Birthday, Bucket List

Happy Hot Air Balloon Birthday to Me!

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My family happened to be vacationing in Walt Disney World when I turned 18. That day, as a newly minted adult, I took a ferry to Downtown Disney in hopes of experiencing something only adults could experience- signing my own liability waiver! I wanted to ride the then-new “Characters in Flight”, a giant tethered helium balloon. Unfortunately, when I got there, it was closed due to the wind. But as a left Florida that year, I was determined that I would eventually be able to have lots of non-airplane flying experiences… and also sign lots of liability waivers!

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About a year later, I went to a local hot air balloon festival. It was there that I got to take my first tethered hot air balloon ride. After signing my waiver and waiting an hour in line, the ride lasted maybe three minutes, and gave me a great view… of just the field where it took place! It was well worth the $3, but it was only an adventure appetizer when I wanted a dinner buffet.

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For three years now, I’ve decided to do something adventurous for my birthday. After meeting up with my family at Disney World (for the fourth time), or taking a bike trip around Columbus that ended up with me suspended on a high wire, I was looking for something that would be even better this year, especially since I was spending my first birthday at home since age 19. My plan actually wasn’t on my bucket list, but probably should be: go paragliding! I called a local paragliding guide and made plans for my birthday weekend.

On Thursday night, I received a message from the pilot with some bad news. The mountain that gliders have used for years belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, and somebody complained about the property’s use. That means all paragliding in the area will be shut down for at least six months. And of course it had to happen right before my birthday weekend! I still wanted to have some high-flying fun for my birthday, but would I be able to get anything arranged in just one business day?

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Referring to my Travel Bucket List, I picked out the ones that would be able to be done in the area and started scouring the internet for contacts. On Friday morning, I got two responses. One was from a helicopter service that offered me a one-hour flight for just $1500 (yeouch!), and the other was from Daybreak Ballooning that, while not cheap enough to be a regular activity, was WAY more affordable and worth every penny for this special occasion. So at 6 am Saturday morning, I was all set for my first real hot air balloon adventure!

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My friend Steph had agreed to accompany me on this ride, and my parents came to watch our take-off. But first we watched the crew set up. The first thing they did was figure out the wind pattern using what is probably the best instrument in the business: an ordinary helium party balloon. Fortunately, we had great weather conditions. We then went out to the soccer field of Jewett Elementary School for set-up. First, they took out the three-person basket, and then they spread out the envelope (the actual balloon part). Using a fan, the envelope slowly began to take shape, and eventually, some heat was added.

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Steph and I got into the balloon with our pilot Drew, and went over, like, two safety rules 1. You can hold onto something if you want to as long as that something is not the fuel line, and 2. Don’t get out of the basket for any reason unless you’re told to. Then with few pumps of heat, we lifted off!

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How do you describe the view? We were hovering over Central Point, which I lived in from age 3 to age 15, so I was very familiar with the town and many of its buildings, but I never saw any of them like this before! (Google Maps would be better if it was taken from a hot air balloon’s point of view!) Of course, when you’re up in the air, the first thing you want to try to find is your house. We were a little too far away to find my current house, so I instead tried to find my childhood home. I found Central Point Elementary, where I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade, and then peered into the suburbia beyond that to see if I could spot the street.

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I did find a corner market that’s about a block away from the house. While I didn’t exactly see that house in the air, I did take lots of pictures of the area so maybe I can zoom into the photo later to try to find it.

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It was kind of fun to spy on other people’s houses, too. I now know where to go if I ever feel like crashing a pool party!

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Some people were outside and, when we were low enough that they could see us in the basket, we’d wave at each other.

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One home had a super-cool large tent that you could practically live in.

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And then there was this one house that had a bus in their backyard!

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But more fun than looking at houses was looking at buildings that I knew about. Besides my elementary school, I got aerial shots of the other two elementary schools (including the one we launched from), as well as my high school. My middle school is on the outskirts of town, so it was harder to see that one, but eventually we did get close enough to take a few pictures.

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Another thing that was neat to see was the churches.

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For awhile, we were hovering in one spot above the McDonald’s. My parents had told me that they were going to eat breakfast there after we launched, and I was able to spot their car in the parking lot.

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We floated over the main street and saw many of the local businesses. In the distance, we could see the interstate, the Family Fun Center, the Jackson County Fairgrounds, and the mountains. We even saw the Medford Airport and watched a plane take off!

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One thing I hadn’t thought about until this morning was that hot air balloons can’t really control where they’re going. The crew was on the ground chasing us and keeping in contact during the entire flight, but toward the end, they were essential in helping us get a place to land.

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Pilot Drew had pointed out some of his common landing sites early in the flight, such as all the different school soccer fields, and even some power line-free residential streets, but the wind ended up taking us toward a wheat field. Of course the chasers had to ask the farmers if it would be okay to land there, and we really didn’t want to make crop circles on the wheat, so we headed to a farm road that split up two of the crops. And then I was offered the opportunity to play pilot!

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Okay, so all I really did was pull the trigger that made the fire whenever the real pilot told me to, but it sure was an experience! At that point we were also getting lower, and I mean really low, to the point that we could probably reach out and touch the wheat. (I was probably more nervous flying at that point than I would have been at our highest altitude!) Fortunately, no wheat was harmed in the making of this birthday experience!

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Our pilot threw a tether out to the crew member so that we could make sure we landed right between the two fields, and after bouncing a couple times, we were back on solid ground. For a few minutes, we just stood in the basket while the balloon deflated enough (that is where the don’t-get-out-of-the-basket-without-permission rule really comes into play, because one less body of weight could make it take off again!). We then got out as everything was taken apart and returned to the trailer. Steph and I then hopped in the car with the crew and we headed back to our starting point. But the fun wasn’t over yet!

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When we returned to the elementary school, we met up with my parents and then gathered at a picnic table that the crew had set up. While we were munching on the treats, Drew explained that, since it was our first flight, he would tell us the history behind hot air balloons and the traditional after-flight champagne toast. Ballooning was first done in France in the 1780s, before any other human-carrying aircraft was even though of. It started out by carrying a few animals, then someone took a tethered flight, and finally, they were brave enough to try a real flight. During one of the early flights, a balloon had to land on farmland. The farmers, having never seen anything like this before, thought this smoke-causing contraption must be a demon or something equally evil and vicious. To prove that they were just ordinary Frenchmen, the balloonists offered a very French-like peace offering: a bottle of champagne.

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In our correspondence beforehand, I had noticed on the website that champagne was served, and being a teetotaler (who tried champagne once and found it awful), I mentioned it was not necessary. But we were still able to carry on this tradition using sparkling cider instead. But first, Steph and I had to participate in another tradition of drinking “champagne” without your hands while kneeling on the ground and a traditional prayer is said over you that includes sprinkling!

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We all chatted for a little bit longer, asking any last burning questions we had about flying hot air balloons. Then we all thanked each other for the part we each played in making this event happen, and I got a few birthday wishes as we left. Even though it was a day before my actual birthday (which is today), this was a great start to a birthday weekend!

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Have you ever flown without an airplane? Have you ever wanted to? What would you like to do for your next birthday?

Bucket List, day trip, destinations, road trip

Street Fairs and Roadside Attractions

If you haven’t read about the previous days of my road trip through Northern California and to the desert, you may want to catch up on those first. After those two legs of the trip, the next several days were spent at my grandmother’s house in Southern California, but we took little day trips from that location.

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On the day we got back from the desert, we took a walk around downtown Upland. This is the town where my mom grew up, but little did we know that the city was having a celebration for her homecoming! Okay, it wasn’t really for her, but Upland was having their annual Lemon Festival the weekend we were there. The next day, I went there for a little longer to enjoy the sights and street food (including, of course, lots and lots of fresh lemonade!).

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Chick-Fil-A exists within an hour of places I’ve previously lived, such as Nebraska and Ohio, but there is not Chick-Fil-A in Oregon. When we found out that there was one right in my grandmother’s town, I just had to take my mom out for her first-ever spicy chicken sandwich!

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On Sunday, we hopped in the car and went to City of Industry. This little side-trip took a lot of convincing, but my mom finally agreed to it. Our first stop was this guard rail:

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What, you don’t know what this guard rail is? What if you pictured part of it turning into a big sign with a digital clock and the writing “Twin Pines Mall”, or perhaps “Lone Pine Mall”?

Okay, if you haven’t seen Back to the Future (or didn’t pay attention while watching it), you won’t know what this is, so I’ll tell you: this is the location where they shot the mall scenes in the first movie of the Back to the Future trilogy. Yes, this is the parking lot where time travel took place!

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In the above photo, you can see some fence-type thing (not sure what that’s called?) in the background. It’s location didn’t make much sense, unless it was put there to prevent movie fans from driving 88 miles per hour!

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Since Back to the Future Part 2 involves a trip to 2015, it was my New Year’s Resolution to see a location from the movie this year. Hey, it was even on my Travel Bucket List!

While researching the Back to the Future mall parking lot on Roadside America, I noticed another interesting location just a mile away. So we drove up to it and found this:

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Wait, McDonald’s isn’t an attraction! Ah, but this one is.

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This particular McDonald’s has never turned on their range. They refuse to serve the public. In fact, it’s surrounded by a security fence! That’s because this is not McDonald’s restaurant at all. Instead it is a McDonald’s set, the place they use to film all the McDonald’s commercials! Below is a sign on wheels, so they can position it to wherever the best lighting and scenery is.

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Next to the fake McDonald’s is a big warehouse with the McDonald’s logo. It’s funny since I’ve never really thought about commercials like this having props or costumes, but I guess they need this large of a warehouse to store that kind of thing!

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Of course, all the gates were closed and I’m sure there was no lack of security cameras and burglar alarms, but I have read that on days when they film, they sometimes have customers pull up to the drive-thru and begin honking their horn due to lack of service! I’m not sure if that’s legitimate though. This McDonald’s is pretty out-of-the-way in and industrial area and even has signs stating it’s not real!

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Our final roadside stop before leaving grandma’s house to continue our road trip was right on one of America’s most famous roads. When visiting my grandmother, you can’t avoid driving on Route 66. (Even though I didn’t realize it was actually Route 66 until I was about eighteen!) So while I haven’t really traveled on Route 66, I am very familiar with a several-mile stretch of it. And with that familiarity, I am going to assume that the best place to eat in all of Route 66 is right here:

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Locally-famous Vince’s has delicious spaghetti, as well as garlic bread, cheese bread, soup, and salad. It was a delicious way to cap off all the things we saw in the street and alongside the road!

While these days were jam-packed with roadside attractions, I’ve been to other interesting places that I love as well. What roadside attractions have you visited? Are there any that are on your bucket list?

backpack, geography, saving money

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?

#ThrowbackThursday, jobs, resources, writing

#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!

jobs, saving money

4 Ways to Survive a Desk Job When You Want to See the World

It’s only a seasonal job, I have to constantly remind myself. It will only last a few more weeks!

Last month, I began a job at a Harry and David Call Center. I knew going in that I wouldn’t exactly like the job, but my other three jobs combined don’t make as much as my one job at Harry and David does, so I certainly needed a more steady job, even if it was only for a couple months. The two weeks of training were actually kind of fun. It was more like an adventure, because it was the opportunity to explore the company: explore the physical location that is one of the prides of my hometown, and also explore the internal matters of how this business runs, in an effort to be able to transfer some of what I learned into my own business. But after training ended, I was stuck in the call center.

Eight hours a day of nothing but sitting in a chair, reading a script into a headset, and typing whatever I hear.

Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.
Clearly not me. I would lose all my incentive pay if I tried to take a picture of myself in the uber-secure call center, so this is what you get.

This is not the ideal job for any traveler-at-heart. And some days, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it until my layoff date. But here are a few things that I keep in mind about this job, and they’re things you too can ponder when you find yourself in a job you weren’t meant for:

I won’t be working this job forever! If you don’t count freelance writing (which I’ve worked on for six years), I’ve never kept a job much longer than two years, and some of those jobs I actually enjoyed. And I know that this particular job is even more short-term. I don’t know my exact layoff date yet, but it won’t be later than January. Near the end of my life, when I look back on this job, it will take only a few seconds to reflect on its entirety (even though now it seems like each shift is forever)! Instead, I’ll more clearly remember all the amazing adventures I took before and after this brief period of work.

It’s money in the bank. Life isn’t about money, but I will admit that it’s the biggest motivator for me working this job. My hourly wage is pretty decent, and I earn bonus incentive money too. Of course, right now a good percentage of my earnings are going towards Christmas. (Although I will say I won’t have nearly as big of a budget for Christmas this year as I have had in the past, thanks to the fact that I don’t have to fly anywhere this year!) But most of my leftover money is being stocked up in my savings account, ready to be used for all my 2015 travel plans!

There are other perks too. Every job has perks other than a paycheck. I’ve had jobs that provide food and jobs that provide employee discount. This job happens to provide both. I can typically score some fresh fruit (usually pears, of course!) during my breaks, and in training we were even required to sample a variety of treats! I get a 45% discount in Harry and David stores and 30% off on shipped orders, plus there are discount to other stores and services as well as a discount on mailing services. Harry and David even started a charity where their employees can go to a building twice a month and fill a grocery bag with “imperfect” food and other goods. Best off all, if I work until my layoff date, all of these services are available to me until next November! Because I’ve saved money on things like food, gifts, and even an oil change due this job, it means that more of my paycheck is going toward travel.

I challenge myself to learn new things every day. And if possible, I try to learn something that will still apply to my life after this job is in the past. Sometimes it means reading health articles during my break time. Sometimes I try to think about why a particular sales tactic I used was effective or ineffective. And sometimes it’s just an appreciation for things, like how much small business owners have to do to compete with established big names like this one, or how so many of the overnight shift people seem to be so happy while I dread the fact that I don’t get home until after midnight. Learning through experience is one of the main things that fuels my travels. With a little effort, this can be brought into the workplace,too!

interview, resources

I Guess I’m a “Talented and Energetic Visionary” Now

With my work with G4C Magazine, I have done quite a few interviews over the course of time with authors, actresses, and activists. And of course, I’ve been interviewed too… you know, for jobs like everyone else does! But I recently had my first “real” interview. This one wasn’t for a job, it was to be published on Sisters United in Verse!

"Sisters United In Verse, Women, Christian, Girl, Online Fellowship"

I never heard of this ministry before, but they contacted me when they found out about Girlz 4 Christ. I think they did a wonderful job asking good questions that made me think! They even designed the image above, which I really like! That picture was from three years ago, when I was obsessed with pineapples, chopped off my hair for EMT training, and decided it was a wild enough style that I should dye it red, too! So maybe that wasn’t the best picture of me, but of course the part I really like is the cover collage that surrounds it.

The interviewer used words I never would have used to describe myself. Talented and energetic visionary? Really? I sure hope I can live up to that! One word that wasn’t used to describe me was an adventurist. Although this interview didn’t cover any of my travel experience, it did show more of my personal, internal journey. Read the whole interview here!

saving money, travel tips

Should Travelers Have Pets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferb the Hermit Crab

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

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

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

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

What should I call the gray and orange goldfish?

#ThrowbackThursday, Bucket List

Travel I Can Cross Off My Bucket List

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

1. Go to Chicago. (September 2014)

2. Eat pizza in Chicago. (September 2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. Go to Niagara Falls. (July 2014)

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

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

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

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

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

22. See Mount Rushmore. (August 2011)

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

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

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

TIESS3 209
On a class trip to the East Coast

25. See historic Philadelphia. (June 2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31. See the Atlantic Ocean. (June 2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

37. See Multnomah Falls. (September 2014)

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls in Northern Oregon

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

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

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

Good Ol' Greyhound
Good Ol’ Greyhound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bucket List

My Travel Bucket List

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

1. Backpack Europe. Accomplished July-October 2015

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

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

3. Go to Memphis.

4. Explore states along the Gulf of Mexico.

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

6. Skydive. Completed May 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

11. Go to all the major oceans. (So far I’ve only been to the Pacific and Atlantic.)

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

12. Win a contest where travel is the prize.

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

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

14. Live in the Mountain Time Zone. (It’s the only zone in the continental U.S. that I haven’t lived in yet!) It was only five weeks, but I lived in Colorado Springs July-August, 2020.

15. Fly in a helicopter.

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

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

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

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

19. See the Grand Canyon and remember it! (I don’t remember the trip I took there as a toddler.) Completed December 15th, 2020!

20. Walk through the Holy Land of Jerusalem.

21. Officially go on a press trip.

22. Explore at least one Caribbean Island.

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

24. Work full-time in travel and writing.

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

26. Be part of a live studio audience.

27. Find a thousand geocaches.

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

28. Tour Boston.

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

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

31. Go through New England in the fall.

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

33. Go zorbing.

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

35. Proficiently surf.

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

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

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

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

38. Go to India.

39. Be among the Alps. Completed March 2020 in Germany and Austria!

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

41. Become fluent in at least two languages.

42. Become conversational in at least three languages.

43. Go jet skiing.

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

45. Attend the Olympics.

46. Go to the new World Trade Center.

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

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

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

49. Adopt children and take them on adventures.

50. Stand on a significant longitudinal or latitudinal line, such as the Equator, Greenwich Meridian or International Date Line. Completed in Greenwich, London May 2019!

51. Be inside a zeppelin.

52. See a giant panda.

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

53. See Northern Lights.

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

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

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

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

57. WWOOF

58. Tour the Capitol Building of my home state.

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

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

61. Work in orphan care or adoption.

62. Go rafting on class five rapids.

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

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

64. See the Hoover Dam.

65. Recognize a celebrity on the streets.

66. Go to the North Pole.

67. Go to the South Pole.

68. Be invited to a speaking engagement.

69. Go on a zipline canopy tour.

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

71. Own a species of South American camelid.

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

72. Meet a lifelong travel companion.

73. Go somewhere, probably Germany or France, where the last name “Lippe” is more common. Completed March 2020- when the Germans heard my last name, they were like, “Oh, you’re German?”

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

75. Make new goals and never stop adventuring!