destinations, resources, saving money, travel tips

How to Save Big Money in Rome

While planning a European trip to a different destination, I was recently contacted by a fellow magazine editor asking about money-saving tips for her upcoming trip to Rome. I realized I hadn’t shared much about my time in Rome. Although it was over three years ago, I spent nearly three weeks there and have a lot to say about it! So instead of just telling her how to save on her trip, I thought I’d share my tips with everyone!

See the Free Sights

You don’t have to pay admission to see beautiful and historic masterpieces. Rome has many piazzas, each worth exploring. Even for attractions you have to pay for (such as the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo), you can still get pretty good views from the exterior. Here are a few of my favorite free sights:

Trevi Fountain Restoration, Rome, Italy
The Trevi Fountain was undergoing restoration while I was there, so they set up a little pool so we could still make our wishes and throw coins.

Trevi Fountain: Technically this isn’t entirely free since you’re supposed to throw two coins in. (I tossed in two one-cent coins to make it as cheap as possible!) But this is definitely one of the must-see Italian statues.

scala sancta rome italy
People praying their way up the Scala Sancta

Scala Sancta: This “Holy Staircase” was imported from Jerusalem and believed to belong to Pontius Pilate. Jesus Christ would have walked these steps several times on the day of his crucifixion. Tradition is to pray as you climb these steps on your knees, and anyone is invited to participate.

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
Just a few steps of the entire staircase… it’s huge!

Spanish Steps: No matter how exhausted I was, it was always worth climbing the massive Spanish steps. This is also a good place to sit, eat a snack, and people watch. Being a popular tourist area, you can hear many languages spoken and get a glimpse of all the stunts put on for tourists (“floating” people, rose selling, etc.)

Bocca Della Verita
Close call with the Bocca Della Verita

Bocca Della Verita: The “Mouth of Truth” is an ancient piece of art that supposedly bites off the hands of liars. When I stuck my hand in, I said: “you will bite my hand now”. I think it was too confused to know what to do.

Villa Borghese Map, Roma Italia
So much to do… and I love that the park is heart-shaped!

Villa Borghese: This giant park definitely has some fun things you can pay for. I ended up renting a Segway here. But it’s also a good place to have a picnic, overlook the city, and go up to the zoo entrance. (The zoo has an admission fee, but they have a few free displays before the ticketed area.)

Stay in a Hostel

You can get a downtown hostel for around 20 euro, depending on location and time of year. I ended up staying in three hostels during my time in Rome. I wasn’t thrilled with the first one. I loved the second one but it was small and only had a few days of availability. I finally settled into the third one. Since hostels can be so diverse, make sure to carefully read the reviews on a website like Hostelz.com. (Fun fact: I wrote the description for Italy and many of the Italian destinations on that website!)

Try to get a reasonably-priced hostel that includes breakfast to save even more money. Breakfast can include a lot of things, such as breads, spreads, juice, and croissants, but my favorite hostel breakfast treat was cookies. Yes, they have cookies for breakfast! While you’ll want to eat out at least a few times in Rome, it’s also an experience in itself to visit a grocery store like the locals. See what kinds of things the other shoppers buy, and then head to your hostel’s kitchen to try your hand at an authentic Italian meal!

Walk

Walking by Tiber River, Rome, Italy
Carrying a backpack meant I could spend the whole day out and about, like walking along the Tiber River

Rome has a subway system, but not one worth getting excited over. Due to the buried historical artifacts under Rome’s surface, it would require too much expensive excavation to build a subway that takes you everywhere you want to go. I only rode Rome’s subway once (and only because someone handed me a free ticket), and it was overly crowded. Street traffic and taxi prices are even worse.

What’s a better solution? Walking! Most Rome sights are all within a few miles of each other. As you walk from one place to another, you’ll likely find dozens of other interesting stopping points along the way. Some ancient artifacts and ornate architecture are just casually located throughout the city.

Go to Church

Pope Francis in the Vatican
The closest I got to meeting Pope Francis

When in Rome, it doesn’t matter if you normally go to church. Going to church here is a must-do. Of course, you’ll have to visit the Vatican, the world’s smallest country and headquarters of Catholicism that just so happens to be encased inside Rome. When the Pope is in town, he speaks on Wednesdays and Sundays. Go to both if you can, as they are different experiences. When the Pope’s not speaking, go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. You could spend hours there! Vatican City also offers admission-based activities such as climbing to the top of the Basilica (take the stairs to save on the elevator fare) and the Vatican Museums (plan an entire day here and don’t just visit the Sistine Chapel!)

Outside of the Vatican, there are still plenty of other churches that are worth stepping into. They’re all open most of the day to visitors, and can be a welcome cooling-off point during warm months. I made a point to stop inside every church I passed, and I was never disappointed.

Although most churches in Rome are Catholic with services held in Italian, I did end up attending a Sunday morning Protestant service held in English. In fact, it turned out that the pastor was from Oregon like me! Rome Baptist Fellowship is a centrally-located international gathering of travelers, expatriates, and even locals gathering together, which was a fun experience.

Stop at the Palatino

Palatino, Rome, Italy
I spent at least as much time at the Palatino as I did at the Colosseum- so much to walk right up to!

This is more of a time-saver than a money-saver, but you want to make your time in Rome count! Don’t wait in a long line to buy a ticket at the Colesseum. Instead, head over to the Palatino, an attraction in its own right lurking in the shadows of the more famous attraction. Buy a ticket and enjoy the sights there, and then head over to the Colesseum and skip the line there. Tickets are good for both attractions, but for some strange reason, many people skip the Palatino.

Tour with Rick Steves

Rick Steves Audio Tour, Jewish Ghetto, Rome, Italy
With Rick Steves coming through my ear buds, even this street sign in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto had an interesting history behind it!

If you like guided group tours, Rick Steves probably has the best ones out there. I prefer to travel solo, but Rick Steves still played a major role in much of my European travel. If you download the free app, you can access tons of audio tours and more advice for your travels. In Rome, I took audio tours through places like the Jewish Ghetto, the Colesseum, Heart of Rome, and Trastevere, just to name a few. I discovered a lot of interesting things I would never have noticed on my own.

At night, I would often fall asleep in my hostel dorm with my earbuds in, listening to Rick Steves tell a story about one of his European adventures or interviewing another travel expert. It made me excited to wake up the next morning and explore Rome more!

Eat the Lunch Specials

Italian Pasta in Trastavere, Rome
Course 2…

I was told by multiple people to go to the Trastevere area for lunch. Or, if you like eating dinner at an American time (like 5) instead of an Italian hour (like 9), lunch specials can still apply. At most of the restaurants in this part of town, you pay a fixed price and then get to choose what food you want for each of the three courses off a special menu.

Trastevere is an interesting part of town not for its famous attractions, but because you can get a taste of what life in Rome is really like. Burn off your lunch calories with a walk around these cobblestone streets. Since it’s located on the Tiber River, walk along there too. There are sometimes special events along the river, such as a Nutella street fair that I happened to find there! That resulted in a free Nutella snack that I saved for another meal!

To save money at nearly any meal, drink water! And not the bottled kind. Rome has safe drinking fountains throughout the city where you can fill up for free.

Eat Gelato

Fassi Gelato, Rome, Italy
Move over, Baskin Robbins with your 31 flavors… there were so many unique flavors at Fassi!

You can’t go to Italy without indulging in gelato. It was a great snack, dessert, or sometimes even a meal-on-the-go! My favorite gelateria was called Fassi. It’s a little ways away from most tourist attractions, so the price is lower and you know you’re getting the real deal. A hostel roommate introduced me to this place, and in return, I introduced several more roommates. Now I’d like to introduce everyone to Fassi!

Another Italian treat you must try in Rome is tiramisu. For both gelato and tiramisu, I’d recommend seeking out a dessert at least once a day and trying a new flavor each time!

save big money in rome

Thinking back to my time in Rome is making me realize that despite spending a few weeks there, I left so much of it unexplored! Do you have any money-saving suggestions that I missed? Help my friend out by leaving them in the comments!

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day trip, destinations, Foodie, voluntourism

Places Change

A little over a year ago, I made a stop at the historic Butte Creek Mill. It hadn’t changed much since it opened in 1872.

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But recently, I was driving through Eagle Point, and decided to make a quick detour to go by Butte Creek Mill. Here’s what it looks like now:

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Christmas morning brought many surprises as usual, but an unexpected and unwanted surprise was hearing the news that this beautiful historic mill caught fire. It was shocking to comprehend that something that had stood the test of time had so suddenly disappeared as it literally went up in smoke.

In the following weeks, residents from my area kept up on the news of what would happen to the site where Butte Creek Mill once stood. I was filled with hope when the owner announced that just enough survived to justify rebuilding and restoring the mill. However, it would take a lot of help. I made a small donation within the month of the fire, but after seeing the burned-down mill with my own eyes, I recently made another donation. You can help rebuild Butte Creek Mill, too! I look forward to the day when Butte Creek Mill once again resembles the top photo!

#ThrowbackThursday, Winter

#ThrowbackThursday: SnowEMT

How’s the weather, East Coasters? Haha, I know it’s cold, stormy and snowy there. But I won’t brag about how nice the weather in Oregon has been and how I could walk outside without a coat yesterday. Instead, I’ll talk about snow!

Winter 2012 was my first real snowy winter experience. It was my first winter in Nebraska, and although it was more snow than I had ever experienced, all the seasoned Nebraskans said that it was one of their mildest winters ever.

So on Superbowl Sunday three years ago (wow, was it three years already?) a large amount of snow finally came and I was trapped at the camp I was living at. I wasn’t really trapped because of the snow, but I didn’t have a car. And no one wanted to brave the weather to visit me or pick me up, so I got to eat all the cookies that I made for my one-person Superbowl party. Anyway, I didn’t mean to tell you about my pathetic party. I wanted to tell you what happened afterward…

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You see, I was taking my EMT class at the time, so that was something that was always on my mind. I had gotten a pretty bad leg injury a few days prior since a giant log fell off of a tractor bucket and onto my leg, so I wasn’t able to do much outdoors. But it was snowing for crying out loud, and I needed to build a snowman!

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“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” was not yet a song on everyone’s lips, but I certainly would have been singing that as I went out to find a good spot to build my creation. I had decided that I wanted something kind of Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque, like an army of snowmen or a snowman missing a head because another snowman used it as a bowling ball. Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery to roll any snowballs. I did, however, find a few chunks of snow compacted from being plowed off the road, so I sculpted those into a round shape. After stacking a few of those together, my first snowman was complete!

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I had problems building a second one. The snowballs did not want to stack on top of each other. The top one kept on rolling off until the snowballs were side by side on the ground. That’s when it hit me: this snowman was suffering an injury! And of course, the standing snowman must be an EMT!

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I hadn’t intended to make my snowmen as gruesome as the ones Calvin made in the comic strips, but I had to show that the snowvictim clearly needed help. I didn’t have any coal, but I did find some peppermint patties in the camp kitchen that made for good eyes, as well as carrots for the nose. I turned one peppermint eye sideways to represent an avulsed eyeball. Then, with the watered-down remains of a bottle of red hair dye, I splattered “blood” on the helpless snowpatient. But not to worry…

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Soon it was SnowEMT to the rescue! Both of the snowmen feature arms made out of marshmallow roasters, but I put a pair of gloves on the EMT (since that’s always the first thing to do at any scene!) I wanted to put my uniform shirt on him, but was afraid that it would get wet, or worse, freeze to the snowbody. So I found a garbage bag and put that on the center snowball before putting my shirt on. I finished the effect with my stethoscope, but of course, I removed that after taking the photos so it wouldn’t get damaged.

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I don’t much care for freezing weather, and I’m sure that someday I’ll create a lifestyle that will allow me to release my inner snowbird. But I know that snow can also bring about some fun adventures.

What’s an adventure you’ve experienced in snowy weather?

#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!

Travel Journal Tuesdays, voluntourism

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!

#ThrowbackThursday, Accommodations, destinations, road trip

#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! 

culture, Travel Journal Tuesdays, voluntourism, writing

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.

#ThrowbackThursday, destinations

#ThrowbackThursday: Trading Winter for Warm Weather

I’m not a huge fan of this season. If it wasn’t for Christmas, I don’t think I would be able to survive between the months of November and March. In Oregon, it rains too much to do anything fun outside. In other places I’ve lived, it’s ice spaced out by muddy thaws. Although I’ve had some fun adventures in the winter months, I always prefer warmer weather for my travels. Lately I’ve been dreaming of warm places, like Hawaii, Mexico, and Southern California. Then I recalled the last time I was in Southern California, back in June 2011…

Just sit right back and I’ll tell my tale, my tale of a fateful trip…

Okay, we did take a boat tour, and although it wasn’t three hours, we did see one of the locations where Gilligan’s Island was filmed!

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Most of that trip consisted of going around the harbor by Newport Beach and looking at the super-expensive homes of the rich and famous. We only saw one location that was inhabited by the non-uber-wealthy, and it was a buoy full of sea lions:Newport Beach 11 011 Newport Beach 11 013

But most places looked like the picture below. We didn’t stay in a place nearly as fancy, but we were fortunate to spend nearly two weeks in a beautiful home in Newport Beach that my aunt and uncle live in. They were in Sweden for my cousin’s wedding, so we got to house-sit for them!

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I had realized that it had been a long time since we had gone to Disneyland. The last time we went as a family, California Adventure hadn’t even been built yet! I thought it would be neat to go and see everything we had missed over the years, so I secretly began making plans to pay for my entire family to go to Disneyland. When I looked up the admission prices, I realized that I couldn’t even afford to take just me and my sister! I began looking at other options. Then I remembered Knott’s Berry Farm, which I barely recalled since I only went there as a toddler. My mom ended up not going, but I got to take my dad and sister into this amusement park all for the cost it would have been for just one of us to go to Disneyland!

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Of course, because we were staying at Newport Beach, we spent a lot of time at the beach. We rented a surfboard one day, and after my sister got a little bit of practice with it, I went out for my very first surf session. But no sooner did I get out in the ocean did a lifeguard call everyone out of the water due to too harsh of waves!

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But there were plenty of boogie boards at the house we were staying at, so I went boogie boarding just about every day.Newport Beach 11 092

We did quite a few other things, too. One day we visited my grandparents, and another day I participated in the International Surf Day’s beach cleanup. We did a lot of shopping and fairly healthy eating, and we did some sand sculpting…

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And another thing we did pretty much every day was ride beach cruisers. Newport Beach has a great bike trail that goes along the shoreline. Sometimes we would just ride to the nearest beach, and other times we would go further to different shops. Some days it was hard to ride because we were going quite a few miles in the direction opposite of the wind, so we definitely kept in shape!

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Because we kept in such great shape, treats at the Balboa Pier were not only guilt-free, but they were mandatory! Newport Beach 11 149

Travel Journal Tuesdays, voluntourism

August 3rd, 2009: Somewhere Over Latin America

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

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

The mission team before we started our journey

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

destinations, travel tips

Happy Half Birthday to Me!

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

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

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

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

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

Harding Memorial Tomb
Me at the Harding Memorial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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