Blogiversary: Two Sides of the Gemini

This blog is one year old today!! So I don’t truly believe in horoscopes, but sometimes it’s fun to look at them after the day has passed. I officially started this blog on this date, exactly a year ago. Before taking time to think about how far I’ve come (a lot!), I wanted to share my horoscope of that -this- day, 2017.

“A critical turning point arrives in your life today via the full moon in Pisces, dear Gemini. You need to find a better balance between your personal and your public lives.”

How funny, as a pretty private person, that day would be the one I would start sharing my journey on the internet. So why did I start a blog? Mainly because I love writing, always have. Secondly because I was excited to be actively pursuing adventure instead of just dreaming about it.

Once I started traveling and having new experiences, I realized how easy it is to do! If you make it a priority, if you chase your interests, it’ll happen. So now not only do I hold myself accountable by blogging twice weekly, I try to encourage readers to get out and and explore also! Sometimes it seems we’re just afraid to take that first step.

I’ve started my mission to collect all of the National Parks stamps – I’ll even be done with the entire Southwest Region by the end of this year!

I made it my mission to travel internationally at least once a year – after booking impromptu trips this and the previous summer to Belize and Tulum, respectively.

I made it a goal to be a tourist in my hometown, Dallas, so I could experience all the hot spots as well as find new local things to do.

I’ve prioritized hiking, by trying to make it to every trail and park in my area. I wanted to prove to myself I could find amazing nature in the backyard of a big city.

And finally, I’ve strived to say yes more and more. When a friend invites me to a sage-making class, when my dad invites me to learn a new sport – I go!

So yeah, I’ve shared a lot with all of you. On my Instagram, I try to post daily to keep myself active in adventure. But I’m still pretty private, and that’s good. I’m very protective of my relationship, I try not to be too obnoxious with picture-taking, and I totally understand when a friend doesn’t want to be mentioned in a blog.

I’ve learned a lot about balancing! For me that mainly means pursuing what makes me happy and being so, so grateful for everyone in my life. It would’ve been much harder on this journey alone (i.e. impossible). So thanks everyone for a fantastic, unimaginable first year!

Sweet Tooth Hotel

There’s a new trend in pop art that promotes interaction and temporary installations – that will then last forever through social media. These pop-ups are appearing allover. The main purpose? Get people to take pictures in the art and then post it to their followers.

Dallas is following this trend by opening the “Sweet Tooth Hotel,” an art installation that will only be up and running a few months – so get get your pictures while you still can! This “hotel” features six rooms inspired by candy (ringpops, macroons, etc) and created by local Dallas artists (Built by Bender, Shamsy, etc).

After a brief introduction about what you could touch – everything pretty much – they encourage you to explore. Mainly, you’re encouraged to take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. It’s basically a creative space filled with bright color imagery and fun props to serve as the perfect setting for a sweet photo shoot. It’s kind of genius in an age where social media is an engine for self-promotion.

My own experience visiting this art installation was a lot of fun. You pay for an hour of time to snap as many photos as you can in all the rooms, getting as creative as you can – and for me, trying not to feel awkward as other guests wait for their own turn. You’re climbing in a bathtub, lounging on the bed, stepping out from a fridge, spinning next to neon signs, and trying to make sure no one’s in your mirror shot.

The time went quick, but it was kind of exhilarating. There’s something about a timed “museum” that makes you capture as many photos and poses as you possibly can. You don’t know what you’ll end up using, but the need to hold on to the temporary imagery is important. This art won’t last forever – except for those pictures you keep.

What you post then becomes part of the art too. Even me writing this blog and sharing it to Instagram – it’s all become art in a completely new way. Modern art is becoming more and more interactive. I hope it’s still making people think. Then again, maybe I’m thinking too much about it. Ha!

All in all, me and my friend Jenna had lot of fun seeing the candy-inspired art and getting a few great profile pics!

Why I Hike (Anywhere I Can)

This Saturday is National Trails Day! I’ll be busy with a friend’s wedding, so I’m hoping to get in my hiking before the weekend arrives. Hiking has become very important to me, so I wanted to share my most personal hiking thoughts.

1. My body got me here.

As most of us probably have at some point, I’ve struggled a lot with what my body can and can’t do. Regardless of whatever insecurities I may feel, I always have a moment of being so proud of what my body can do. The elevation I can climb, the miles I can push through, and the weather I can survive. All thanks to my body!

2. Does (blank) really matter?

Hiking is extremely meditative for me. It’s where I tend to start working through a lot of the problems I deal with. I’ve never been able to sit and work toward a solution. It’s only when my body takes over that I can get to a place where my mind is free to work on all that deep stuff going on subconsciously.

3. I can work on that connection.

Similarly to personal problems I work on, I also find me thinking a lot about the relationships in my life. Hiking always makes me optimistic so I begin to think of what I can do to better a friendship, a connection, etc. The solitude of nature has a way of making you appreciate the connections I’ve made and all the wonderful people who surround me in life. I’m thankful for the opportunities to work on showing my loved ones what they mean to me.

4. A perfect check mark for my list.

I find myself almost constantly needing to be productive. A lot of times I can stretch myself too thin or take too many stressors on my plate. Hiking is one of the only things in my life that feels completely for me and yet doesn’t give me the guilt of not “getting stuff done.” It’s good for me mentally and physically so it’s almost like having a few check marks rolled into one (especially when the thinking time helps me solve a problem).

5. Life has beauty to it.

The main thing about getting outdoors – anywhere that may be – is there’s always something visually beautiful to offer. Even in the winter, even in a small park, even on populated paved trails, there’s always something interesting to discover. I’ve always been a naturally curious sort, but being in nature reminds me how wonderful life can be. Things completely unrelated to you are growing, are struggling, and existing.

Yoga but with Goats

As you know, I’ve been trying to experience new things in Dallas – so when I heard that there was something called “goat yoga” I knew I had to check it out!

They had a special weekday yoga session for Valentine’s Day, so I booked two spots for me and my friend Jenna since it was also her birthday.

This yoga was at a house in Richardson, a suburb just north of Dallas. Being at someone’s home made it feel really relaxing and fun. It didn’t feel super commercialized and I could tell the owners treated the goats just like their family pets, which I really liked.

We went in through the backyard gate, signed in and checked out the table of goodies to grab. Of course, there were complimentary yoga mats and towels (required for the mud-playing goats). They also offered bottled water and glow sticks since the sun would be setting by the end of the hour. Best and most importantly, there were cups and cups of goat feed!

After gathering our stuff, it was time to head to the yard and make some new furry friends. Immediately, they were all over us and we could barely get them out of the way to lay our mats. We were absolutely delighted!

Quickly realizing we would need to grab a second helping each of goat feed, we stocked up just before the teacher started class. She explained that while she hoped we would enjoy the yoga portion, the goats were obviously the stars of this show. Her instruction was to follow along when you could, but no one would mind if you stopped warrior pose to play with a goat.

The other great thing about this mentality meant that they encouraged interaction with the goats by actually putting some of the feed on your back and shoulders so you might get a goat to hop up on you for some tandem yoga poses. Everyone was having such a great time. I’ll admit they were heavy and I gained a couple bruises – but the laughter was definitely worth it.

All Grown Up Girl Scout

As you probably know by now, I’m all into local events and new experiences! What you may not know was that I was a Girl Scout for years when I was a kid! I had such a great time with friends, learning new things, attuning to the outdoors. So when I found out a local Dallas restaurant was doing a Girl Scout cookie and beer pairing, I figured why not!

One of my best friends is still one of my fellow Girl Scouts, even after all these years, so I called her up to join in my adult Girl Scout adventure. And Giselle, always have the best ideas, said we should dig out our old vests and take a little trip down memory lane while we were at it! Of course that seemed like a perfect idea to me.

The restaurant Luck was hosting this event, located in the fairly new Trinity Groves area of Dallas. It’s all mostly upscale eateries in this Burroughs across the now-iconic Margaret Hunt Bridge so I haven’t done too much exploring here. I was glad to have the chance to learn more about one of the fast-growing areas of my hometown Dallas.

When we got to Luck, they had a Girl Scouts cookie booth set up by a local troop so of course we had to show our solidarity to our Girls and buy a box! Then it was time to head inside and have some beer and cookies.

I got to be honest, I’m not sure the cookies really complimented the beer in three out of four of the pairings. This might be because it’s hard to have an old favorite treat suddenly with beer. Pretty quickly, I ditched the “pairing” idea and just ate, drank, and socialized without following their system.

As it always goes, the socializing part of it made it the most memorable. Giselle and I talked about how hardcore our Girl Scout troop had been (in a great way with actual camping and badge-earning achievements) and and trudged up fond old memories like a bunch of old ladies. As they say, once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.

The Good of Roadtrips, the Bad of Car Camping

I’ve been on lots of road trips growing up.

My family and I traveled a lot to take my brother to hockey tournaments in lots of different states. Because of this, I have nostalgic memories of being woken up before the sun rose, wrapping myself in my comforter, and bringing a bag of books to the backseat. And when the sun was up, I loved watching the sky, inspecting little pass-through towns, and having long quiet talks with whoever was awake. (Of course, there was lots of fighting with my brother too.)

There are a couple of “rules” I like to follow on a road trip. One of them is to never head back. If you miss something or a specific food involves a U-turn to get back to, it’s out. You have a destination to get to, you should never go back. Another rule is to check out anything crazy. I leave time specifically in my travels just for random billboard advertising or weird American landmarks. I want any exotic zoo, haunted graveyard, 100 foot ball of yarn.

With my goal being to frequently do weekend road trips I knew I wanted to make my car a perfect long-distance vehicle. Originally, I had saved the mattress pads from my futon to make pillows (slight hoarder alert) but after a bit of trimming they ended up being the perfect addition to my backseats. My car is a mini-SUV (Kia Sportage) so the seats lie flat. I now had a bed! Better yet, because of the two pieces and the way the seats go down separately, I had an option between a twin-sized or a full-sized bed.

This mostly came in handy for long drives where me and the passenger could trade off turns driving and not have to stop and waste time at a hotel. On the trip to CO with my dad, he had also tried to use the air mattress but that ended up being a major fail in a car – way too bouncy. The other great part about cheap weekend road trips – even if we were at our destination we had no need for an Airbnb! I basically had a small RV.

Yeah, so there’s no bathroom or shower. The shower thing I’ve previously mentioned about how you can pay for cheap clean showers at truck stops (always get a locking door!) but we’re camping here! It’s not all going to be fresh as a daisy. And usually I will park the car for the night near a gas station so they have 24/7 bathrooms.

It’s not all glamorous. On the New Mexico National Park road trip, we stopped near the Aztec Ruins, in front of a handmade Native American storefront and decided to use nature as our bathroom for the night. It had gotten very cold for the night and I woke up just before sunrise about ready to pee my pants.

I had kept my sandals in the front seat, but between shuffling the dog and all our stuff in the tight space, I decided to just go barefoot. I usually would’ve crawled through to get out the front seat, but I couldn’t hold it any longer and decided getting out through the backseat would be fine. I stepped out onto the cold rocks and took quick steps forward into the field to find a more secluded place to do my business.

And then those two feet were standing on several grass burrs. It hurt like hell, so I was thinking if I fell back enough to get back to the rocks, I could pull the sticker burrs from my feet. Well, landing on my butt was easy, but I didn’t exactly miss the burrs. Once more got in my butt, I slammed my hand down automatically to get off the ground and got even more stuck in me. So then my feet hurt, my hand hurt, and my butt hurt.

I was half lying in pain in just panties and a t-shirt in the middle of nowhere as the sun was rising. And then a car drove by on the nearby deserted road (of course it did). An ok man drove by, made eye contact with me, a crazed half naked woman lying in the cold, and he kept on his merry way luckily.

Even though everything hurt, I began the process of hurriedly picking out stickers from my feet and butt so I could at least get back to the car. After clearing out most of it (my hand that I slammed was in the worst shape) I got into the front seat to warm up and clean off the bit of blood. Then I grabbed my sandals and headed back out.

This was my lesson to never venture into the wild without any kind of shoes. There’s good and bad to car camping, hell even some ugly, but for he most part it’s been such a fun experience! And the more I save here and there – the more weekend trips I can make happen!

A New Home for the Night

Last year was my first year using AirBnB for my travels. I was originally interested because of the the variety of unique homes you can stay in (treehouses, tiny homes, etc). Besides being very cheap, it really makes it so you can experience the area like a local. It’s like getting to live in every city as you would if you were a true resident. That all being said, I’ve had really great stays and also really bad ones.

Little Rock, AR

In my previous post about my Arkansas road trip, I mention my “eventful night”. After checking in, making some small talk with the host, we were on our way back out to enjoy the festival and local night life. To get back into our place, there was a keypad on the back side of the house, but after mentioning to our house we planned to be back late around 11, she said she’d still be up and would leave it unlocked until we got in. Being city girls, this made us a little weary, but after assurances of a safe neighborhood, we agreed on the plan.

It seemed to all work out, we got in okay on our return. The house was quiet so we went into the bedroom to take out the dog. My friend didn’t want to be out in a strange area at midnight, so I went with her outside. I stood a couple feet from the front door as she let the dog do her business – all in all no more than a fifteen minute event.

But when we were ready to go back in, the door had been locked. It was crazy because I’d never heard anything from behind me! Now we were out at midnight with nothing but one dog and one phone between us. We of course started ringing the doorbell, knocking loudly, and trying to circle the house in case there was a non-suspicious way to enter. No luck.

I used my phone to send multiple messages to our host, called the number provided, but it seemed hopeless. We were sure we were getting robbed or murdered or something. I called the Airbnb help line, which honestly wasn’t much help because they first needed my credit card information (even after I explained my purse was inside the locked house) and then they started trying to book me another home in the area (but I didn’t even have my keys).

Finally, after banging nonstop on the door for the twenty minute hold I’d been put on the phone, our host sleepily answered the door. She acted a bit weird, which I think just might’ve been embarrassment for lock-in us out, but we definitely slept with our bedroom door locked. It was a frustrating, slightly scary, cold hour – but now my worst AirBnB story!

New York City

When I visited New York City, I spent two nights in the coolest Brooklyn loft and then hopped the bridge to Chelsea and slept on a bed that folded down so I had to curl up like a kitten on my pillow. In the first place, we never saw a soul except for when we picked up our key from a nearby gallery (and then we spent half an hour going up and down flights of stairs because we’d lost the dang key since it’s gotten wedged into the handle of our suitcase). In the second NYC place, we always arrived to a party no matter what time it was.

Los Angeles, CA

My LA AirBnB was a super cool apartment located in West Hollywood. There were tons of plants every where and a funny antique Buddha desk lamp. When coming back from the beach we had a taste of that infamous LA traffic, and we’re running an hour late to check in. Luckily, the LA vibe is pretty chill so the host was easygoing about our tardiness. My clothes brought in a lot of sand but I did my best to keep the shower clean. I definitely try to leave my AirBnB cleaner than it was when I first entered.

Mancos, CO

As mentioned in a previous post, I loved my stay in the refurbished 60s Volkswagen work bus. It was such a unique place to stay; definitely not another average hotel stay. Besides having a nearby fire pit, being up in the mountains with the stars in view, and having a whole compost situation, it was also so cute!

Monument Valley, AZ

This home was absolutely magical. Not only because it was right in the middle of the iconic Monument Valley, but also because the home was gorgeous. They were conserving energy by using only solar power (my first time using it to power a whole house) and every room had a lot of big windows to utilize natural light. The home provided coffee, nature provided a sunrise, and we woke up to the start of a perfect day. They also had a tire swing out back that was a blast!

Cortez, CO

We arrived late and left early (which is pretty typical of the places we stay) so this pick was based on comfy beds, a fully stocked shower, and an allowance of the dog. It was very cabin style, with two bunk beds in one room and a separate cabin for the shower/bathroom area. It reminded me of my days in Girl Scouts (which I loved), but it was also pretty cold so the run from one cabin to the next wasn’t entirely ideal.

All in all, I’ve had a great time staying at all these different places. You meet new people most of the time, you get recommendations for the best local haunts, and it tends to save us a lot of money when traveling! What are your best and worst AirBnB stories?