UnBelizeable Fun

One of my best friends had seen a flight deal to Belize he couldn’t pass up so nine months in advance he bought tickets…and didn’t tell anyone. Then less than two months before his international departure, he asked all his friends who’s available spur of the moment for a trip out of the country. So obviously I said yes. I was going to scramble to have enough money, hustle at work to take unexpected time off, and of course, make my friend find another good flight deal just for me.

I’d never been out of the country except on a cruise to some Mexican oceanic cities, so I didn’t even have a passport yet. I was truly living by my new motto of saying yes to every trip. Spoiler alert: it all came together, I made it to Belize. I wouldn’t be able to stay the full time but my friend’s sister would finish out the trip with him. Win, win!

It was interesting to take my first international flight alone. Let me just say that when I went through Customs and didn’t know the exact location of my hotel (or it’s name – I’d left hotel and itinerary to my friend since I had decided to just tag along) I was pretty sure I was going to be detained or sent immediately back to America. Luckily, I found a random text with the hotel name and convinced them to let me through without the address. Whew.

After making it out of the airport, meeting my friend who had arrived a bit earlier, and taking a taxi into the city, we next boarded a water taxi to head to the island of San Pedro. It was a great way to decompress from the flight and still offer excitement about what was to come. Ah, I love the ocean.

We arrived close to sunset so after checking in (and failing at trying to sneak me in to save a bit of money ha) we headed down the beach to find something to eat. We were definitely in a tourist hotspot but we’d also come during the off season so nothing was too wild. We ate a Fido’s, which kind of became our spot because the drinks were great and it was the most lively so guaranteed some entertainment.

The next day we found an empty snorkeling booth that offered to take us to all the best spots on a private boat, serve lunch, and provide as much rum as we wanted. All for about a hundred bucks. Seriously, off season is amazing. Our trip would include Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the Coral Gardens. This trek also included the main point of interest for me because of Shark Ray Alley. I love sharks! It was jut nurse sharks but there was a lot of them so I was happy to swim with them (very happy).

After a few hours of snorkeling (and drinking), our guide stopped the boat out in the middle of the ocean. We struggled to keep up with him after he jumped in, and seeming to realize we were once again following him, he said, “It will be hard to keep up. This is where y’all can take all the pictures you want.” And then he was gone.

We took a lot of pictures but eventually got pretty tired. Just as we were sure our guide had disappeared into the depths of the ocean, he popped back into sight – and had caught a freaking lobster – with his bare hands!

Then we headed to a nearby empty beach and our guide started a fire to cook us a meal (including the lobster). It was pretty cool. Now, I’m a vegetarian but when I’m overseas I do try the meat they make from me (mostly when it doesn’t come from the store). But even though the experience was pretty cool, I’m still not a fan of the taste of fish.

We headed back, very tired. It was nice to laze around in the hotel with the great view and lackadaisically watch the sunset. Later we grabbed a chill dinner that night at Nook, where we actually met the owner who was also originally from Dallas! It seemed a lot of American programmers who traveled had fallen in love with Belize and were now locals.

A tropical storm was coming in for my last full day but I already felt like I experienced so many great things, I knew nothing could ruin the trip! I was halfway through and already satisfied. Of course, I was still excited at what was to come next!

One of those “Oh yeah, one day…” Trips

Several (and I mean several) years ago I had expressed interest in kayaking to my dad and we’d got the idea in our head to do it. He’d had a great experience kayaking in Durango, Colorado – so this was the place to do it in his book. And the years came and went and we never booked this kayaking trip. One of us would always say at the end of summer, “Oh yeah, one day…”

So in my new life of actually seeing and doing the things I’d always said I would, I looked up kayaking in Durango, read a couple of reviews, and booked a day trip with Mild 2 Wild Rafting tours. Then I actually planned a trip.

I still didn’t have vacation privileges at work, so I knew we’d have to roadtrip it and cram it all into a three-day weekend. I know that’s crazy. But driving 30 hours to hike a National Park and spend a full day on the Animas River ends up being worth it.

I’d researched a lot on when the best time to kayak this river would be and heard it should be pretty perfect near the end of June. I was all set. I’d convinced my dad to go along with this wacky roadtrip idea and we were both excited the kayaking trip was finally happening.

Of course, you can’t control good ol’ Mother Nature. She’d had a pretty cold spring and turns out the mountain hadn’t melted quite enough to produce enough river flow for safe kayaking. When we rolled up and were given wetsuits and (massive) splash jackets we were also told there’d be no kayaking. We’d been “upgraded” to a premium rafting group trip. Great.

Spoiler alert: it was great!

In the beginning you take this bus to the starting jump of the river and it’s all families and tourist-types – basically I thought we were gonna be solo adventuring down a treacherous river and now we were singing kumbaya with the same kids kicking our chair.

But once the rafts were divvied up and we were on the water, I realized this wasn’t going to be some lame theme park tubing ride. Our group was half the size of everyone else since we were a kind of last minute ragtag group, so our guide was able to direct the raft into the bigger rapids.

It was apparently the perfect time to go rafting because there was the perfect amount of water flow for some of the rocks to peak out of the river and create fun dips. We’d lucked into the funnest time to raft at least! We also didn’t get too wet but it was surprisingly cold!

A few hours later and a few miles down the river, we returned on the bus. After a quick change, we realized how hungry we were and headed to downtown Durango. We had local beer and fresh pizza then spent a few hours walking around the city, checking out the shops and stopping for all natural ice cream (made with real mint – it was so good)!

It wasn’t what we’d originally planned but we had a great time with a new experience. And now I guess we’ll have to book another Durango kayaking trip next year!

Being in Four Places at Once

There’s nothing better than heading to work on my Friday with a car packed full of adventure. Knowing I’m going to start my travels as soon as I clock out is the best way to start a weekend, believe me.

Driving, sleeping, adventuring – this car is ready!

While planning this roadtrip with my dad, he kept talking about Four Corners for weeks in advance. More familiar with a brewery by the same name, I had no idea what he was talking about but knew to plan it into the trip.

The Four Corners Monument is the point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. This means that if you stand in the middle of this intersection…you’re actually in four places (states) at once! Such a cool idea to me because I’m constantly worried about spending my time wisely and wishing there was more of me to go around.

Ah, look at me doing so much with this life.

After checking out the local Navajo craft booths we settled back into the car. Heading into Colorado, we made our way to Mesa Verde National Park. I got my stamp for my National Park passport and we explored some of the ancient cliff dwellings.

Our main purpose here was to hike the majority of the park and try our hand at working with the varying levels of elevation. We took the Spruce Canyon trail which included a lot of informational highlights, including some old petroglyphs from the Pueblo peoples.

It was hot and a little trickier than expected trying to navigate steep footholds and hidden cliffs, but well worth the effort by the end. I actually managed to lead a nearby couple who couldn’t figure out one of the rock steps to continue on the path. The zigzagging ascent to about 7000 feet was such an accomplishment though! My first “mountain” had been hiked.

All the closeups include me looking ROUGH!

After sweatily checking out the gift shop amidst happy families, we then trudged back to the car. We were tired and ready for a hearty meal, a shower, and a long sleep. That resulted in stopping for American fare in Mancos, CO and checking into our Airbnb.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve read Into the Wild but it tells the tale of a kid who left it all behind to live off the land in Alaska when he finds a bus to make into his shelter. So part of the allure of Mancos was getting to stay in this converted Volkswagen bus! I­t­ had a full bed and kitchenette inside. (I was so tired I didn’t take any pictures – what a dummy!) As a side note, I one hundred percent recommend anything written by Jon Krakauer.

From one automobile to the next!

There was a cute fire pit nearby for cooking also. They had a shower in the nearby artist garage as well as a compost toilet! I thought everything was so cool and interesting. Let’s just say my dad took a bit longer to come around. Even though we’d spent a tiring day driving many hundreds of miles, it didn’t bother me that bedtime involved retiring to a bus.

I always said I wanted to try everything!

Too Busy to be Sad it’s Almost Over

By day three in New York City, I was pretty much navigating without a map. Well, as long as the subway train started in the right direction (seriously I cannot tell you how many times we had to get off to cross to the other side of the tracks to head back the way we’d come). 

We crossed over into Manhattan and said goodbye to Brooklyn (forever?) so we could check into our new Airbnb, which was located in the trendy area of Chelsea. After a quick hello and dropping off our stuff, we headed to Central Park.

Always my favorite thing in Central Park.
Had to start at the Dakota of course, pay our respects to John Legend before wandering through Strawberry Fields. We walked a lot of it to take in the “outdoors” which are pretty great considering you can surround yourself with greenery in such a populated metropolitan. 

Speaking of, we then headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First we had to grab lunch from food trucks (gyros, yum) and eat on the steps. XOXO, if you know what I’m saying.

You know you love me!

After spending hours at the Met – you could legitimately spend a whole day there – we had dinner with an old friend of mine and made it home to our broken bed. Let’s just say you pay for what you get, but also having to teeter on one specific side of the bed so it doesn’t fold you in half makes for such a funny story (in due time).

Our final day had snuck up on us, so we packed it with nonstop fun. A short walk to breakfast and then from there a skip to the Chelsea Markets. There were lots of great flea market stalls and coffee shops inside.

I could’ve spent all my money here in Chelsea.

As it was our last day, I wanted to start from one end to the other so we headed south to catch the touristy ferry (gotta see the Statue of Liberty!) and then made our way north by mostly footing it to catch new sights on the way. 

I had heard about how great the new High Line was in the middle of the city, so we decided to check that out. Besides a great picture, we just didn’t get it! It’s basically a long walking platform a story above ground that’s really crowded with people constantly stopping to take pics. People online are nuts for it, but maybe it’s a New Yorker thing? Guess we lost our Local card.

Look, how special, I am on a walking platform.

There would be no better way to end a New York trip than by catching a Broadway show. Lucky (very!) for me my friend had the hookup with (FREAKING) Hamilton tickets! I love musicals so I went in pretty blind since I like to experience it fresh. Which, let me just say, involved a lot of covering my ears and yelling at friends to stop singing the most popular musical of the decade.

No surprise, it was brilliant!! (And that’s all I’ll say for fellow spoiler-free theatre lovers.)

Being raised by two theatre nerds, I LOVE musicals!

Since we were in the area, we decided to walk Times Square one last time; really take in the bright advertisements and crazy costumes. We stopped for coffee (of course) and macrons and talked about Hamilton and every thing else great about our trip.

I’ve waxed poetic enough on how much I love this city – so for now I’ll just say, ‘till next time!

7% in Times Square

Let’s talk about fears.

Writing became my first dream in New York when I was with my dad on his business trip. He would leave for work and I would write in the hotel all day. And at night we would learn the city. Even though I was only 13, my mind had been made up: that’s how I would live my life. Writing in New York.

So  the fear of that unaccomplished dream will always follow me, but I think it’s a good kind of fear. It’s a fear spurred by goals. And I think this particular fear is charged by a need to belong in one place too. I need to write and feel at home, while still actively seeking new experiences.

A slightly drizzly shot from the top of the Empire State Building.

But there’s little fears too. For instance, having your phone battery at 7% in the middle of Times Square where outlets are next to impossible to find and that phone is your main navigation on how to make it safely “home” for the night. That is true technological terror. Who are you as a traveler with no map and no direction?

We now neeeded to stop in every coffee shop. We bought an expensive glass of wine in a French bistro because they had a plug next to a table. We had officially become annoying tourists, but we needed the battery refill. Weirdly, our saving grace was finding the retail store Uniqlo which has locked charging stations for while you shop. (Every store should do this!)

Any coffee sign has holy light coming from it in my mind’s eye!
 

There’s the little fear of getting lost even when your battery is full. The fear of not having enough to time to do everything you’d planned in the day. But every now and then, you look around from a “magical” place like the Empire State Building, and you stop worrying. Because you can live a life that’s only a quarter planned and still accomplish a lot!

Plus, if you don’t get a little lost, you miss out on the things you didn’t even know you were looking for. You realize sometimes the lack of a concrete plan invites excitement into your life in a way you didn’t expect.

Shark in the city – I’m in love!
It took us three tries to find an actual brunch place (all coffee, no food). We settled for a subpar lunch because the building aesthetic was adorable (empty stomachs, great pics). And we had great vegetarian when we stumbled upon it across from the comedy show we went to (cool decor, drool). This goes to show that you can Yelp a bunch, judge a book by its cover, but the best thing all day might be what you never planned on.

Ah, the chaos of book stores is oddly soothing.
The day was full of unexpected treasures as we walked Williamsburg. That’s where we found Spoonbill Books and a bunch of thrift stores in a little strip mall. Here’s where my fear of not having enough money comes in. There’s a strong part of me that could spend every available dollar on books and clothing. But I don’t need to. 

A lot of what I’ve learned this year is that spending my money on experiences is way more fulfilling than spending it on material possessions. I’d rather be in Brooklyn  browsing books and clothes than stuck at home surrounded by shopping bags. 

Wouldn’t you?

Becoming Locals in NYC

So many mixed feelings about the city I fell in love with at thirteen. I started this trip coming from a new place in my life where I was genuinely very happy. I was satisfied with where I was at. I was finally actively seeking my best life and at the moment had no complaints about home sweet home. But.

Well, it’s New York for Christ’s sake. I went in thinking “I’m fine. It can’t hold up. What would I want here?” And then you descend into the subway, the smells, the clamor, the glory of several lives rushing about in a perfect order. And when someone shoved aside my suitcase with a sneer, I smiled and rushed about too. It’s easy to join in when everyone agrees to not wait up.

New York will always have my heart.

Every pic looks like it should be a movie.

We settled into our Airbnb first, a really cool loft space in Brooklyn. Well, technically, first we lost the keys to the door for half an hour while we searched three flights of stairs (the key had fallen and gotten wedged in our suitcase handle). Then we settled in and got ready to explore! 

We had very loose plans. Basically we wanted to wander the city and stop in anywhere we felt like. There was a couple of touristy things I had added to the list that were simply must-dos but for the most part our only rule was: If you pass a coffee shop, you must stop.

So much coffee, so little time.

It seems the train you need is always broken. Our place was supposed to be twenty feet from a subway stop but of course it was under construction the exact amount of time we would be staying there. Which ended up being kind of great because we walked a lot of Brooklyn. At several points during our stay people asked us directions like we were locals. And we knew the answers!

We made our way over to Manhattan and I was navigating the subway for the first time myself. I felt like such a cool kid! This was my first time in the city with no parents or teachers. It was weird to think a NYC vacation for us was a typical day for its citizens.

There’s so much culture all over the city – I love it!
We spent more time wandering through the  Burroughs, making our way through NoHo, SoHo, Little Italy, etc etc. Our first day was spent walking and making mental maps. I could walk New York’s streets forever, because even when it should just be a sidewalk there’s always something going on. 

Shops, and food, and best of all, people. Every kind of person you ever could meet, you can find in New York City. There’s so much story to every walk-up, every person has two (plus) lifetimes, and things happen there. Constantly. The air is full of possibility. 

We spent a long time in Strand, otherwise known as COOL KIDS BOOK CLUB.

Obviously, I’m still in love with New York. I always saw myself ending up here, and with the way things are headed in my life… I still might! 

The world is mine for the choosing, and just in the past few months I’ve learned how resilient I can be. How I can make things work out by force of will. And how I just need to keep opening my life to whatever opportunities pop up.

Am I a Vagabond?

As an avid supporter of #vanlife, i.e. creeping all the adorable people living their cutest lives, I had vague notions of traveling the country and living out of my car. 

The first step would be to try it out for a weekend. We wanted to save money and “car camp”. Spoiler alert: I’m not dead – it all worked out. I definitely had a bit of anxiety while sleeping. I knew we would be mostly sleeping at night so my tint would take care of us, but sleeping in late was not an option because as soon as the sun was up, I was up.

This is Florence – the cuddly pup!
To prepare I had cut an old futon cushion into the shape of my back (seats folded down of course) and the result wasn’t half bad. Definitely soft enough for me, who likes rigid support when sleeping. Then we piled on blankets and pillows and we had ourselves a fort on wheels.

We also knew it was the perfect time for car camping because the weather was no more than 70 degrees. It didn’t hurt that we had a cuddly puppy too! 

My car’s name is Billy.

Let me also say that I really love my car. It’s the only car I’ve ever had (knock on wood) and since it’s been with me for more than a decade it just had its 200,000 mileage birthday.  Fingers crossed to that car lasting another decade!

After waking up well rested and ready for adventure, I was pretty much ready to stop paying rent and move permanently into my car. Except, well, then we went to have fun in the sand. And cars aren’t typically equipped with showers.

Here I am… covered in sand.

Instantly I knew there was no way to keep all that sand from getting in the car (and therefore, the bed). So after brushing off as much as possible and “outdoor showering” with some wet wipes, we knew it was time to really become roadside travelers. We were headed outside of town to the nearest truck stop. To pay for the showers.

Let me say this: they are cheap, clean, and have a lock. I know this may not sound glamorous to everyone, but in my book cheap travel gets me to more places. So it works for me! 

And I can add the title ‘Vagabond’ to my list of attributes. So there’s that.