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!

Pittsburgh in 6-Hours

Have you ever wondered if conquering a city in less than a day was possible, I’m your glimmer of hope in saying “yes you can!” For those of us who work a typical 8-5p, and use the money to adventure to cities unknown know that weekend trips can be difficult to do. Here are some highlights on how to do Pittsburg in 24-hours, and wander the streets for 6-hours of it!

Ann Arbor, Michigan> Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Driving distance (219 miles ~4 hours): 

Left at 8am, and arrived at 12pm 

Left at 6pm, and arrived at 10pm

Tolls: $20 each way (Pennsylvania requires cash only payments)

1. Saturday Farm Market

Pittsburg, like many cities, have a Saturday morning market. This included fresh fruits, asian treats, scents of pizza and pasta, and of course clothes (with ugly Steeler embroidered garments, hehe)  & knock off books (oo0o lala). If you’ve never experienced a street full of people shopping local, you don’t need to drive to Pittsburg to find one, in case you didn’t know!

If it’s timed right I like to visit various cities’ markets, because each have its unique stores that make it all the more interesting, plus it was on the way to my next recommended stop…

2. Primanti Brothers

This restaurant/bar started in Pittsburgh, and is often times what people recommend for food when going to the city. They are famous for their sandwiches that include local bread, and french fries & cole slaw in each sandwich. If you’re going to the original, located in the strip district neighborhood of Pittsburg there you’ll quickly identify it with it’s neon sign, and line out the door. With about 100 seats, that fill up fast, there is often a line; and sucks in the cold months with no heaters… but going back to recommendation number one you can get some of the Stealer gloves at the market! 

My order included the roast beef sandwich. I rate it a 3 out of 5, but it’s worth the experience if you’ve never been. 

3. Heinz History Center

This museum, in close proximity to the aforementioned recommendations, is the Heinz History Museum. The museum goes through the history of Heinz, PA Sports, Slavery Exhibit, TV shows filmed in PA, and many historical people who impacted PA throughout the years. Call me nerdy, but I find it quite interesting learning historical facts/people as the combination has created the traditions and culture we live in today. 

What I liked most of the museum were the stamps you could collect on each floor by using the stairs rather than the elevators. Surprisingly, a lot of people had interest in this, and what was most entertaining is that every few steps there would be facts related to PA history (Step #15 would list a sports person and their impact to the city), a clever way to get people involved and be healthy! Btw, if you collect all the stamps at each floor you can collect a “prize” when you leave. I will tell you the prize isn’t worth it, but the workout was good! 


4. Look for the Bridges!

It’s inevitable when going through the city not to notice the many bridges that cross over the rivers that pass through: Smithfield Street Bridge, Fort Duquesne, and Fort Pitt Bridge. Walking along the path from Heinz to these bridges were scenic and serene. Plus a great workout. 


5. Wander the streets to the PPG Place Building

What wasn’t found were any double decker buses, which I usually resort to in order to get a lay of the land before I begin aimlessly wandering. But this city is small enough to where crossing a few bridges and wandering the city was eventful enough, and guided us straight to “One PPG Place” an all glass office building that looks castle-like with peaks and tiered levels. For the holidays, if you’re going around November/December, the area surrounding the building is themed for the holidays. Even if not a holiday person, the warm, fun and chatty atmosphere is quite magical. 


Those are my top 5 picks for a 6-hour visit, proof that it’s possible and economical considering the top 5 list was done all by foot. I tell you what, my FitBit was happy!

A Gilmore Girls Weekend Q&A

Never did I think that in my 20’s I would visit the hometown inspirations of a show I used to watch as a kid. My show of choice throughout middle school & high schoool was Gilmore Girls. There was something witty and funny about watching the relationship between mother & daughter (Lorelei and Rory), while experiencing similar experience and life changes with my own mom. We could have definitely worked on our dictionary and historical references, but I will credit that to the writer of the show, which obviously my mom and I didn’t have the opportunity in hiring for our own chapters. 

About 4 months ago a former co-worker, Katie, and I, were discussing states we needed to check off of our bucket list and what better way to marry our favorite tv-show as a kid, and Connecticut. A Gilmore Girls inspired trip!

To start I will say I was somewhat disappointed in realizing the the show was filmed in a Hollywood Studio. I didn’t realize shows like this had sets built for years while the seasons unfolded. Quite remarkable when you think of it. 

Random questions people have been asking:

Q: Can you do this trip in one weekend 

A: Yes! Who would have thought the ritzy state of Connecticut could be driven in just a 3 hours from the two furthest points. This can definitely be done in a weekend, and with no rush! Katie and I even had time to visit an apple orchard, and the first half of the Michigan football game on Saturday (#GOBLUE).

Q: Did the places of inspiration truly look like the show? 

A: Some were a stretch. There was no doubt that the Independence Inn, Dragon Fly, and Gazebo were inspirations pulled from New Haven, New Milford, and Washington, Connecticut. But the others involved a little imagination and some re-watching of a few episodes.  Especially, the spot for the Kim’s Antiques, which the inspiration has been converted into a modern retail store. And with two girls with messy buns looking for Lane, did not feel welcomed; with a belt in the store costing nearly $300. 

Q: Was it easy to find affordable hotels to stay in Connecticut? 

A: I have mostly traveled alone, and so I have grown accustomed to rooming with strangers through Air B&B. On this trip Katie and I rented a room at an Air B&B in New Haven. I would recommend this location, as it is near Yale University and provides a serene unique setting. You could stay at the inspiration of the Independence Inn, or Dragon Fly, but the difference in price would be approximately $80 more a night.

Q: Were the cities bigger or smaller than you anticipated? 

The cities were quite small, with those living in them knowing our exact purpose for visiting. One store owner told us “our small town of Washington has many girls joining to find the Gilmore Girls inspiration. I don’t think some realize how small our town really is.” The towns inspiring the show of New Haven and Washington, were quite small- but quite refreshing. I mean Kirk had 30 jobs, so it’s not like Stars Hollow could have been that big. Just saying. 

If you have additional questions, please leave a comment and I will answer back! 

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.

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.