all my upcoming adventures!

Coming Up: Surprisingly, I’m continuing to work at Job #1, at least until Valentine’s Day, and next week I’ll be taking a class to learn a new position for it. I’m glad that’s on weekdays, because next weekend will be busy! Job #2 is having an exciting fundraising banquet, and I’m planning some fun local adventures for Job #3. Until then. I’ll continue all my freelance and recreational writing, which I like to refer to as Job #4!

#TBT: In The News

One fun perk about traveling is that it makes news. I mean, I don’t expect a reporter to follow me around whenever I travel (although for celebrities, this does seem to make for good reality TV), but every now and then, on a day when the world is pretty much at peace, whether near or far, travel can make headlines.

I was first featured in the newspaper as a preschooler. I was visiting the now-defunct Jacksonville Children’s Museum, which was a four-year-old’s paradise housed in a historic prison. I was using the plastic food in the play kitchen to create fine dining, when someone with a camera started to set up her equipment. I ran off, afraid I would be in the way of her picture, but then she came over to my mom and asked if she could take a picture of me! So my first published photo was me tasting a pretend dish to head an article about the museum. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a record of that article, but I was able to find the next news snippet I was in:

My preschool class was going on a field trip. Sure, it was just to the public library that was two blocks away from the school, but even though we were in walking distance, it was made quite the adventure on a rainy day. My ex-scout parents passed on the “Be Prepared” motto and had sent me to class with an umbrella. It only made sense to share my umbrella with my walking buddy. On the way there, I glanced back and noticed that someone behind me was holding a camera, as if they had just taken a picture. I didn’t know I was featured in the paper until a few days later when my neighbor came over and showed us his clipping!

When I got older, Girl Scout events were a good source of getting into the newspaper. Sometimes it was completely accidentally, like this time I was off to the right in the background of the photo:

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But seriously, all those service projects were good for slow news days. Once, when my troop went on a trip to the coast to participate in the annual beach clean-up, one of our chaperones ran into a news channel reporter, and they agreed to do a segment of us for the evening news! Other times, our helping the community helped the paper get a story, like when the Central Point Sun was released, we helped fill their very first issue!

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As I got older, I was still mentioned in the newspaper for things like being on the honor roll, but being in the paper wasn’t nearly as desirable as it was before. Maybe it was because people stopped reading the newspaper, or perhaps I just didn’t like the way I looked, but regardless, there were several years when no more but my name and GPA were published. But in my late teens, when I started professionally writing, I started seeing my face in print again. But this time, instead of being in an outdated newspaper, I was in magazines. Many of my articles didn’t include my own pictures, but there were some, like the one below, that featured several pics!

In the past five or six years, I have had my picture featured with my written work several times. But there’s always the goal to make it as the cover feature. This past summer, when I served as the guest editor for Camp Business, I was told that my photo would be featured. When I received the issue, this is what I saw:

No, I’m not that girl. (C’mon, I would NEVER do a swimsuit shoot!)

Remember on Monsters Inc how Mike Wazowski was so amazed when he made it on a magazine cover, even though his face was covered by a barcode? This past summer, I had a Mike Wazowski moment. I finally make a cover debut… my name and photo is literally right underneath the shipping label!

Travel Journal Tuesday: August 5th, 2009: Cieneguilla, Peru

Note: This is the third entry in the Travel Journal Tuesday series. Click here for part one, and click here for part two

Grace and I playing with the “Rayito” girls

Okay, so I thought that I was going to fall asleep after the last diary entry, but Nicole and I were forced to move to the other girls’ room due to a roommate’s snoring.

This morning, nothing interesting happened until breakfast. While sipping coca tea along with the normal breakfast, I learned about interesting Peruvian laws.

We started sanding when we came to the orphanage. Soon, Dale informed me, Grace, and Jeff that the Bible study turned into a full-blown VBS. We had to choose crafts (hats) and get John to sing worship along with our skit. Then, we had some time before lunch, so I played with the kids and made them balloon animals, tried to get a girl out of a locked room, and ate cereal.

Lunch involved chicken, rice, potatoes (big surprise), pineapple cake and sitting with the little girls. They took my camera and went wild. That continued until after lunch when Grace and I played games with the little girls. These included Pato, Pato, Ganso, Cola, Sharks and Guppies (but with a wolf instead of sea creatures), and other games I couldn’t understand. We sanded for about 10 minutes, and then played games with other kids at the school. We played randomly until it was time to go.

The bus we caught on the way home already had all its seats filled, so we all stood. It was EXTREMELY comical! At the hotel, I shared the verses I found about orphans as a sort of room devo. Then we looked at our pictures. Dinner, reduced to only two courses, started with rice, filet, and potatoes, and ended with chocolate cake. And I had about five cups of mandarin-ade.

After dinner, a group of us went to the store and I bought a glass liter of Inca Kola (no, I DON’T have an addiction!). While purchasing, I knew the guy was implying that buying glass was different from plastic, but I didn’t know what he wanted me to say. I called Krista over, and by the time I understood exactly how much more I needed to pay if I wanted to keep the glass bottle, Krista re-questioned him about six more times.

Upon returning, Scott and Dylan told us to be quiet because they were making Alex sit in their closet and made him think they were sleeping. It sounded funny, but it turned out the be a stupid prank. Then we had devos.

Not much has happened since devos except for a few conversations. I need a shower, and I need the guys next door to act human, and I need the ginger pill I took an hour ago to work, and I need my deep hand wounds to heal. But most important, I need to serve!

Highlight of the Day: Instead of telling about a special event or story that took place at Posada today, I’ll dedicate this section to how I felt. My heart goes out to the ones who suffer mental and emotional problems due to their tragic childhoods. However, I’m really mostly thankful that they found an awesome forever family at this home, and that they have cool extended family living in Oregon! I’m proud to be part of this family!

Up There on Lower Table Rock

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The Table Rocks are a sight to see in Southern Oregon. These plateaus are not only a unique view in the mountain range, but the hiking trails on each of these twin mountains leads hikers to a unique view of Jackson County at the top.

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I’m actually ashamed to say that, although I always lived within a half mile drive of these mountains for most of my childhood, I only hiked them a handful of times. I believe the first time was when I was in fourth grade and we took a class trip there. Even our first-grade buddies were able to keep up on the strenuous hike! I remember hiking with my family once during the winter rain, and my shoes got stuck in a sticky mud puddle, causing me to face plant in a pile of mud! There was also one time I went with my youth group. In our middle school rebellious state, my friend and I carved our initials on a tree and watched as some of the boys threw things off the edge of the mountain, including a paper airplane and an orange. The last time I hiked up Table Rock was when I was still in high school, with a few of my closest friends at the time. Being able to count my Table Rock memories on one hand, I knew I needed to return.

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Last weekend, I had Saturday off. Between working at a call center and being a weekend nanny, this is an incredibly rare occurrence, so I had to celebrate it in some way. I invited a couple of friends to do something with me, suggesting Table Rock as an option. Unfortunately, while I had a rare Saturday off, they did not. Not to worry though; I’ve traversed the continent by myself, I should be able to manage a little hike a few miles outside of town!

On Saturday morning, before I even changed out of my pajamas, I received a phone call. I was off from jobs #1 and #2, but job #3 called. The housemother on duty at the teen mother home wasn’t feeling well, so I was asked to cover for her. I love spending time there, so it was not a problem to change my plans. Besides, I would get off at 3:00, so I would still have time to go for a hike afterward.

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There are two mountains that make up the collective Table Rocks: Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock. They’re not named for their heights; they’re named for their location on the river. Upper Table Rock is faster to get to, but it’s in a location with more shade, so I was afraid that, with Oregon’s liquid winters, that would translate to more mud. (I’m pretty sure that was the one we hiked when I fell in the mud!) So I decided to go out to the more iconic Lower Table Rock.

Thinking back to my first hike, we must have taken a lot of breathers and extended stops where our guides explained the flora and history of Table Rock. The incline really does get your heart pumping! It’s less than two miles to reach the summit of about 800 feet, and I was so relieved to get to the top.

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My goal behind reaching the top (besides the mini-challenge in itself to reach the top) was to get a bird’s eye view of the county. The trail takes you to the side of the plateau opposite of the metropolitan area, so I began walking to the other side to see what I could see.

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What I saw was a sunset. While pretty, it meant that I would need to turn around soon in order to make it back to my car by the time it got dark. So after spending several minutes at the summit, I turned around and headed back down, determined to try again in a few days.

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My next day off was Thursday, so I headed back to Table Rock that day. The problem was, while I wouldn’t have gone if it was raining (you know, the whole mud thing), it was incredibly foggy.

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So I waited until the afternoon in hopes that the fog would lift. It did clear up a little bit, and when I got to the top of Lower Table Rock, it was bright and sunny. Of course, that was just because all the fog was below me! Yes, a thick layer of fog separated me at the summit from the views below. Although, it did provide a unique view of the fog. It almost looked like an ocean!

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Two hikes in one week, and I still didn’t get what I came for. But third time’s the charm, right? Perhaps next time, on a clear, dry day with plenty of time before dark, I will have a picture of an incredible view to show you!


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#ThrowBackThursday: Winter Weekend at the Creation Museum

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last year I spent a few days in Petersburg, Kentucky. But I did so much more than just spend a night in a BnB!

The weekend started when I had to drive to Columbus, Ohio to take a test. This test would determine whether I would be able to continue my EMT certification, so the weeks leading up to it were filled with lots and lots of studying! Since I wouldn’t know for several days after taking the test whether I passed or failed, I decided to eliminate the exam result anxiety by leaving the testing site afterward and, instead of heading back north where I was living, continue south. Then I would at least have a wonderful memory of a weekend trip, regardless of whether I passed or failed. (Spoiler alert: I passed!)

I had never driven south of Columbus before, and it was mostly farmland until I passed King’s Island park. Then I swung around Cincinnati and into Indiana for a few minutes before crossing the border into Kentucky. From there, it was a short drive to arrive in small town Petersburg.

I stayed there for two nights, one night for each of the two accommodations available in Petersburg. The first night was an incredibly unique location: a bank! Well, at least a former bank remodeled into a guesthouse. Deborah’s Guesthouses provides unique places to stay in Petersburg, but The Bank sounded the most appealing. Although there were three rooms that you can sleep in, the most coveted one is the former vault!

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Because I arrived well after dark, I spent my first night just enjoying The Bank’s amenities before falling asleep. In the morning, I found a guide that provided information to take a historical self-guided walking tour of the town. It was nice to see how this friendly town looked in daylight.

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I then headed to the Creation Museum, which is just a short drive out of the town and a big attraction for Northern Kentucky. It was surprising to go from small town and farmland to immediately hitting a huge parking lot filled with cars! The dinosaur footprints led me to the front door.

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Inside the Creation Museum is a wide variety of displays supporting the creationist theory of how the world was made.

There was an exhibit on what “Lucy” (often considered the missing link) might have looked like…

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There were Biblical wax characters.

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…and lots of Bibles and other ancient Christian work…

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A recreation of the Garden of Eden allowed a glimpse at what the world might have looked like when it was first formed…

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…along with what kind of animals may have existed back then!

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And then there were displays of how the Earth changed once sin entered. (I especially like the display of how Adam and Eve were eating some sort of berry or grape-like fruit, because there is no evidence to show that the forbidden fruit was an apple!)

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Then there was the Ark Room, where 1% of the ark was displayed. (Answers in Genesis, who owns the Creation Museum, is now building a second attraction called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-scale version of the ark, complete with all the Biblical requirements of its features!)

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For lunch, I ate the “Eden Wrap” at Noah’s Cafe, which was ah-mazing!

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There were also some outdoor exhibits, that anyone can visit for free. I loved the petting zoo, with adorable, funny-looking animals like alpacas and camels!

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Because it was winter, the pond by the outdoor garden trails was frozen over. Nessie sure looks cold! DSCF5935

Because this trip took me to the Greater Cincinnati Area for the first time, I had to celebrate by going to Gold Star Chili and ordering my first-ever Cincinnati chili. An interesting combination, but it worked! I like it!DSCF5936

For my second night, I stayed at First Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast. I think I’ve only stayed in a BnB once before, when my church youth choir traveled, the very first year I was in it one of my host homes was actually a BnB. This one was a very different setting, being on a farm. One of the house cats followed me everywhere inside, and even insisted sleeping in my bed (until he attacked my feet in the middle of the night, when he was kicked out into the hallway). I stayed in a very nice room.

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But this BnB had more than just nice rooms. And even more than just nice breakfast. One of the hosts was an actor, and I was given a ticket to attend Godspell where he played John the Baptist/Judas. I had never seen the play before, and after hating the musical Jesus Christ: Superstar, I was expecting a disappointment. Boy, was I wrong! That was a great play, made even better by the cast at Footlighters! Another perk of staying at First Farm is that they have horses. I even got to go out on a riding session with the horse Sundance.

Because all Creation Museum tickets are good for two days, I was planning to spend Sunday at the museum as well. The problem was, overnight, a horrible ice storm hit! Everything was covered in ice; it took several tries until I could get any of my car doors to open, and it took even longer to defrost the windows enough that I could at least see a little bit! All that time, I had to be careful not to slip on the road. I considered just heading straight home for safety, but I thought that the road conditions may get better later in the day, so I carefully headed to the museum. (I stopped along the way for a geocache, but when I found it, I couldn’t even open the container because the layer of ice surrounding it was thicker than the actual geocache!)

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I’m not sure if it was because of the storm, or because it was a Sunday, but hardly anyone was at the museum that day, so I was able to spend as much time as I wanted at each exhibit without having to wait to get a good view or worry about someone waiting behind me. This was a much better day at the museum, and I noticed a lot more throughout, like the live creatures near the entrance… DSCF5949

…or Adam and Eve in the garden right before the serpent came down to tempt them…

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…and this creepy door that kind of stood out from its surroundings like a sore thumb…

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…and how there were workers that built the ark just because they were employed, yet they still thought Noah was crazy…DSCF5968

…and having just taken my EMT certification test, the medical diagrams supporting creationism were of note…DSCF5973

…and even though the “Confusion” exhibit featuring the Tower of Babel was small, it had beautiful art.DSCF5974

Of course with the weather, all the outdoor things were closed that day, but here’s one of my favorite animals from their petting zoo: a zonkey! (And the animal behind him is a zorse.)

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There was an almost-hidden exhibit showing different species of dinosaurs…2014-03-01 17.10.37

…and even some geological finds…

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All in all, it was a busy, jam-packed travel weekend, and the snow-covered drive home just made for another adventure. In closing, here’s a picture of me with “Lucy”.

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Don’t forget to sign up for your $25 AirBnB credit, so that you can stay in some crazy cool accommodations like the ones featured above! 

I’m Giving You Travel Money!

I don’t like to pay much for accommodations when I travel. Lately I’ve been doing some heavy-duty research on how to get the best experience possible in Europe for the lowest price possible. I’ll be sharing some of my amazing discounted finds soon, but today, I wanted to share something extra-special with you.

I want to give you travel money.

Seriously. 

I am offering a $25 AirBnB travel credit to everyone who reads this. All you have to do is click here and create and AirBnB account. AirBnB offers accommodations such as guest rooms and apartments. After about fifteen seconds of searching, I found quite a few private rooms (as well as shared rooms and campsites) that could be completely paid for with just $25. Just think- your accommodation for a weekend trip could be FREE!

This BnB that I stayed at in Petersburg, Kentucky last year is listed on AirBnB
This BnB that I stayed at in Petersburg, Kentucky last year is listed on AirBnB. If you use your travel credit here, let me know and we can compare travel stories!

With lodging and transportation being the two biggest expenses of travel, an accommodations gift certificate like this can really help with expenses. (And if you’d like more free money, after you register with the link above, you can invite friends and earn more cash!) I’m still looking for free money to use on transportation… well, other than the unattainable frequent flyer miles… but I will keep you updated on any good travel deals that I can find!

On the First Day of Chanukah…

I’m not Jewish. I celebrate Christmas every December. I believe with my whole heart that Jesus is Lord. But ever since I was young, I was taught the games, songs, and traditions of the “Other Winter Holiday”.

No, not Kwanzaa.

Regardless of religion, Chanukah is a memorial to miracles and blessings. For many years now, I’ve taken these eight days to look for miracles and blessings in the small stuff. For example, Chanukah started last night, when I was in a meeting at the Magdalene Home. It was a miracle that I could get the schedule from one of my other jobs changed so I could finally be a part of this amazing staff. There we were blessed with delicious food, an ornament exchange, and a few other gifts. When I went to my other job (where I was also blessed with some gifts: a candy cane and a turkey!), I drove through the downtown area where I could see beautiful light displays. I haven’t really been able to see many lights since I typically go to work in the afternoon before they turn on and come home in the middle of the night long after they’ve been turned off. But as I drove past them, full of warm fuzzies, I realized that I had finally gotten into the Christmas spirit. A Christmas miracle- at the start of Chanukah!

A couple years ago, I bought a five dollar menorah on Amazon. I looked in several different stores to get candles to go with it, but I couldn’t find any. (I’ve even looked in several different WalMarts with no such luck! Which brings me to another point- why did they rename all the things in what used to be the Christmas section as “holiday decorations” when the only holiday they’re for is Christmas? But I digress…) So that year, I just used some way-too-small birthday candles that burned out after a couple of minutes and had to be replaced every single night. The next year, I didn’t light my menorah since Chanukah started on Thanksgiving and thus I spent most of those eight nights as a guest in a coworker’s family’s home. But of course that year, I found menorah candles in just about every store (except for WalMart, of course).

This year, my WalMart endeavor once again proved unsuccessful, so I forgot about it until just yesterday when I realized that Chanukah was beginning. I decided to stop at Walgreens after I got off of work. Even if they didn’t have menorah candles, they’d certainly have some sort of candles I could use in a pinch! So when I got off of work at midnight, I drove right past the awful WalMart and turned into the parking lot of the other store that begins with Wal. And there I saw it: a big lit-up sign that read “Open ‘Til Midnight”. And of course, it was just a few minutes past! But then, I remembered something I saw on Pinterest:

These illuminating crayons. | 27 Everyday Objects That Went Beyond The Call Of Duty

This wasn’t an emergency, but it would have to do. So when I got home, I filled my menorah with crayons. (From the same exact kind of box as is shown in the Pin, mind you.) It was actually a miracle itself that the crayons fit perfectly in the candle holders. Then after finding something to light the shamash with, I set a lit match up against the prominent crayon…

And this is all that happened:

Pretty exciting? NOT!

So although my menorah looks colorful, it’s not going to actually have flames unless I find some candles today. But I’ll continue to look for all the little miracles and blessings in each day anyway.

Travel Journal Tuesday: Peru, August 4th, 2009

Giving the first of 5,000 shoulder rides in during this week. I never did learn this girls name.

After we landed for the night, we waited forEVER in the immigration line. Then it was on to grabbing luggage, customs, and finding Gary and Estabon so we could take the bus to Loma Linda. There were some really cool lighted buildings, like a Vegas-style “Hello Hollywood”, a bank tower that had lights shooting across it, and a cadaver art exhibit. Most people fell asleep, but I stayed awake, listening to Dale and Gary talk about Peru stuff and watching the slum buildings go by outside. When we got to the hotel, I was put in room 20 with Nicole, Callie, and Patty. We even had a TV! We also got other luxuries like a closet, extra soap, and a toilet seat. We pretty much went to bed.

Around 8:30, I woke up and took a shower. After getting ready, Nicole and I went exploring. We went up the hill trail and over to the water tower. Soon, it was breakfast time. Bun buns and eggs- with ham- and papaya juice. We then had time off, so a bunch of us went to the store for Inca Kola, and walked to the suburbs, which was very interesting to see real Peruvian homes up close. We came back just in time to go to the orphanage… finally!

We took public transportation, which was definitely a learning experience! It’s one thing to cram on a bus with the team, but another to cram on a bus with people you don’t know! We had to walk a few blocks from the dropoff to get to the orphanage, but once we got there, it was great. The orientation included the kids singing songs in Spanish and Quechua, dancing, and asking us to join for some jumping song, Every Move I Make, and Happy All the Time. Introductions were made, lunch was served (rice, meat, fries, and Pecan cake- and the beverage selection included Inca Kola), and then we just hung out. I talked with the older girls after lunch, but after that, I spent most of my time playing with a little girl. After getting tired of playing volleyball, I went off to talk with a girl on the play set (speaking of which, a play set, volleyball court, and new building were built on the school side since we left). I still don’t know her name, but she had a blast chasing me, throwing pebbles at me, having me chase her, and riding on my shoulders. She barely spoke, just laughed. In the midst of this, I also hung out with the 2-year-old twins (which is a rare thing to take in kids younger than 3, because of diaper costs and stuff. The twins must have had a really devastating situation), as well as some of the older girls and Melany. Melany didn’t forget how I gave her shoulder rides from last time, because as soon as she was on my shoulders, she covered my eyes. Aw, good times. Soon, we left for hotel. Before dinner, I was insane enough to go with Nicole for another hiking trip- to the padded room and the far side of the hotel. That got us ready for dinner, starting with my favorite soup, which made it hard to eat the rice, fries, chicken chops, and caramel crepes, along with my favorite warm drink. Then came ad-libbing Spanish Disney, devos, and finally winding down for the night. Good night!

Highlight of the Day: While hiking this morning, Nicole encouraged me to take a shortcut downhill. I followed her but I slid down… hard. Dale was in frong of his room when I walked by, with my hand bleeding in two places. Apparently, it took awhile to get ointment and band-aids because the medical stuff hadn’t been gotten into yet (they weren’t anticipating an accident so soon). Krista had to take me in her room, clean my wounds, cut off my skin, and so forth. Dale made fun of me all day.