2017 Top 10 Trip Countdown

At the end of each year, I have spent the time to reflect back to my personal growth, and a lot of it comes with lessons learned through trips, people I’ve met, time spent, and memories made.

That said… here is my top 10 trip countdown!

10. Washington D.C.

If looking to do a weekend trip to see the most popular memorials DC has to offer this can be a weekend trip. I recommending seeing: Lincoln Memorial, then White House, Washington Memorial, and Martin Luther King Memorial. For me this trip made the top 10 because it was a nice reminder that although I have a lot I want to fit in a weekend trip, that being in the moment is most important. This trip I remember dragging on from arrival until 1-2am in the morning, and although all stops on most itineraries were met, there wasn’t a particular spot that I just lived in the moment. For 2018, I’m going to get where I want to go, and spend time there being present. Well, there is a moment with red,white, & blue popsicles that sticks out, and playing at a game bar, but besides the point… haha.

9. New Haven, Washington and Milford, Connecticut

If a Gilmore Girls fan, or just trying to marvel over expensive homes, perfect roads, and quiet beaches, then Connecticut may be for you! This is a fun weekend trip, especially if only for a weekend. The entire state spanned over just three hours, and had lots of cute boutiques and small-town feels.

8. San Francisco, California

I left my heart in San Francisco. This was another city toured by the Big B Bus Tour, which was perfect given that getting nearly anywhere here was hilly, and time consuming! This particular trip stuck out in my mind because I had seen a few things that I hadn’t seen in years, or at all: The Painted Ladies (more commonly known as the Full House, house), Alcatraz, and the downtown Pier area, where there was many small shops and museums. Additionally, the many scenic views from many perspectives reminded and humbled me that although I’ve seen many pictures of the beautiful city, that my vantage point by being present is most valued (for me, so travel on!).

7. The 2017 Eclipse, Simpson Illinois

Never have I ever…been a place where half of America drove to, in order to share the same experience at the exact same time. After going directly to Illinois from work, to camping with work colleagues… this trip is an unforgettable one. This made the top list, as I remember the moon covering the sun and the whole sky go dark, everyone go quiet, and then being humbled that as important as our every day lives are… that we are just a small piece of this entire universe.

6. Miami Beach, Florida

This is definitely a place one must visit… during the day the city has miles of beach that welcomes you to natural beauty, and at night the calm beach vibes turn into a salsa/reggae tunes. There has not been such as a place that has both business, beach, and nightlight moods in one place. On this trip a Big B Bus Night Tour was taken, which I would definitely recommend as it acclimated tourists to hidden areas where celebrities live and guides you through the Havana District where many movies were created.

This trip made the top 10 as nothing went as planned, but ended up being one of my most memorable nights in my travels. The only goal all weekend was to hit the beach and soak up the sun, but a part of planning ahead is the unknown if Mother Nature will cooperate. This time, she did not with there being LOTS of rain that particular weekend. But as the saying goes, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” So! That is exactly what happened, fun in the ocean with rain sprinkling. Then ending the night with a evening walk, and the best food and drinks at Mangos!

5. Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park is the perfect place to visit if looking for scenic drives and HUGE sequoia trees. If you’ve never seen one it is certainly worth the day trip over to this national park. My fear, is not seeing things I’ve always wanted to see because I chose to wait too long. These trees were a must! To see photos and read in books the huge trunks of these pieces of nature I could only imagine, but now can envision from personal experience! P.S. Take the General Sherman stop, preferably visit before the sun fully rises to enjoy the quiet paths and the sound of your breath as you make it to the biggest tree in the country.

This trip, similar to Miami Beach, reminded me to go with the flow and to accept what can’t be changed in the moment. After a long drive, from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park, with many detoured roads due to forest fires, the destination was made. But what happens when you’re ready to take a first camping experience and you have everything except tent polls. Yes, this happened. Admittingly, my first reaction was not pleasant, and throwing the tent over the windows while the warm 100+ degree weather heated the car causing periodic middle-night car starts, it made for an experience. If not, at minimum a lesson for the basics… I mean who forgets tent polls.. this one. All-in-all it was funny looking back at it, and after spending the next night in Fresno to purchase a cheap Walmart tent and extra tent polls for the following nights in Yosemite.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

This was definitely top 5 worthy due to its beauty, challenges, scenic stops, late night fire talks, and nummy s’mores. What stands out most to me was the 8-mile North Dome trail. Having never really hiked a trail, this was quite the challenge what I found was the journey to the desired location was quite wonderful, and I’ve always been one for the motto “it’s the journey, not the destination.” If you’ve never been to Yosemite and looking for a day-trip hike that isn’t too difficult, I recommend this hike! A helpful tip would be to carry a liter of water for every two miles walk, especially if the weather is hot. When visiting it was about 90 degrees. The nice thing about this hike, was a lot of it was shaded until the last mile, when you overlook the Half Dome. And, when you’re at your destination weather doesn’t matter… you take it all in!

3. The Big Island (Kona), Hawaii

Okay I’m going to be honest. I don’t know how Hawaii made it as a (U.S.) state, I need to read up on the history. The length of time to travel from Michigan to Hawaii, was just as much as it was to go to the Philippines and Europe. That’s a crazy thought! Now, I’ll tell you this was the first trip in my travels that challenged me in planning, because I have to: learn that there are many islands, that cost differently to get to each, and each provide different terrains and activities to do that are vastly different. Once I figured out the different islands, and considered the various costs my mom and I decided on the Big Island. Flying into Kona was certainly a memorable experience watching the plane land to rugged land, when I had always pictured luscious greens and beautiful birds. Landed, got “laid,” and took on this annual trip with my mom that was unforgettable. The Big Island provides: traditional late night luaus, beautiful volcanoes, rocky beaches, macadamia nuts, exotic flowers, fresh fruit, submarine tours with WWII ships, GORGEOUS waterfalls, and cave tours.

2. Iceland

Can you believe the idea of visiting Iceland came from a country song? Yes! “Die a Happy Man,” by Thomas Rhett. I remember hearing this beautiful song, and thinking “this guy is willing to give everything up he wants to see for a woman?” One line said, “if I never get to see the northern lights…” and I thought… one day when I meet my future man and maybe I will have to give up some moments I’ve always wanted, and before that happens I better see these Northern Lights! I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is so very true! So, needless to say, I started doing some research of cheaper places to visit in February that allowed this experience, with the symbolism of February being my birthday. And, well Iceland didn’t disappoint! And, the Northern Lights dancing along the sky was something I’ll never forget. The beautiful country provided MANY different experiences.

The southern part of the country is historic, rooted from the Viking days, and from volcanoes that changed the geography of the country. The eastern coast has beautiful and unforgettable black sand beaches and glaciers to hike. The northern region of the country is known for taking a snowmobile to the tops of glaciers, and you can’t visit Iceland without visiting the city of Reykjavik, that was quaint, quiet and walkable offering many mini shops, seafood, and iconic buildings and landmarks, and the infamous Blue Lagoon.

I definitely recommend this trip for 20-30 somethings, but as a helpful tip, be prepared to spend a lot of money on food, due to everything needed to be imported into the country. I would say the average meal was about $40 USD.

1. Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

My favorite trips have mixed in: historical symbolism, road trips, family, loved ones, and new experiences. This trip provided all of these! This was the first time for all those who had come on this trip in taking an RV across the country. I am long overdue to share some of the RV experiences, but for those considering a visit to Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota not only has a mountain with four presidents on the side of the mountain, but is home of Bear Country, the antique Drug Store (that is comparable to a mall with country antiques and fees), Crazy Horse, Falls Park, and Railroad tours that allow you to take the beautiful state all in.

This trip is for all ages! If you want to be ambitious, I challenge you take it in an RV!

Where to go next Thanksgiving?

I’d like to consider myself as a glass half-full type of gal. That said, I’ve found comfort in traveling around the holidays. Yes, there are delays, yes there are some unplanned bumps in the road, but what other time of the year do you see loved ones excited to leave to aboard a plane and tackle the challenge at the airport for companionship, love, and family?! That reason, accompanied by a week off work generally means I am spending the time on an international trip!

Below are a list of my top 3 international trip recommendations for the holidays!

3. Manila, Philippines

What better place to go than where it is 60-80 degrees during winter months, city centers are filled with Christmas decor while in flip flops, and where Santa Clause looks like he is on vacation with sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, and open-toed shoes… the Philippines! 

Those who know me, best, know that my family origins are rooted in Manila, so that in and of itself it makes the list, but something past all of that are the Filipino lanterns on nearly every neighborhood porch, Christmas lights on many whomping willow (think Pocahontas trees), and of course the traditional pig roast (nasty, but unique to see!).

2. New Zealand 

The nerd in me comes out. One of the most memorable trips was having a Thanksgiving feast at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Imagine, spending the day touring Hobbit houses, learning about the making of the Lord of the Rings film, and then capping the night off with a Thanksgiving style dinner. Book your Hobbiton Feast here!

Even if the J.R. Tolkien books are not among your favorite, the rolling hills, Milky Way across the whole skyline, and a night latern tour is worth the 20+ hour flight to make it New Zealand. 

This is definitely family friendly, and care free– the New Zealand residents are amongst the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve come across in my travels!

1. Paris, France

My most memorable Thanksgiving is hand’s down my first international trip with my mom. The backstory is that when she was younger a physic told her she wouldn’t live to be past 50. As I was growing older I began fearful of this time, being somewhat superstiscious, so before her 50th birthday I had my mom write down a list of things she wanted to do in her lifetime; for hope. So, for her 50th Thanksgiving we went to London & Paris. 

Paris is a stand-out in my mind for Thanksgiving, not only because of what her 50th birthday meant to me, but because the city was illuminated in Christmas decor throughout the city and streets. I recall many memories, but of them was walking at night up to the Arc de Triomphe, where there were hundreds of small tents with local shops, scents of s’mores and maracroons, fashionable residents, and many songs of Christmas. Walking through were rush of emotions, all positive, and the epitome of what holidays symbolized to me: family, love, happiness, and a whole lot of Christmas. 

Enjoy!

The Jiffy Factory Tour…FREE!

With me purchasing of a new home this summer meant cutting out my second international trip for fall 2017. Instead, I thought why not save some money and invest time in the beautiful state I can now say is home, Michigan. 

Not to far from Ann Arbor, MI is Chelsea, Michigan, where the Jiffy Factory is located. 

What is Jiffy? Whether you noticed it, or not, Jiffy is everywhere spanning over every US state, and in 20+ countries worldwide. Jiffy provides 11 baking products with the most popular being cornbread mix, brownie mix, and blueberry muffin mix! And the best part, each box is less than $0.75… whhhhaaatt! Peak at Jiffy Products Here!

I want to share with you a tour I went on this morning, which was a second go-around…the last time being when I was in elementary school in the 90s. 

What about this tour?

The best thing about the factory tour is that it’s FREE! The tour totals an hour that includes a 20 minute introduction video (was an easy watch, content filled, but entertaining/funny), 10 minute safety video, and a 30 minute packaging tour around the factory. The packaging tour includes seeing how each of the boxes are folded, filled with white plastic, and filled with flour/mix. Concluding the tour are gifts from the factory to your kitchen, and a recipe book!

If you’re looking to join a tour, you must make a reservation. My recommendation if you’re an adult, is to go during the first tour, 9am. This way, you don’t have to worry about lots of kids, or it being too loud, just saying.


Random Facts

  • The factory has been inherited and ran 4 generations, so far
  • It is difficult to get a job because turnover is low- my tour guide, Brenda, has been with Jiffy for 18 years and is considered a junior employee  (people with seniority have been with the company nearly 40 years…wowza!)
  • All Jiffy mix is made at the Chelsea factory, being that it’s the only factory
  • Jiffy is found in most grocery stores including: Meijer, Walmart, Aldi, etc.- most places don’t carry all Jiffy products but Jiffy encourages you to inform the store manager if you’re looking for their product that’s not in store. Most store owners want to carry Michigan made products, but don’t know the demand for which products
  • Jiffy can be found above and below eye-level in stores. To keep the prices low they don’t pay for the premium shelving space.


If you’ve ever gone I’d love for you to share your experience by commenting on this blog. If you have any questions, thoughts, or comments they can be left below too!

 

When It Rains, It Pours- Learn to Dance in the Rain (Miami)

When trying to travel on a budget, sometimes planning in advance is necessary. The risk in planning ahead is the unknown nature of the weather. And, let’s be honest even if the Weather Channel anticipates good weather 2 or 3 months out, it’s best guess. The key, though, is learning to dance in the rain.

Miami Beach, the first trip with both mom and boyfriend. I didn’t know how that was going to go, and how I would appropriately split my attention to make everyone feel included; luckily that wasn’t an issue– the nice thing when they both respect and like each other. 

So for why you are reading this blog…. you’re planning a trip (or going to, you just don’t know it yet) to somewhere warm, and because you’re on a budget you need to plan ahead. But what happens when you arrive to that place and it’s raining? Make the most of it. For us, we walked around the beach (yes while it rained in 30 minute intervals) and enjoyed what Miami Beach had to offer, and then walked along the shops/food venues that run parallel to the beach. After walking back, feeling like a wet dog– Matt and I decided that we were wet any way, so we decided to go to the warm ocean water for a swim. Let me tell you… I have yet to feel in tune with nature than that day… in the ocean, with rain falling. Little people around and letting the waves push and pull us closer to the depths of its beauty. A true experience, and nothing that we had to pay for… can’t beat that! 

If you are planning to go to Miami Beach and it still is raining, I would recommend their Big B Night Bus Tour (separate post coming). It is worth the $30/per person to get the back ground, tour and insight on not only Miami Beach, but the city of Miami. And, for you celebrity followers, you get to see some of the rich and famous’ homes. 

Despite the unplanned weather, that caused for impromptu planning, Miami/Miami Beach is a hidden gem and quite the melting pot. Although we only spent the weekend there, the culture, food, and relaxing beach environment is something that I would recommend to come visit. And if you’re wondering if it’s worth the cost from Michigan for just the weekend, it is. Even if Mother Nature decides rain is on the schedule.

Annual Mother/Daughter Trips

What I have learned in my 26 young years on this earth is that we should concern ourselves with quality, not quantity. I have too learned that the meaningful relationships I have built are worth the additional work and effort. 

Since 2014 the relationship I have been working to build is that with my mother. As we age, sometimes we drift a part from those relationships that have the strongest bond; that with family. 

  • 2014- Southern Spain
  • 2015- Philippines
  • 2016- Australia & New Zealand
  • 2017- Hawaii Island

I write this not to boast of my travels and growing relationship with my mom, but to serve a moment to self-reflect on your most meaningful relationships. And ask, what can I do to invest in that more, and to allow the relationship to grow? And, to share a piece of me with you.


Where was this photo taken? Read “3 Waterfalls You See on Hawaii Island.”

Life lesson learned in Hawaii: Live in the moment. I am one who constantly thinks and plans the next move, and sometimes I have forgotten the purpose of the trip, which is to live in the moment and appreciate each moment with my mom. This can be applied in every day life… we can go through the motions of our agenda and forget purpose. The life lesson is to take time throughout the day to appreciate where you are now and what you have while you have it. This trip, with many beautiful scenic routes will be one that lives on, but the parts I will remember the most will be the unplanned parts: buying fresh lychee from a farmer, drinking fresh coconut water from the actual coconut and eating the coconut meat afterward, getting coffee and refreshed by “the best day ever, Steve,” running in/out of the hotel pool to cool down from the sun , seeing lava light up the night sky from a volcanoe 2 hours from our hotel,  and eating healthy breakfasts at a nearby open window restaurant near the hotel.