Northern California Itinerary (San Fran, Yosemite, & Sequoia)

Let’s be honest when you’re limited on vacation days, optimizing trips around bank holidays is essential. Well if you work in the banking industry, that is. Here’s my itinerary for the trip to Northern California! 
Day 1: (Saturday)

DTW (6am) > SFO (10am) 

Pick Up Budget Rental 

Check in to Air B&B, Park at BERT Train Station ($5.75/day)

Walk to Fisherman’s Wharf

San Francisco Dungeon Tour 

Madame Tussaud’s Museum 

Tik Tik Thai Food 

BART Train to Air B&B

Day 2 (Sunday): 

BART Train Station to Fisherman’s Wharf 

Purchased Big B Bus Tour Tickets 

Golden Gate Bridge

The Painted Ladies (Full House Homes) 

China City (Half a day wandering) 

Big B Bus Tour Back to Fisherman’s Wharf 

Walked Along Pier 39 

BART Train to Air B&B

Day 3 (Monday): 

Drove from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park (Approx. 5 Hours)

Attempted to Set Camp at Buckeye Flat Campground, but Forgot Poles 

Toured Giant Forest Museum to Find Food 

Went to Get Camp Food 

Slept in Car 

Day 4 (Tuesday):  

7am to German Forest Trail 

Visit the German Tree Before the Crowd 

Breakfast at Lodgepole Visitor Center

Sequoia Bus Transit to Moro Rock 

Moro Rock Hike 

Hiked from Moro Rock to Tunnel Log 

Tunnel Log and Shuttle Back to Lodgepole

Drove to Fresno (Approx. 2 Hours)

Bought a $25 tent at Walmart 

Stayed at an Air B&B

Day 5 (Wednesday): 

Visited R.E.I. 

Headed toward Yosemite National Park (Approx. 5 hours)

Entered West Side of Yosemite 

Pitched tent at Junction Campground 

Ate Dinner at Whoa Nellie Deli 

Came Back to Campground 

Day 6 (Thursday): 

7am Woke Up North Dome Trail 

Lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli 

Walked Buck Meadows to Find Deer (Found Many!)

Dinner at Whoa Nellie Deli 


Day 7 (Friday): 

6am Left for San Francisco 

10am San Francisco Segway Tour 

Scoma Restaurant (BEST Clam Chowder)  

Walked Pier 39 

Checked in to Air B&B in Sunnyvale (Approx. 1 Hour)

Day 8 (Saturday): 

8am Left for San Francisco 

2pm Alcatraz Tour 

Pier 39 for Corn Dogs 

Twin Peaks 

San Francisco to SFO Airport (30 mins)

SFO (11pm)> DTW (6am) 

Hobbition is a Place? Hell Yeah! Video Spoiler!

Forewarning: This is more about me, than it is my experience in New Zealand… but you should read it anyway. We all need to read more #justsaying.

Have you ever watched a film, and almost feared seeing what the set looked like in person in fear that it would be ruined? I was! And my nerdy place of choice… Hobbiton, and YES it’s really a place! 

What is Hobbiton? It is a set in New Zealand, where “The Shire” from Lord of Rings was filmed. Not to spoil the ending… it was exactly like the movie, and it did not disappoint. 

Imagine entering a new country, with little/no people, driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time through hundreds of miles of farm land (rural as I have ever experienced by the way… literally waiting on “highway” roads for cows to pass) to see a “Hobbiton” tour sign. The funniest part of this story is that my mom had no idea what Hobbiton was even when flying on the airplane from Australia to New Zealand. But, as soon as she got on set, she knew… and the movie on the flight helped too…

Now only those who have enjoyed the books, or movies, can appreciate seeing the Hobbit houses everywhere, the adventure for Bilbo Baggin’s residence, seeing the Party Tree, and eating a Thanksgiving feast at The Green Dragon Inn. This experience was surreal. ​​

What topped off the perfect day, was the night sky, and… sharing a moment with my mom where we both saw the Milky Way for the first time. Clear as day. Near the Party Tree, even.

So… for those of you considering paying an additional flight to New Zealand, from Australia (which I found to be the cheapest), don’t miss out on this experience. If you’re not a Lord of the Rings fan… go. My mom can attest to this beautiful experience, the journey through the country to find the place, and the memories made all by a “Hollywood” movie. Dreams, my friends, can exist. 

The Perfect Weekend Travel Book

I am geeked to share, yet another, book that I have enjoyed while on a trip. The book, The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. 
Jackie’s Summary: This book takes you on a journey through a man’s story while he learns 7 keys to success. The catch… the lessons being taught are from people in world history. Each person who teaches their lesson explains their experience and how they became relevant to both you and I today.

I have read only a handful of books that made me truly step back, and re-evaluate who I really am, the purpose I have, and where it is I am going. No matter where you are both personally and professionally, this books sheds light to new ways of viewing day to day actions/thoughts, and what to consider going forward.

Spoiler: I am going to spill the beans in sharing the seven keys, because the true value of the book is who is telling the lesson and why. As I read the book, it truly spoke to me, and although fictional made me gain a new appreciation for how heroes can be in every day people who choose to be conscious of their thoughts and actions. 

7 Keys to Success:

1. The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past.

2. I will seek wisdom. I will be a sergeant to others.

3. I am a person of action.I seize this moment. I choose now.

4. I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured.

5. Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of grateful spirit.

6. I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself. 

7. I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith.

If you read this book, which I HIGHLY recommend, I would love to hear what you thought and which people and/or lessons best applied to where you are in your life. This is a deeper way for us to know each other. 

Personal: To share a piece of me with you. The key that stood out most to me was “I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured.” I felt that I could most relate to this character, to where I am professionally. I’ll share more when you share yours 🙂


P.S. This is not a paid advertisement. I have just found that the book recommendations from those I follow and share similar desires with are generally the books I most enjoy– so why not continue to share my favorite books.

Finding Your Inner Child- BSB!

Unlike my other posts, this one is to remind you that we all have those memories we had as kids. And, when opportunities present themselves, take life by the horns and go for it! Life is short, and it’s in those moments reflecting back that we can find, again, purpose and the important things in life: to live, laugh and love. 
Isn’t it funny that when we are younger we aspire to be the adult, be allowed to do the things our parents can do: drive, drink, ride roller coasters, etc. Then, when we are older we want to relive our childhood memories.
I’ve found that a lot of what I like to do roots back to when I was younger. What I’ve found interests me the most is learning about places I’ve never been, understanding people native to those areas, and adjusting to things that I don’t know. Often times, this comes with many museums, audible tours, and reading. The irony, history was my least favorite subject up until 11th grade (thank you Mr. Miloser). 
My 2017 trip back to my childhood… the Backstreet Boys. I take you back to my first concert as a 10 year old to their Black and Blue Concert and the (R.I.P) Silverdome. Yes, I was one of the many girls that flooded arena thinking that one of the boys would one day be my boyfriend. With all the screaming I am surprised that I didn’t lose my voice… for good. Nevertheless, I remember it was one of my highlights in my childhood: dancing, singing, loving life, surrounded by both my parents, and living in every part of the moment. No phone, and no worry in the world.
Fast forward, now 26 years young excited and willing to pay the $180 concert ticket to relive that memory over again. And, let me tell you… it did not disappoint. There’s a feeling when you’re belting out on the top of your lungs with 20/30 somethings that remind you, life is as good as we choose to make it. 
High level highlights: 

– Average ticket prices $180/per ticket (when purchasing 3 months ahead) 

– Concert held at Axis in Plant Hollywood, Vegas

– No acts before the concert 

– 20 minute intro before the actual concert starts, honestly found this part quite annoying…I was there to see the actual guys and the first 20 or so minutes was recap on all the music videos they became famous for

– Concert lasted about 2 hours 

– If you want the best seats, I’d recommend the last row in the lower level; those sitting here pretty much got serenaded for at least half of the concert

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.

Hawaii Underwater

Motivational Rant:

I am deeply motivated by learning, which has been my motivation and drive toward visiting new places and meeting new people. Each place I visit is an opportunity to become more educated on the places unknown, unseen and with people I haven’t met. 

Although some know my travels as tackling this endless bucket list of places I want to see… it is as equally rewarding to try new things in the places I visit. 

Life. An opportunity to know everything we want to know. For me, learning comes in forms of understanding and hearing new perspectives, and viewing the world from a new vantage point. Each place I visit is a piece that lives and continues on in the blogs I post, pictures I take, videos I create, but most importantly the memories I keep with me. 

This brings me back to the beautiful state of Hawaii. And, let’s marinate in that thought… Hawaii is a state? Hawaii, located in the middle of Pacific was closer to New Zealand, Australia and Asian islands than my home state of Michigan. Yet, it is a part of the U S of A. What a thought! 

Before this visit, when I had thought of Hawaii I pictured luscious, greener palm trees, white sand beaches, deep blue oceans, sweet songs of birds, etc. But little did I know that the memory that would live on would be seeing Hawaii underwater, from a submarine that is!

The Experience:

Imagine, cradling back and forth in the Pacific Ocean in a tank, small face sized windows, hard McDonald-style seating, shoulder to shoulder with strangers and no seatbelt. Then, the captain of the ship telling you that it is about that time to descend in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. You take one last peak at the shore line that is about 2 miles away and begin to question if this quest is for you. As you descend downward your ears pop and you see the meter to the left of the captain increase in 5 feet every 15 or so seconds, indicating how far below surface you are submerged. Anxiety releases when you see the first fish. Meek water, dull colors, and just silver fish. 

50 feet under… you notice that the ocean floor is a ways down, but in view, you see more fish swimming. Why here? 

60 feet under… you grab the one you are closest to and start to appreciate a world you never knew. You swam in it, but this is new life, a different life. 

80 feet… coral. No, the coral is not the color of that you see on Finding Nemo, instead it is gray and white, impacted by the pollution we humans have done. Light bulb, you are important, but is nature too is and we need to respect it. 

100 feet… ocean floor. Quiet, no one talks. A calming sense of appreciation, success of reaching the bottom, you look out. And, to your surprise you near a ship wreck. We did that… but there’s hope. Many fish have claimed this ship as home, coral has grown, fish are playing. To the fish the best home is the mess we humans left behind… ironic right? 

The Lesson:

We all have our preconceived notions of what it is we see, or I should say… what we choose to see. But we should spend the time to frequently reflect on seeing things from a new perspective. In positioning ourselves with a new point of view we can truly appreciate our world and all walks of life (standing, or swimming), and more importantly, learn. In learning we can become more than what we are, and help more than we think.

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.