Across the country (and back) in 60 seconds

Months before my fiancé, Chris, and I left on our U.S. road trip, I had this idea for a project.

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I wanted to make a video. Kind of like a highlight reel—a way to capture the essence of our trip (and all the different landscapes we saw) and condense it into a quick video to share with family and friends. So, for two months—every day that we were traveling—I made sure to capture at least a few seconds of footage on my iPhone of our view from the road. The idea was to eventually edit it down into one second from each day of our road trip, then put it all together into one final video. Continue reading “Across the country (and back) in 60 seconds”

Three days in Austin, Texas

A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to spend a long weekend in Austin, Texas!

Austin has been on my travel wishlist for years. Chris and I originally planned to visit during our cross-country road trip, but we didn’t end up making it there. So when my best friend Megan (who was there for work) asked if I wanted to join her for the weekend, I said, “UM, DUH!”

Three days in

Austin is known for being the blue dot in a deep red state. Home of the SXSW tech conference and the University of Texas’s flagship campus, it’s also the land of live music and breakfast tacos, street art and food trucks and swimming holes. Austin is, in a word, FUN. 6th street, the main drag that runs through the center of downtown, is lined with bars on both sides—most of which have rooftops and patios opening out to the street, making it feel like one big, never-ending party. (No wonder we saw at least 15 bachelorette parties in matching T-shirts roaming around.) Choosing a place to eat can be overwhelming, with endless options that run the gamut from traditional Texas staples (barbecue) to the trendiest ethnic/organic/local fare. The Colorado river also runs right through the center of the city, and is surrounded by miles of parks that are full of Austinites jogging, paddleboarding, kayaking, biking, swimming, strolling, doing yoga, etc. etc. This is a city that knows how to have a good time.

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10 tips for a dog-friendly road trip

During our big cross-country road trip last year (and in the months after), there’s one topic that we’ve gotten a lot of questions about: how we managed two months on the road with our dog, Callie.

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If you know anything about me, you know that I am OBSESSED with my dog. (Yes, I’m one of those dog people, and I will fly my freak flag proudly.) The truth is, like most aspects of dog ownership, road-tripping with Callie wasn’t always easy—but we wouldn’t have even thought about doing it any other way.

So for anyone who feels the same way and wants to plan a trip of your own, I put together a few tips and suggestions based on we learned from our experience. Whether you’re setting out on an epic adventure or just driving cross-country for a move, hopefully this can help you plan a smooth, stress-free trip for you and your pup!

Continue reading “10 tips for a dog-friendly road trip”

Grand Teton National Park: Backpacking the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop

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Bonus points if you can find Chris in this picture 😉

Oh, Grand Teton National Park! Of all the places we dreamed about visiting on our two-month road trip, I think I was MOST excited about the Tetons. A quick Google photos search will show you why I had permanent heart-eyes daydreaming about this place.

Of course, with our adventure pup Callie in tow, our options for national park sightseeing were mostly limited to scenic drives and the occasional paved trail—because those are (generally) the only spots where you’re allowed to take dogs. But we simply couldn’t visit the Tetons without a little backpacking action! After researching local kennels, we decided to board Callie for a few days so we could get out in the backcountry.

As for which trail to hike, the choice was obvious: the 19-mile Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon loop. This popular trail circles through the center of the park, cutting into the mountains through Paintbrush Canyon on one side and Cascade Canyon on the other. In between, the trail reaches its pinnacle at the Paintbrush Divide: a 10,700 ft. vista offering a sweeping 360-degree view of the Tetons’ signature rocky peaks.

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This is the route, as outlined on the free map that the park provides. Green areas are where camping is allowed (but only on designated sites and with a permit).

Continue reading “Grand Teton National Park: Backpacking the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop”

A backyard escape

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I like to talk about how in my free time, I love to be outside. But if I’m being honest, here’s where you can find me a big chunk of the time: wistfully browsing breathtaking photos of faraway places on Pinterest, skimming articles on the trendy new travel destination, adding new spots in Sweden or Croatia or Alaska to an ever-growing mental bucket list. I’m daydreaming about the next spot on my list before I’ve even stepped off the return flight from the last one.

Part of this is an inevitable side effect of travel. It’s addictive. Anywhere you go, you’re bound to discover at least 10 more places you want to visit. There’s the local spot that you never knew existed until you visited the tourist destination nearby. And the city you never thought much about…until your hostel roommate gushed over for 20 minutes. Then there’s the places you’ve already been—but you just need to re-visit that tucked-away courtyard to sip the world’s best latte one more time.

Travel has the strange power to make you appreciate the comforts of home…while simultaneously making you itch to discover someplace new. It’s a part of the deal, and it’s fun to imagine where you might go next. Until it’s not.

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This land is our land: a love letter to our national parks

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A few months ago, I won an Instagram contest.

Let me just reiterate that for emphasis: I WON AN INSTAGRAM CONTEST!!! I don’t often win things, so it was pretty exciting.

The contest was from one of my favorite brands, Greenville-based The Landmark Project. They make gorgeous clothing and other goods inspired by the outdoors, and give a portion of their proceeds to helping at-risk teens through outdoor adventure. (Go ahead, click that link and check them out. I’ll wait. I should also clarify that I have no affiliation with this company whatsoever. I just really love their work!)

Anyway, on the National Park Service’s 100th birthday this summer, they ran this contest: re-post a photo of their line of national park graphics with a caption about why you love the parks for a chance to win a free T-shirt. The timing was perfect—Chris and I had just left on our two-month road trip, where we planned to visit 11 national parks (spoiler alert: we actually hit up 15!) This is what I wrote:

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One rainbow, hold the rain: day hiking to Peru’s “Rainbow Mountain”

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The glowing red clock at the front of the van read 2:14 a.m. Flashes of the outskirts of Cusco, Peru—streetlights, rows of cramped convenience stores, hand-painted ads on stucco walls—whipped past my periphery, punctuating the near darkness.

Circa-2013 pop music almost drowned out the sounds of our van rattling as it flew over pot holes and swerved around slower cars. I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the road straight ahead—instead of how fast we were going, instead of the tangle of apprehension and nausea growing in the pit of my stomach. I was utterly exhausted, but wide awake with nerves.

I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Continue reading “One rainbow, hold the rain: day hiking to Peru’s “Rainbow Mountain””

Snow day nostalgia

We’ve officially been back in the states for more than three weeks now. In this in-between phase of my life, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home—my first home. The city where I was born and the house where I grew up. Good old Greensboro, North Carolina.

This is the longest stretch I’ve spent at home since I was 21 and fresh out of college. But when I walk into my childhood bedroom, it feels like almost nothing has changed. It isn’t a shrine, exactly, but it definitely hasn’t become a home gym or anything either—let’s just say that my mom has yet to be converted by Marie Kondo.

Basically, it’s like an archaeological site of personal history in there. Boxes full of old diaries detailing my 7th grade woes, old birthday cards, photos, trophies, yearbooks…the more you dig, the further back it goes. If I’m home for more than a few days, it’s inevitable that, at some point, I’ll get pulled in. I’ll open up a cabinet or peek under the bed in search of a book or a misplaced sock, and suddenly it’s two hours later and I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by elementary school assignments, simultaneously laughing and cringing at some horrible poem I wrote in the 2nd grade.

Nostalgia is the strangest feeling. Part longing, part relief of knowing the past will stay where it is—the comfort of perspective. Sometimes, like when I crack open that diary from 7th grade, I’m searching for that feeling—the indulgence and security of getting lost in unchangeable memories; the satisfaction of snapping back into the present and appreciating how much has changed.

Other times, nostalgia reaches out on its own and smacks me in the face.

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Friday favorites & feelings

“What was your favorite part?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question throughout the past two weeks. No shade to anyone who asked me—I would be eagerly asking you the exact same thing if our roles were reversed.

But man, is that a hard question to answer. Each time, I find myself completely overwhelmed with what to say. The first few times, I’m pretty sure I went with “Uhhhhhhh…oh my gosh. I don’t even know. There were so many things! I should have been more prepared for this question!” Eventually, I learned to throw out a few go-to highlights (hiking on a glacier in Patagonia; playing on sand dunes in Colorado; conquering a 17,000 ft. peak in Peru).

But do you want the honest truth? I still have NO IDEA what my favorite part of the last five months was. And the thought of whittling those experiences down into cohesive stories and sound bites is still overwhelming.

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My brain right now, trying to decide where to go from here.

Continue reading “Friday favorites & feelings”

Setting a South American pace

“Which do you prefer: a tightly packed itinerary, or an open schedule with plenty of free time?”

It’s one of the most important questions to ask when you’re planning a trip—especially if you’re with a travel buddy—up there with “Museums and cultural sites, or off-the-beaten-path local spots?” and “Four-star hotel or youth hostel?”

Chris and I have been talking a lot about the pace of our traveling lately. While we’re pretty well matched as travel partners, it’s one area where we have to communicate and compromise a bit. I tend to be more of the go-go-go, check-off-the-list, get-all-the-best-pictures, FOMO-driven type, while Chris…Chris would prefer to skip that 6:30 a.m. walking tour. Neither is the right or wrong way to experience a new place—just different.

Our U.S.A. road trip was, on the whole, pretty fast-paced. We hardly spent more than a day or two in one place before we were off to the next destination. While we certainly worked in some down time—and I can’t say that I would necessarily change anything—it was definitely a whirlwind. Two months isn’t as long as it sounds for a country as big as ours!

So, from the start, we’ve tried to adopt a slightly more laid-back approach to this South American half of our adventure. There’s two main reasons:

Continue reading “Setting a South American pace”