How You Can Afford To Travel: The 52 Week Savings Challenge


As an advocate for travel on any budget, I wanted to share my experience with the 52 Week Saving Challenge, an easy way you can save OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS for your next trip! Here's how it works: You commit a year to saving money, putting $1 in a jar the first week, $2 the 2nd week, and so on. If you keep it up, at the end of a year you will have saved a whopping $1378.00!

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket. - Will Rogers

I started the challenge on New Years Day 2017 and finished in April 2018, way more than 52 weeks later. I got busy and let it slip away without contributing every week. Nevertheless, I was still able to set aside a butt load of cash for my honeymoon in Costa Rica without really trying. When I brought my jar to the bank I found out I had saved...(drum roll please)....$866.11!! 

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars. - Norman Vincent Peale

I loved this challenge so much that I decided to do it again. This time I made a promise to myself to go all the way to week 52 so I can afford to go on a spontaneous adventure. I invite you to start the challenge with me! I have created a printable template so you have no excuses not to start immediately. Simply print and glue it to a mason jar (or any type of container) and cross off the weeks as you contribute.

52 Week Savings Challenge.PNG

Make sure you fill out what you are saving for and consider adding a photo to the jar as well. A picture of the Eiffel Tower or a new mountain bike is a huge motivation to put in $4 instead of spending it on a latte. Vision Boards are a great example of how seeing your dreams can help you make them come true. I like to think of it this way: If I contribute to my jar every week, I am going to think of (and look at) my goal 52 times. That means I am 52 times more likely to make it a reality. To quote The Secret: "What you think about you bring about. Your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go on in your head." I know this may seem kind of crazy, but there are so many things that I have manifested into my life, from my career to trips around the world. Why can't you do it too? Even if you don't believe in the power of your dream, I encourage you to take this one small step to achieving it anyway. If you don't feel any closer to your dream after a year, you will still have accumulated a huge jar full of cash, how can you complain about that?

 Giving up gourmet coffee may seem like a sacrifice now, but it will be worth it when you are drinking espresso in paradise!  Cafe Milagro , Quepos, Costa Rica

Giving up gourmet coffee may seem like a sacrifice now, but it will be worth it when you are drinking espresso in paradise! Cafe Milagro, Quepos, Costa Rica

I would encourage everyone to do this challenge for a couple of reasons. Obviously a healthy savings is incredibly important. But, more than that, putting aside money every single week actually became a habit for me, one that has carried over in other aspects of my life. A couple of years ago I did a 52 week cleaning challenge similar to this one and now cleaning and saving money are weekly habits. The challenge may be hard at first, but after a couple months it will be more of a routine that doesn't require so much thought or energy. Try to do the challenge in order without skipping ahead. Completing all 52 weeks is more realistic if you ease into it and start contributing gradually. Also, don't be like me! Try to do it whole-heatedly and finish all 52 weeks!

The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind. -T.T. Munger

If you don't have the financial means to start the challenge now - or if you just like to break the rules- try saving another way! Keep a jar for spare change and add to it as often as you can. Another option is to take out $5 - $10 cash back each time you go to the grocery store. If you shop twice a week, $5 ends up being $520 at the end of one year and $10 turns into $1040! Or, keep it simple and commit to contributing a set amount each week. No matter what you decide, make sure the challenge is for YOU and on YOUR terms. Your dreams are worth achieving and you deserve to keep some of that hard-earned money before giving it away to everyone else!  

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -  Eleanor Roosevelt



Living With Intent: Creating My Best life

Maybe it’s a mid-quarter life crisis, or maybe I am just part of the avocado-obsessed, self-loving millennial generation that everyone loves to hate, but lately I've embraced a more conscious style of living. With all the bad news we've faced recently, I found anxiety and depression creeping back into my life (check out my article on Pink Neon Lips where I discuss anxiety in further detail) and it became obvious that I needed to make some changes or I wouldn’t survive the divisive political environment and technology overload we face on a daily basis. Here are some small steps I've taken on my journey to be the best person I can be, making the most out of this one precious life. Keep in mind, I am not a nutritionist or counselor. This is not a list of advice as much as it is a reflection on my own personal growth. My hope is that it will inspire you to think more about how you are living your life, and how you can change it for the better by living with intention. 

I Turned Off the News I didn't make this change until a couple of days ago but WOW, what a difference it has made. I unfollowed all news stations on social media because I was being bombarded with negativity and it was exhausting. I still check the news about twice a day, but now I am in charge of what I see. Bad news can no longer show up in my life uninvited.

 More Sunsets, Less Stress. Fira, Santorini, Greece

More Sunsets, Less Stress. Fira, Santorini, Greece

We Take More Walks Devoting more time to walking our dog has been therapeutic for all members of our little household. It gives my husband and I time to reflect on our day without the distraction of phones or Netflix. It has been a really easy way to reconnect with nature and instantly relieve stress.

I've Let Sh*t Go “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you're living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” I have a bad habit of carrying around old baggage. I mean, some of these bags have been around for decades and they are HEAVY. As hard and simple as it is, the only way to find peace is to let this luggage go. 

I've Let People Go, Too We have hundreds of friends on our social media accounts and measure our worth by the number of likes we get. But is there actually a correlation between likes and personal satisfaction? I have consciously unfriended people in real life and online. I've been deleted by friends after expressing my political views, and that is okay. Our political views are based on our deepest moral beliefs, so if they don’t mesh, that is alight. I still respect all of these people, but I do not want their negativity to interrupt my daily life. The point of life is not to get along with everyone we meet, it is to do the best we can with what we were given. Sometimes we simply lose people on the way to finding our greatness.

I Starting Loving More Here is the absolute worst part about life – it ends. Everyone's does, so you better appreciate people while they are around! I have started to value people more and forgive their negative traits. I’ve made more of an effort to build myself up and make others feel good about themselves. Hug more, worry less, don’t be petty or hold grudges. Call people out when they are cutting themselves or others down and encourage them to spread kindness instead. I have finally started to love myself enough to tell myself kind words.

 Dillon Falls, Oregon Photo Credit:  Delilah Photography

Dillon Falls, Oregon Photo Credit: Delilah Photography

I Started Eating Like My Life Depends On It  ...because it does. I have been a vegetarian for almost my entire life but I didn’t really understand nutrition until my late twenties. We were never taught how to eat to feel good. If anything the nutrition lessons we learned in school were geared towards losing weight and ended up being harmful to our self-image. I had to learn to cook for myself when I moved out on my own and it took about a decade to finally get it right. Once I started paying more attention to how I felt after eating certain foods and I let go of the protein myth, I started looking and (more importantly) FEELING better. I have heard so much nutrition advice over my lifetime but it really came down to this realization: some foods help our body and some hurt them, so I started to eat more good and less bad foods. I try to eat primarily fresh, organic veggies and fruit, everything else in moderation.

I’m Constantly Prioritizing I know this sounds stressful, but hear me out. One thing about turning thirty is realizing that time, money and energy are all limited and should be prioritized. I’ve started to re-examine my daily habits and looking for inefficiencies. For example, we started buying in bulk to save money….but we are also decreasing our household waste and time spent on trips to the store. I have prioritized my spending by asking myself whether I NEED something, or if I just WANT it right now. Nothing I buy is going to make me as happy as the freedom that comes from having a healthy savings account. Once I really understood the value of time, I wanted to waste as little of it as possible on things that didn't matter or tasks that made me unhappy.

I’ve Stopped Comparing Myself Because social media runs the world, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to everyone around us, often subconsciously. I even find myself comparing myself to a better version of me, asking what I would look like if I had never stopped running, how much money I could have made had I never quit the career path I was on, etc. But why do we do this? Is there some alternate universe where fitter and richer versions of us live? Or are we just sabotaging our own happiness by holding ourselves to an impossible standard? I decided to start loving myself unconditionally because it got too exhausting to do anything else. I decided to define my own version of success and figure out how to make it attainable. In a world where people exaggerate how great their lives are, it’s important to remember that we are all the same inside, we are all a little insecure and jealous. It’s our reactions to these emotions that determine our health and happiness.

What Is A Plant-Based Lifestyle…And Why Should You Care?

 Breadfruit, salad and rice and peas in Negril, Jamaica

Breadfruit, salad and rice and peas in Negril, Jamaica

You’ve probably heard the term plant-based, but do you know what it really means? I myself have been vegetarian for decades but didn't start calling myself plant-based until very recently. There are already so many meat free diets to keep track of (vegan, vegetarian and lacto-ovo vegetarian, etc.) but I like the term plant-based because it is simplified and more inclusive. Plant-based lifestyles can even include meat-eaters! I wanted to dissect what it means to lead a plant-based lifestyle. I prefer to say "lifestyle" instead of “diet” because it is more positive. Diet sounds like something negative and temporary, and just thinking about the word “diet” makes me hangry. Please keep in mind the opinions below are my own and should not be taken as professional advice. I am not a health-care provider or expert, just someone who cares a whole lot about what I eat!

The future is about a plant-based diet, even for the meat-eaters. –Jamie Oliver

 I know I said I started cutting out sugar, but, when in Rome!

I know I said I started cutting out sugar, but, when in Rome!

Forks Over Knives explains “A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.” In case you were wondering, tubers are underground plant stems that store nutrients, like potatoes, yams, ginger, taro, jicama, artichokes and cush-cush (a type of yam).

So, now here is why I love plant-based lifestyles so much. I stopped eating meat when I was about 7 years old. I wasn’t enjoying meat and when I found out that I could live without it, I literally became vegetarian overnight. However, that is not realistic for most people. I am not trying to push an anti-meat agenda, but there are a lot of benefits to slowing down on animal-consumption, both for you and the earth. The great thing about plant-based lifestyles is you don’t have to change your whole life overnight. You can slowly phase out animal products and incorporate more plant-based, whole grain foods into your daily life, one meal a time.  

Any person who perceives Nature as primarily a source of wisdom and health is not likely to lend a hand in its destruction. -Jim Nollman

 One of my all-time favorite meals in Paros. Carrots, potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth artichokes

One of my all-time favorite meals in Paros. Carrots, potatoes and melt-in-your-mouth artichokes

My move from vegetarian to plant-based has been amazing. Once I stopped eating so much processed protein and soy and switched to a plant-based diet, I started feeling dramatically better even without tracking how many grams of protein I was eating. I started using a B-12 spray which assists with the formation of healthy blood cells, energy, metabolism and DNA synthesis and I immediately got back the consistent energy I had been missing since giving up meat. Instead of tracking my calories, I cut out sugar and processed foods. I now eat until I am full and then stop. I started reading ingredients and was turned off by packaged foods containing harmful and complicated-sounding words. I have so much more mental clarity compared to even 6 months ago that I barely feel like the same person. My skin cleared up naturally, for the first time in 15+ years! I have more confidence about my body, my stomach is leaner and I lost a little weight. Check out this article in Men's Fitness about losing weight on a whole-food, plant-based diet. 

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. - Hippocrates

Okay, but HOW can you move to a more plant-based lifestyle? It may be easier to focus on all of the beautiful, colorful foods you can still eat instead of what you can’t. Start building your meals around vegetables and fruit instead of using them as side dishes. If you are worried you won’t be full, eat more! Plant-based foods have less calories on average, so you can eat more without feeling guilty. You will probably be surprised by how full you get from consuming whole foods and how much better your body processes it (and realize how irregular your body was before). If you think you absolutely can’t give up meat, start eating it in moderation. Maybe save it for special occasions or, at the least, start buying local, sustainable meat to lessen the negative effects on the environment.

It was really easy for me to give up meat once I was conscious about what it was. I have been without it for so long that I think it’s kind of crazy how obsessed with meat our culture is when we're so focused about health and being earth-friendly. A lot of people tell me they eat meat because it is an American tradition, but what is traditional about meat today? We have all seen the conditions under which fast food meat is raised, so I don’t need to go into the gross details. Meat is filled with antibiotics and served by underpaid workers who most likely depend on government assistance, and then mindlessly consumed in front of a tv screen. Every link in the chain from the factory to your house contributes to suffering. If you hunt or catch your own food, or are a farmer who makes a living by giving animals a good life and then selling it to your community, that is worlds away from what fast food chains are doing. As far as I'm concerned, there aren't a lot of morals in the meat industry, there are only profits. It is very easy for me to practice a plant-based diet because my conscious is clean about what I spend my money on and put into my body. 

 Italian oranges

Italian oranges

I am not trying to change the world or push an agenda. If anything, I  would love for people to at least be conscious about what they are eating and how their choices affect the world around them. A plant-based lifestyle just makes sense to me and the changes I've made haven't been expensive or time-consuming. I decided to spend a little more time shopping for fresh foods and cooking, and a little less time glued to my iPhone and Netflix. I feel okay spending a little bit more on locally-grown food when the money stays in my community, and a little less on packaged foods that lack nutrients and contribute to the global waste problem we have created. We buy in bulk, cook at home, shop at affordable Trader Joes, use in-season produce, garden during the summer, and make our own coffee and snacks. We have started juicing every morning and have more energy because of it! My Instant Pot has saved me SO much time and work, and there are endless plant-based recipes specifically for the Instant Pot. 

Living a plant-based lifestyle does not have to be expensive or take more time, it is just a more conscious style of living. It might take a while to get it right, which is why I recommend small, daily changes. Forgive yourself for mistakes. It's not diet, it's a lifestyle and you have your whole life to figure it out! Your body and the world will thank you for it!








Our Engagement: Santorini, Greece 10/25/16

 Dylan and I in Athens

Dylan and I in Athens

Dylan and I met sometime in 2010 or 2011, though we cannot agree on the exact time or place. We were introduced by a mutual friend who said we would be perfect together and joked that we would get married someday. It didn't take long to realize that we liked each other but the timing was just not right. I had just graduated from Oregon State University and had dreams of moving to a big city someday soon, meanwhile Dylan was about to head to Portland to start school. 

Ironically, when we reconnected in Summer 2013 Dylan was back in Bend and I was living and working in Portland. I had to use some vacation time so I decided to spend a week at home in Bend. I had promised Dylan that I would let him take me out on a real date and we met for a casual lunch at the beginning of my time off. From there we spent every day and night together until I headed back home. We spoke every day, took turns driving to see each other and were officially dating in September. The following July, I moved back to Bend and we purchased our home in September. We had a lot of big life changes in only a year, but it felt right to both of us and we knew we had found something special in each other.

I had already caught the travel bug before meeting Dylan, so I was relieved to find someone who loved travel and adventure as much as I did. The first of our many trips together was to the Out'n'About Treehouse Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon where Dylan took me for my birthday. We spent a magical weekend exploring and relaxing in the changing October trees. We ziplined, drank wine and woke up to wild horses running underneath our private treehouse. A couple of years later I convinced him again that we should travel for my birthday, this time on a bucket list trip to Greece and Amsterdam. 

By this time, we had been dating for about three years and had lived together for two of them and I was ready and anxious to move to the next step, much more so than Dylan. I had hoped and (heavily) suggested that Greece would be an amazing place to get engaged but I really didn't think there was a ring in his suitcase as we headed out of town. I knew he would be nervous if he was carrying it with him, and I wasn't sure if he was as keen on the idea of marriage as me.

 Sunny, beautiful Paros, where even the cats are relaxed

Sunny, beautiful Paros, where even the cats are relaxed

A week into our trip, after hiking and eating our way through Athens, we were sunbathing in sleepy Paros. As we headed out to explore the narrow cobble streets, Dylan casually suggested we find a jewelry shop and check out engagement rings. This was it! The moment I had dreamed of forever! I got dressed up, excited for the moment I had always dreamed of ....and there were no jewelry shops open.... on the entire island. We knew there would be engagement rings in Santorini (one of the most romantic places in the world) but I didn't  know if I would be able to wait that long. 

After what seemed like an eternity (about three days), we were settled in Santorini. We spent the morning of my 29th birthday snorkeling in the crystal clear Aegean sea then headed to explore Fira. We found a welcoming shop on the famous Gold Street, Golden Santorini in Caldera Jewelery where I fell in love with a ring made of vintage coral from Italy, but it did not have a center stone and didn't feel like a wedding ring. The gracious shop owner Rena assured us that she could redesign it with a diamond in the middle by the time we were ready to leave Santorini. She toasted us with shots of homemade Rakija (a Serbo-Croatian alcoholic drink made by distilling fermented fruit) and we laughed and cried as the sun set on the private deck of her jewelry shop.

 The beautiful moment when we knew we were getting engaged but nobody else did. Check out the views behind us! Life on Gold Street is good!

The beautiful moment when we knew we were getting engaged but nobody else did. Check out the views behind us! Life on Gold Street is good!

 Dylan, Rena and I

Dylan, Rena and I

After we picked up the ring, we tried not to mention it to each other. I was over the moon but Dylan was nervous about how and when he was going to pop the question. It was our last day in Santorini and I figured he would probably ask before we headed to our next destination. We had planned a trip to SantoWines which overlooked the caldera. I was confident he would pop the question there, but first he wanted to make a stop that was just recommended to him by the owner of the atv rental shop.


Dylan drove us to a big empty dirt field and asked me to walk around with him. To my surprise, at the end of the field was a staircase, which led to a beautiful old church overlooking the sea. He stopped and pointed out a natural heart formation in the cliff and had me stand there for a photo with the clear sky and sea behind me. Instead he pulled out the ring and got down on his knee and my adventure partner/best friend/love of my life asked me to take his last name. Of course I said yes, shocked that he was able to surprise me. As it turns out, he hadn't gone to this spot at random, he had stayed up late the night before researching the most romantic spot in all of Santorini. In a crowded island, we were all alone. 

We celebrated by visiting SantoWines and tasting micro brews at Santorini Brewing. We drove the atv to the the highest point on the island, Monastery of Profitis Ilias and stopped for coffee in Pyrgos village. We ate and drank and stayed up late to catch our ferry to our next destination, stopping to admire the incredible cliff side lights reflecting off of the sea one last time.

We finished our trip in Rhodes and flew to Amsterdam. When we got home, Dylan's parents picked us up in a limo and we drank champagne and relived our engagement, all of us giddy about the trip. We came home to our dog and cat who we missed dearly, and congratulatory gifts from friends.

We spent the next 16 months planning our wedding day and reminiscing about our perfect engagement. These photos don't do justice to the trip itself, but hopefully it gives you an idea about our perfect, priceless day in Santorini. 

Top Ten Gifts For the Traveling Woman in Your Life

As a budget traveler myself, I understand how hard it can be to buy gifts on a small budget, especially when those closest to me deserve the world. I have curated a list of ten great gifts for every budget, starting at just $12.99. I have chosen products that are perfect for your favorite traveling lady, whether she will be jet-set or staying home in 2018. The following ten items are stylish and practical. I really think the special traveler in your life is going to love them! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! 

Under $20

Multi-purpose Rfid Blocking Travel Passport Wallet, Amazon $12.99

This is a great wallet and amazing value for the price! I have been using this wallet in rose gold for over a year and get compliments on it all the time! It has plenty of pockets in convenient sizes, so it is super easy to stay organized on your travels. 


Women's Stay-Put Performance Compression Socks, Duluth Trading Company $15.50

Socks are always a great gift and I especially love the bright colors and fun patterns of these. Compression socks are great for wearing on airplanes, and these are specifically made to stay up and keep their shape, so your gal will be comfortable and warm all day long, no matter what adventure the day brings!


Under $30

Trtl Travel Pillow, Amazon $29.99 

This lightweight, ergonomically-focused pillow would be great for air travel! It is not only easy-to-pack but it is also machine washable so it would be perfect for your favorite traveler, whether she is backpacking in South America are getting ready to spend a winter in Europe. The Trtl pillow comes in 4 different colors and is half the weight of a standard travel pillow. 

Antibes Turkish Towel, Riviera Towel Company $28.00 

Turkish Towels are great! They can be blankets, cover-ups, towels, curtains, table clothes, etc. The Antibes is super soft, dries fast and is available in a huge variety of color combinations! Plus, proceeds from the Sale of the Antibes Towel go to support The National Marine Sanctuaries!

Gift Certificate to Shutterfly 

A gift certificate is a great way to let your favorite traveler show off her past adventures! With a gift certificated, she can easily create books, home decor or other gifts from past vacations. I recently created a photo book of my trip to Jamaica and I could not believe how fast, easy, or FUN the whole process was! 

 Visit  Shutterfly  for more information

Visit Shutterfly for more information

Under $50

Wall Tapestry 838 Live the Adventure by adventurecalling on Society 6 $43.99

If your favorite traveler is stuck at home, why not gift them a tapestry to bring the world to them? Society 6 has 100 pages of tapestries to choose from and many of them are travel-oriented. 

Under $100

Steve Madden Women's Ecentrcq Slip-On Fashion Sneaker, Amazon $59.95 and up 

I love these shoes for a couple of different reasons. First of all, slip-on shoes make traveling through airport check points SO much easier! Secondly, they are super stylish and come in a variety of colors, including leopard (my personal fave!) The price is great and the unassuming style pairs well with every outfit, from sweatpants to jeans. They would even make a little black dress and colored tights look edgy! 

Travel Countdown Calendar, LookFantastic $88.50

Not only does this gift set contain 11 of Cowshed's best selling beauty products in travel-sizes, but all of the products are free of parabens, sulphates, petrochemicals, artificial colors and fragrances and they don't test on animals. Plus, what woman wouldn't love this gorgeous packaging? This gift set is equal parts practical and luxurious. 

$100 and Up

The Catalina Deluxe Large Canvas Weekender, Lo & Sons $148

Lo & Sons create beautiful, practical and sturdy bags for the modern traveler. The Catalina is spacious, made with sturdy (and super trendy) canvas and has cool features like a bottom pocket and suitcase handle sleeve so you can stack this on wheeled luggage. 


A One-of-a-Kind Vacation by 1 Life Travels!

What's better than a custom vacation? When you book a trip with us, you are giving the most priceless gift of all, the gift of time! We save you time by creating a custom itinerary on your budget, who wouldn't love that? Click on the link below to get started today!

Have you tried any of the gifts above? Do you have a great product for women who love travelling? Leave a comment below, I can't wait to hear from you!

Obscure Travel Tips-Ten Things You May Have Never Thought Of

1. Pack toilet paper! Keep a small roll in your day pack for those random bathrooms that are not equipped with toilet paper. Sure, you may end up carrying around toilet paper and never needing it, but is this really a chance you want to take? 

2. Stock up on inexpensive souvenirs Pick up a stack of postcards, buttons, stickers or candies for those coworkers who ask "What did you get me??" as soon as you come back to work

 See this confident smile? It's because I can relax knowing that I have toilet paper and a snack at all times! Negril, Jamaica

See this confident smile? It's because I can relax knowing that I have toilet paper and a snack at all times! Negril, Jamaica

3. Don't wear brand new clothes We're all guilty of spending too much money on new clothes before we leave. Make sure to test whether or not they will actually be comfortable or not before you leave. Wear shoes for a couple of weeks to break them in.  Pre-wash clothes so that if they shrink or the dye runs, at least you can deal with it at home instead of on valuable vacation time.

4. Consider carrying a garbage bag... And empty ziplocks. A garbage bag is light and easy to pack and will save you if you get caught in a rainstorm with some luggage that is not water proof. They fit easily over a backpack. Gallon Ziplock baggies are great for wet bathing suits, dirty shoes, important paperwork, seashells, and other unexpected items. 

5. Triple check that all of your liquids are safely secured Don't be like me, the girl who spent an hour this weekend washing ALL of my toiletries because I was rushing and did not fully twist my toothpaste cap before a road trip. Good news, everything smells minty-fresh! Bad news, I wasted a lot of time (and toothpaste) for something that could have been easily prevented.

6. Check out thrift stores You can learn a lot about a place by the everyday items that people have gotten rid of. You can find inexpensive vintage souvenirs, cool band t-shirts and random pop culture relics and save a TON of money by doing so. My mom just came back from Scotland with an adorable polka-dot raincoat that was brand new and about 90% less than had she bought it at a department store. 

7. Send a postcard or yourself Spend a couple of minutes each day documenting what you did and saw. Make sure to write down the best restaurants, stores and beaches you visited so you can recommend them to friends. Email works just fine but wouldn't it be way more fun to come home to a bunch of postcards? 

8.  Sharing is Caring If you are traveling with someone else, pack smarter. Yes, you probably both want to have your own phone chargers, but do you each need a laptop charger, or can you share one? If you are traveling with a friend who is the same size as you, why not coordinate your wardrobe ahead of time so you can pack half as much? This tip also applies to toothpaste (but please, bring your own toothbrush!), reading material, fashion accessories, sunscreen, etc. 

9. Take a photo of your luggage In the unlikely, but frustrating event that something happens to your luggage you can show the photo to the airport staff or local police who are helping you retrieve your beloved items. 

10. Plan for the worst. Of course you want every second of your trip to be perfect but something could go wrong. A fully charged phone and snack makes a world of difference while waiting for a delayed flight. Pack an external phone charger, granola bar and water bottle everywhere you go. Always know where your passport is. Make sure someone back home has a copy of your itinerary and stop overthinking it and just BUY THE TRAVEL INSURANCE!! A little preparation goes a long way. 

Packing Cubes: Yes or No?

One of the most common debates among travelers is whether or not packing cubes are necessary. I don't know why this topic brings out so much passion in people, but I have heard both sides of the argument, weighed the pros and cons, tried them out myself, and this is what I have decided....

Packing cubes are awesome!! 

Initially I was worried about the extra bulk and weight of the cubes but they are so light and easy to pack that this isn't a real concern. 

This brilliant invention can help you pack faster and stay organized your whole trip. If you are moving around to different cities then you have got to try these out! While island hopping in Greece, I packed everything in cubes and threw them in my big black hole of a backpack. As soon as we checked into our next hotel I would literally dump out the bag and be ready to go.

I personally use eBags packing cubes and am impressed with the quality, even after two years of use. I have used these on short camping trips and longer stays in hotels. The mesh has not snagged or torn and it allows you to see what is inside. 

Once you have your own set of packing cubes, you will find your preference for how to use them. This video is a great place to start. Here are some ideas:

  • Use each cube for packing a different item of clothing. Pack a sock and underwear cube, a shirt (always rolled, never folded!) cube and jeans cube. 
  • Pack each cube with a different outfit for each day of your trip so you don't waste valuable vacation time worrying about what to wear
  • Save space by sharing one big bag between two or more people.
  • If you are bringing pets, use a cube to carry essentials like a small bag of food, water dish and toys. 
  • Pre-pack items for day-trips once you reach your destination so that you can just grab and go (water bottle, camera, beach towel, etc.)
  • Pack extra cubes for dirty laundry and bringing back goodies that you buy along the way
  • Carry travel documents like itineraries and guidebooks. Stuff it with tickets and brochures that you collect along the way. 
  • Keep electronics, chargers and headphones organized
  • Pack bathing suits together to keep water and sand away from your other clothing
  • Let your kids pack your own bags without going crazy. Give them a limit of one cube to bring toys and entertainment
  • Allocate a bag for snacks and drinks

Have you found packing cubes to be useful or a waste of money? I would love to hear your opinion and any ideas you have for packing smarter with a cube set!





Must Do: Bend, Oregon

 10 Barrel is a great place to enjoy the weather, whether its rain, snow or sun!

10 Barrel is a great place to enjoy the weather, whether its rain, snow or sun!

Bend, Oregon is a popular destination that attracts visitors from around the world. There is something for everyone from hiking to surfing  on the river (yes, really!), shopping to drinking award-winning craft beer. 

I have curated a list of the best things to do in Bend from the eyes of a local. It is designed to give you the best overall experience even if you can only spend one day here. Note that all of these activities are within city limits but I recommend getting out and spending time in the surrounding cities if you have the time to do it!



1 Day

  • Breakfast at Sparrow Bakery - If you are going to try one of the famous ocean rolls,  you're gonna want to arrive early. Luckily, there are now two locations and both are great. Grab a coffee and pastry (or dessert, we won't tell) to start your day!
  • Take a (free!) tour at Deschutes Brewery - Touring the world-famous brewery couldn't be easier. Children are welcome (it is recommended for ages 12 and up) and you even get free samples at the end of it. Can't get enough? Follow up with lunch at the Deschutes Brewery Pub downtown. 
  • Downtown Bend - Burn off the beer calories with a stroll downtown. We have great shops, art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, Crater Lake Spirits Tasting Room and more. 
  • Drake Park - Keep your stroll going or stop and take a sunny nap in the grass at Drake Park, located on the edge of downtown. It is a great place to play Frisbee, let your kids run around or at the least, take a couple of photos of beautiful Mirror Pond
  • Dinner at the Lot - Craving some Thai noodles, or Greek food or a good ol' burger? The Lot has something for everyone so even picky eaters (like myself!) will have something to be happy about. There are five food carts, a dog- friendly eating area and they serve wine, beer, kombucha and beer (notice a beer trend yet?)
 Breakfast on the lawn at McKay Cottage

Breakfast on the lawn at McKay Cottage

2 Days

 Paella at Barrio

Paella at Barrio

  • Breakfast at McKay Cottage - Come early because this restaurant is a local favorite and can get busy (worst case scenario, you enjoy coffee on the heated porch). There are lots of delicious items to choose from while you dine in the beautiful bungalow built in 1916. Some of my favorites are McKay Cottage Potatoes, Croissant-Style French Toast and a Mango Mimosa (hey, you are on vacation, enjoy it!
  • Deschutes River Whether you want to kayak, paddle board, surf or just enjoy some seriously beautiful views, the river has a lot to offer. Walk along the trail and soak in the sunshine
  • Refuel at Spoken Moto - One of the newer and cooler Bend establishments. Check out vintage motorcycles that are being restored while you enjoy coffee!
  • Follow more of the Ale Trail - Enjoy the huge lawn at Crux or hang out by the fire pit at 10 Barrel
  • Mt. Bachelor - With world class skiing and snowboarding, a tubing park and sled dog rides during the winter and disc golf, hiking, mountain biking and a scenic chair lift ride during the summer, you definitely cannot fit this all into one afternoon, but I couldn't NOT mention it!
  • Vector Volcano - I love this arcade! They have vintage games and pinball machines so grown-ups are going to feel some serious nostalgia and kids can discover the magic of Pacman for the first time. You get to play unlimited games for a flat hourly fee and, oh yeah, they also serve beer. 
  • Dinner at Barrio - This might be my favorite place to eat. All of their appetizers are killer and great for sharing and I LOVE their Pisco Sour!
 Enjoy the beer -and the views- at Crux Fermentation Project

Enjoy the beer -and the views- at Crux Fermentation Project

3 or More Days

  • Breakfast at Bellatazza - This coffee shop is a local staple and a great place to sit and enjoy downtown. My personal favorite drink is the granita (without an extra shot on top for busy days!)
  • Go shopping and meet local artists at The Workhouse - This place exemplifies what is so great about our tight community! This is a space where artists work and sell their handmade products. They also offer classes so if you plan ahead, you can bring home a souvenir you made yourself!
  • Explore - the High Desert Museum has cool animals (I love the otters!), a nature walk, living history exhibits like the Miller Family ranch where you can go back in time to 1904. This is a great place to let your kids roam and they might even learn a thing or two without even realizing it! 
  • Hike (or drive) up Pilot Butte - This is where you are going to get the best views. Hiking is a great way to get a workout but if you are in a hurry you can drive up during sunny seasons
  • Take a free tour - at Humm Kombucha and/or Goody's Chocolate to learn all about how our favorite local treats are made (and buy some to enjoy when you get back home)!

For more dining suggestions, check out Tripadvisor ...or go exploring on your own. We have a LOT of great dining options and none of them are bad! 

Ready to get your Bend vacation on? Click below to start planning today!

In Defense of the Jersey Shore

By Brooke and Shannon of A World of BS

Ahhhh…the Jersey Shore. 100+ miles of spray tans and muscle heads, right?

 Photo Credit: A World of BS

Photo Credit: A World of BS

Wrong. Everyone form New Jersey knows that the Jersey Shore is actually one of America’s best kept secrets. TV shows like MTV’s The Jersey Shore and Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey paint a picture of New Jersey that skews the world’s perception of the Garden State. Yes, we have people like the ones on those shows, but they are not the majority.

 Photo Credit: A World of BS

Photo Credit: A World of BS

I was born and raised in a beach town along the Jersey Shore known as Long Beach Island. It is a barrier island that offers up 18 miles of beaches, bars, and restaurants and is (in my humble opinion) on of the best locations along the Jersey Shore. As an NJ native, I’m here to tell you that, no, we don’t all have terrible accents and, yes, you should visit the Jersey Shore.

Here are some reasons why:

The Beaches Perhaps the most obvious reason, but New Jersey has 130 miles of beautiful, sandy beaches. Every New Jersian has their favorite, but honestly, they are all great! Weather you choose to visit the boardwalk in Belmar, the nude beach in Sandy Hook, or the beach front casinos in Atlantic City, there is a beach for everyone. Grab your towel (and your beach badge) and choose an exit off the Garden State Parkway.

The Music Home to legendary venues like The Stone Pony, the Jersey Shore has always had a vibrant music scene. From classics like Bruce Springsteen to teen heart throbs like the Jonas Brothers to hip-hop icons like Fetty Wop, New Jersey has produced some of the most iconic names in music. And they always come back to perform along the shore in their home state.

 Photo Credit: A World of BS

Photo Credit: A World of BS

Lighthouses The Jersey Shore is also home to 11 historic lighthouses that serve as the perfect activity for a summer day! You can climb up the spiral staircases to get amazing panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, spend some time exploring the accompanying museums, and explore the local nature and wildlife. Many of the lighthouses are on protected lands that are perfect for birdwatching or just enjoying the scenery.

 Photo Credit: A World of BS

Photo Credit: A World of BS

The Boardwalks Boasting over 20 boardwalks, the Jersey Shore certainly has no shortage of beach-side entertainment. But, many people don’t know that NJ is the home of the oldest boardwalk in the US and the longest in the world! Spanning over 5 miles, the Atlantic City boardwalk hosts a variety of amusements like casinos, hotels, gift shops, and even the Steel Pier. If flashy AC isn’t your style, we also have low-key boardwalks perfect for family days, bike rides, and people watching.

The History For all you history buffs out there, the Jersey Shore also has something for you. Being one of the original thirteen colonies, NJ has a long history and much of it lays along the shore. My own hometown of Long Beach Island is a good place to start. In 1782, an American ship discovered an abandoned Dutch merchant ship on the shores of LBI. Several of the sailors, who were Patriots, went aboard to investigate and set up camp nearby. That night, around 20 of the Patriots were murdered in their sleep, their throats cut by Loyalist John Bacon, also known as Bloody John. There is now a plaque to commemorate the slain sailors at the sight and it is known as the Long Beach Island Massacre. There are many other Revolutionary and Civil War sights such as this along the Jersey Shore.

These are just a few of the many reasons you should visit the Jersey Shore. It is perfect for outdoor activities such as surfing, fishing, sailing, or sunbathing. In the summer, the towns are bustling and lively and in the winter, the towns are perfect for a quiet getaway. All four seasons at the Jersey Shore are fantastic and offer a wide variety of things to do. The Jersey Shore has areas that are family friendly, areas that are perfect for wild weekends with friends, and areas that are perfect for recovering the next morning. We serve up fresh, delicious seafood, have dozens of breweries and bars with local beers on tap, and miles and miles of beautiful beaches. Plan your visit and you won’t be disappointed!

To learn more about Brooke and Shannon, check out their blog, A World of BS

How to Travel From Home

I don't think I am alone in feeling stuck from time to time. Many of us would love to travel but must stay home for various reasons whether it be to look after children, attend school or due to health or financial obligations. Of course, if there is any way to go, then I say, GO! But here are some ways to cure your wanderlust without having to leave your hometown!


Cook your way around the globe! One of my favorite things to do when I am missing a country is try to recreate the food that I ate there. I am vegetarian so I am still learning how to substitute certain foods in recipes but I am getting there (big tip: add soy sauce to soups and stir fry in place of fish sauce). One great resource for recipes is the Global Table Adventure by Sasha Martin, who has also written a book about cooking meals from 195 countries around the world. 

Host an exchange student! Consider hosting a student from another country. Not only will your family learn about another country but you will be teaching a student all about yours! My family hosted Japanese exchange students when I was younger and it was a great way to learn about another culture (and how we are not so different after all!)

Find a penpal PenPal World is a great FREE resource for finding a penpal from another country. Send a postcard from your hometown and see what you get in return! 

Go shopping! Depending on where you live, you might have some great international markets that you've never even noticed before! I love to stop in my local Latino market and get a popsicle from time to time. The taste reminds me of a sunny trip I took to Mexico City a few years ago. Don't be intimidated by language or cultural barriers! If you cannot find any markets, try the international aisle at your regular grocery store or shop online at International Food Shop. World Market also has a lot of goodies to choose from and you can order online if you do not have one locally.


Love where you live Chances are, someone would LOVE to visit wherever you live, even if you are totally bored with it. What do tourists like to do in your hometown? Go out and do those things, maybe you will gain a new appreciation. Dare yourself to try new adventures, you might love what you find!

Read a book There are TONS of great travel books out there and many are available to download instantly so you can get your adventure started right now! 

Listen to Travel Podcasts The best part of podcasts is they are FREE so you have no reason not to listen! My favorites are Travel With Rick Steves (you should definitely be checking out his tv show as well) and the Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast. For more suggestions, check out this article by the Seattle times. 

Chase your WILDEST dream There is absolutely no harm in planning a trip that you have no intention of taking anytime soon! Create a vision board, write down your bucket list and pin your dream destinations. Ideas have a way of materializing and even if they don't, there is no down side to learning more about the world around you!

Any other ideas for chasing wanderlust without leaving town? Leave a comment with your favorite book, podcast or idea for seeing the world from the comfort of home!




Traveling With a Light Footprint

10 Tips for Sustainable Travel

 Lauren Lee Illing

Lauren Lee Illing

By Lauren Lee Illing 

Will you take a pledge to travel with a light footprint?

Earth Day is to pledges as New Years is to resolutions. At the start of a new year, we reflect on our own personal improvement. On April 22, we consider how we can participate in the preservation of our planet. It's a time for recognizing the immensity of the world and our own finitude. 

All of that can weigh heavy on us so it helps to join together to collectively make a positive impact on the environment. Living sustainably means making small changes day to day in our homes, work, and play. Everything we do involves some degree of resource use and/or waste creation. Whether it is our food, our transportation, or our trash, it all burns fuel and produces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels which are creating unprecedented climate change. Each of us can add up everything we do to calculate our own carbon footprint. With that baseline, we can take on the task of being part of the solution rather the part of the problem.

Our leisure can be one of the easiest and most enjoyable sustainability challenges we can take on. Travel, especially, offers many opportunities for creative waste reduction and offsets. With that in mind, here is a list of 10 tips to remember for your next getaway! 

 Jackson Square, New Orleans Photo Credit: Lauren Lee Illing

Jackson Square, New Orleans Photo Credit: Lauren Lee Illing

1 . Bring a water bottle and/or coffee mug

As long as your cup is empty when you're passing through security, you can totally pack it on the plane in your carry on or personal item. Stay hydrated with airport water fountains or have the barista at your favorite coffee shop skip the styrofoam and use your mug. Think of all the disposable cups you can save! 

2. Shop for food at fresh markets

Once you have arrived to your destination, you will have many options for dining and experiencing the full variety is part of the joy of traveling! Resist the urge to eat fast food or street cuisine at every meal and ditch the wrappers and other trash that comes with it. Find a bakery for your bread, a dairy for your cheese and yogurt, and a butcher for your cold cuts. When available, this is a great way to eat like a local and enjoy foods that have a petite carbon footprint. 

3. Pack a foldable Tupperware with utensils

TSA scrutiny may be tough but believe it or not, food is fine to take on a plane (unless you're going abroad and there are produce / agricultural restrictions through customs). Pack your Tupperware before you leave to the airport with healthy non perishable snacks (think nuts, cheese, jerky, and dried fruit). Eat your snack whenever you please, fold up the container and have it on the ready to pack leftovers after dining out. Also, have the freedom to pack to-go lunches with any groceries that you are able to store overnight!

4. Pack a fabric bag (or two or three!)

When you arrive at the local farmers market or bakery, show your respect by carrying away your goods in a reusable shopping bag. Let the local shopkeeper save their paper or plastic (if you're in a place that even offers bags to shoppers!). Be sure to carry the fabric bags that roll up tight when not in use. Bonus to this tip: extra space for packing souvenirs on the way home!

5. Opt for train or bus over car rental

Many destinations - even in the U.S. - have transit routes covering long distances. San Diego to Vancouver? Beautiful by train. New York City to Boston? A breeze by bus. New Orleans to Chicago. All aboard! Enjoy the relaxation of taking in the sights rather than the frustration of navigation and gas station stops. Travel by transit is far more efficient than a personal auto so especially if you're covering long distances, this is your eco-friendly option!

6. Try touring by bike or horse or foot

If your destination is a smaller geographic area, consider whether you can cover your ground without burning fuel. It's amazing how seeing a place from up close can enhance your experience overall. So try a walking tour, bike rentals, or horse ride! Just be sure that you're briefed on local rules so you can do so safely!

7. Use rechargeable batteries

 Photo Credit: Lauren Lee Illing

Photo Credit: Lauren Lee Illing

Especially if you bring an SLR camera, you're likely to be using battery power during your travels. Opt for rechargeable batteries rather than worry yourself about proper disposal (or running the risk of letting your battery acid leak out in a landfill- gasp!). Don't forget to pack the charger too!

8. Dispose properly

Many places have local rules on recycling and composting. Some places (even in the U.S.) require proper waste disposal by law. Look up those rules before your trip or ask a concierge or other locals for tips! Then, enjoy participating in the system to its fullest while you can. If your town or city back home doesn't recycle well, take notes to share with your neighbors, too. 

9. Carbon offsets

Honestly, buying carbon offsets is a luxury. There are places online where you can invest in tree planting or other "carbon negative" projects to counterbalance the carbon footprint of your travel. That's a great budget line item if you can afford it. For everyone else, (myself included!) we have to take on our own carbon offsetting projects. Whether it's a tree of a butterfly garden, we all have the power to plant! 

If you'd like to know what your carbon footprint is you can use a calculator such as this one:

10. Save the water

Many hotels now have cards to leave on the door to let them know that you don't need laundry service every day. If they've got it, use it! If not, place the "do not disturb" card on your door and forego the indulgence of fresh sheets daily. 

** Leave no trace **

Avoiding waste is the name of the game here. Get your buddies into the fun and keep each other accountable. The best that any of us can do is improve from where we were before. A little at a time, we become more and more mindful of the trash trail we leave behind. The trail of trash gets smaller and smaller then we begin making up for everything we send to the landfill. Eventually, the end goal is to have carbon neutral travel - and living. But that will take systems in place at a much larger level than just you and I. So until then, let's make a pledge to do the little things so that collectively it all adds up. 

Onward and upward,

Lauren Lee

Medium: LaurenLeeDC

Twitter: Lauren Illing

 Instagram:  LaurenLeeDC

Ski Lessons

I have lived in a world class ski town for 18 years and since 1999 I have successfully avoided strapping on a pair of downhill skis. I don't like the cold, the only athletic activity I have willingly participated in was bowling team, I find the idea of falling down a mountain absolutely terrifying, etc, etc, etc.

 Lesson #1, Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon 

Lesson #1, Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon 

But the universe did not accept my excuses and last fall I got engaged to a boy who has been skiing since he has been walking. And for Christmas, I got ski lessons. So whether I wanted to or not, I HAD to learn to ski. Here is what I learned....

1. Everyone is a beginner at some point, and its OKAY I honestly thought that I was the ONLY adult in Bend, Oregon who did not know how to ski or snowboard, so I was overjoyed when my classmates were my age or older, and not a bunch of 6 year old kids like I'd expected. I was not the only one who barely knew how to put on skis, or get on the lift, or who didn't understand why ski poles even exist.

2. Just suck it up There have been tears, one mini-panic attack, at least one pre-ride shot of whiskey BUT, by the end of (almost) every day, a huge smile. It sucks to do something that you are afraid of. You can do all of the preparation in the world to make it easier but at some point you just gotta do it. 

3. Practice makes you better I was going to say practice makes perfect, but I doubt I will ever achieve perfection. You can only get better by trying it over and over and over again. 

4. Falling sucks .... and the only way to avoid it is to get really good at NOT FALLING. I don't have any technical advice (I am still learning myself) but in skiing, as in life, you just have to figure out what works for you and learn from your mistakes. BUT, don't forget to....

5. Appreciate how far you have come. Since I have graduated ski school I have been totally intimidated by how much better my friends are at skiing than I am. I constantly remind myself that they have been doing it for DECADES longer than I have. Everyone starts as a beginner, right now it is my turn and I have done SO much more over the past couple of months than I thought I could!

6. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else!! You literally cannot ski down the hill if you are focusing on someone else the whole time. Worry about yourself and your own journey. 

7. Learn to focus The great thing about skiing is once you kind of get the hang of it all you have to do is focus on what's ahead of you. If you imagine where you want to go, your body will naturally follow. The more you can relax and just go with it, the better. I think this applies to most goals, big or small.

8. Some days are good and some days are bad Some classes I was one of the better skiers and on at least one occasion I was the person holding everyone else back. Guess what? I lived. I was better by the end of class. I learned to laugh it off. I was humbled. There are god things about every day, even the bad ones. 

9. It's really good for you to get uncomfortable sometimes This is how you grow, this is how you eventually get comfortable. Try new things, you might actually like them. For example, I found out that....

10. Skiing is actually kind of fun.. You should try it.

I completed the Ski Or Ride In 5 program at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon and I cannot recommend it enough. I started from scratch and watched myself and my classmates gain a TON of experience and confidence in themselves over the course of just 5 lessons! 

Click on the link below to get your next adventure started! We have plenty of suggestions (on or off of mountains!)

Packing: A Crash Course

Doesn't matter how organized or experienced a traveler you are, packing kind of sucks. I have compiled a couple of tools to make the process easier starting from the absolute beginning. Let me know if you find it helpful!

  • First off, what do you need ? Travels' Checklist is a free website that builds you a custom packing list based on destination, how many travelers, length of trip, etc. Seriously, so easy! Use this to gather, buy and borrow everything you will need
  • Now that your list is complete, you probably are going to need to trim it down a bit. Do you really need 12 pairs of socks for a 5 day trip? Maybe you do, who am I to judge? Just wanted to make sure I asked the question! Cut out everything you know you are not going to wear. As the saying goes.... 

"Take half as many clothes and twice as much money as you think you'll need for any vacation” 

  • Are you going to be checking a bag? What about a carry-on and personal item?  Netflights is a great site to search for airline baggage allowances by carrier. Take all of your items and divide them up accordingly.  I highly recommend also bringing a money belt (I know, totally dorky). Try to get one that is RFID blocking and has a place for your passport, debit/credit cards and cash.
  • Pack your personal bag  with items you will need on your flight (empty water bottle, magazine, phone, iPad, headphones, travel pillow, etc). Throw in a change of clothes and a toothbrush just in case something happens to your checked luggage. Make sure your liquids are in an easy- to-reach place for going through security. Here are the current TSA rule for liquids, by the way. 
  • Now onto the big bad checked bag (or carry-on if you are like me and travel without a checked bag)! Here are a couple of hacks to make this a little easier:
    • Roll clothes instead of folding them (this saves room and keeps creases from happening
    • Wear your bulkiest clothes on the flight. i.e. boots, jacket, sunhat, scuba mask, etc. 
    • Utilize packing cubes! You can organize cubes by type of clothing (shirts in one, socks and undies in another) or pack an outfit in each cube. They make packing and unloading SO much easier and don't add very much weight at all. 
  • Once you have everything packed, weigh your luggage. You may need to take out a few more items.  If you have a backpack, try it on and walk around for awhile. Remember, you are going to do some shopping on your trip so leave room! You may even want to bring a lightweight tote for carrying souvenirs back home with you.
  • When you have alllllll of the above items taken care of, double check that you have everything on your packing list. Lay everything out the night before/morning of your trip so that you have one less thing to worry about. 
  • Feeling ready yet? Good! The last step is to enjoy your trip! Remember, other than your passport and money you can pretty much buy anything you need while you are away. If you followed all of the steps above that shouldn't be a problem, but I thought I would remind you just to ease a little travel anxiety.

Happy Travels!!

P.S. Want to earn some extra credit? Check out these travel hacks from Swifty (I love the plastic wrap idea)

P.P.S. I have created a shopping list of Must-Have items for traveling. Some of these are items I have personally used and the rest are the best of the best (like the Osprey backpack that I am dreaming of!) Enjoy

Are Travel Agents Still a Thing?

 All smiles at  Just Natural  restaurant in Negril,  Jamaica

All smiles at Just Natural restaurant in Negril,  Jamaica

"Is there still a market for travel agents in 2017?" I have seen this question hundreds of times while setting 1 Life up. Believe me, no one has doubted it more than I myself have. The brick and mortar agencies of yesteryear are few and far between and when I talked to my peers about becoming a travel agent, the comment I heard most was "oh yeah, I think my Mom used to have one of those".

So why would I even consider putting the time and money and effort into a travel agency when anyone can go online and plan trips themselves?

Because the answer I came up with after months of research, soul searching, speaking with established agents and tour operators is "yes". Yes, there is still a need for travel professionals because people are still traveling. The generations before me who depended on agents are still prioritizing travel. Families still make memories at Disneyland. Millennials like myself travel for work more than ever and we study abroad and find dream destinations on Pinterest and Instagram. 

But we have less and less time, which is the exact opposite effect that the internet was supposed to have on our society. We spend most of our time staring at the screens of our smart phones instead of the world around us. 

I want to make it easier for people to get out there and see more. I know it might seem silly to pursue a travel career when the need for them is, according to a lot of people, declining. But where some may see a waste of time, I see an opportunity. I have done extensive research on the need for agents and here is what I have learned:

  • Our role is evolving and this is necessary to our survival. Embracing ever-changing technology is key.
  • We need to earn back the trust of my generation who has probably never had a relationship with an agent and is skeptical to the idea of using one.
  • If I am going to compete with the internet, I need to provide what websites cannot: a personal relationship. (This is where a decade of customer service comes in!)
  • To survive in this market, I need to be the very best at what I do.....and so I will be!
 Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

So with the self-doubt that any small business owner faces, here I am. I cannot express my immense gratitude to you reading this and joining me on my journey. I would love any questions, concerns or suggestions that you have as I grow to better serve my clients. I decided on the name "1 Life" because I want to help people get everything they possibly can out of their one wild and precious life. It is also a phrase that has motivated me to keep building this business when criticism would have otherwise defeated me. 

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." - Steve Jobs

Why You Shouldn't Write Off Using a Travel Agent in 2017

 A reminder from Paros, Greece

A reminder from Paros, Greece

Let's be honest, you have better things to do than plan microscopic details Between kids, work, exercising, school, etc, etc, you are busy. Why worry about planning a trip when someone else can do it for you for the same cost or less. And on that note...

Travel agents can save you money Agents have all kinds of travel experience so we know the tips to maximize your budget because we have done it ourselves. We also have exclusive offers to pass on to you and we make it easy for you to take advantage of them.

Who you gonna call? ME! If anything goes wrong, you are going to want someone to support you so you can get back to enjoying your trip as quickly as possible.

There is such a thing as too much information, Travelocity, Google Trips, Groupon, Kayak and Expedia are great but where do you start? Most of these sites are filtered by sponsored content so even when you think you are getting honest reviews, you aren't. And good luck getting a hold of customer service once if something goes wrong!

No BS I realize how important my reputation is in the digital age and I work hard to maintain that. I want you to have the BEST experience so that you will come back for your next trip. 

You are supporting a small, local business You pay commissions to websites when you book hotels, flights and tours whether you see them or not. So, someone is making money off of your trip no matter how much you DIY it. When you shop small and use a travel agent, your money is staying in your community. Plus, I can connect you with other small business owners while you away.

Why buy a suit off the rack when you could have one tailor-made? I will set you up with a custom itinerary and a totally unique experience just for you. You will not have the same trip as every other tourist. You can be as involved or un-involved in the planning process as you want to be. 

Let an agent be the mediator so you don't have to Planning a family reunion, work retreat or mission trip? Save the drama and let me be the go-to person so that you are off the hook. 

I can help you do anything. Want to plan a surprise trip? Honeymoon? Need help getting ready to study abroad? Family reunion? Have a general question and don't want to do the research? I will make it easy for you so all you have to do is get excited for your upcoming trip.

Your time and money are precious Don't lose them on avoidable mistakes

And, most importantly.....this is what I love to do! Travel is what I live for. I want you to be just as passionate about it. I LOVE planning the logistics of a vacation, even when its a trip that you get to take instead of me. Making you happy makes me happy. Wouldn't you want your vacation planned by someone who actually cares about you and wants you to have a good time?

Not convinced yet? Check out this article from Travel and Leisure.

Still not convinced? Call us, text us, email us or click on the photo below and we would love to chat with you!

"I Do. But First..."

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Before you marry someone, go on a trip together." I definitely think this is true. Even if you are only able to take a long weekend with a potential lover, I urge you to take at least a road trip with them. Once the initial excitement and anxiety has worn off, your true personalities are bound to come out.

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Mark Twain

 My Fiancé Dylan and I in New Orleans. We have perfected traveling together over the last few years.

My Fiancé Dylan and I in New Orleans. We have perfected traveling together over the last few years.

Traveling with a partner is kind of like moving in with someone. After the initial excitement of picking out a new lamp together and noting how cute your toothbrushes look next to each other, reality kicks in and you realize you are actually stuck with this person. The same thing can happen a few hours into an international flight when you may start to notice that your partner's snoring is sort of embarrassing. Or maybe your girlfriend just got up to go to the bathroom for the 4th time this flight (okay, this is me). 

I have been to some of the romantic places in the world with my fiancé and the everyday stresses of a relationship are still there, even under the most beautiful sunset in the world. Five days into spending every second together when one of you is hungry and someone's flip flop breaks you are going to get annoyed with each other and a blowout will probably occur. How you handle this situation will determine how strong your relationship is.

 The gorgeous location of our engagement in Santorini, Greece

The gorgeous location of our engagement in Santorini, Greece

Maybe you will learn how to compromise. Maybe you will learn to fall in love with how sensitive your partner can be. Hopefully you can learn to laugh it off together. But you will see a different side of them than you see at home.

Even if everything falls apart you will have great photos. You may fall in love with the city instead of the person you arrived with and sometimes that is better.  If everything goes to plan you will have known you survived one of the biggest tests of a relationship. And you can start planning the honeymoon!

All of that being said, here are some tips for traveling as a couple (trust me, most of these are from experience):

  • Carry snacks! This one is not just for traveling with kids. We could have saved hours of agony if I had just carried a granola bar or nuts in my purse 
  • Make sure every detail is taken care of before you depart Whether you trust a professional to handle your trip  or you DIY, make sure you have every connection, taxi ride, hotel check-in time and reservation down. Even the strongest couple is going to be tested when they arrive at a train station and find out that all of the tickets are sold out because of a local festival you knew nothing about
  • COMMUNICATE! What do you want to get out of a trip? What are you willing to save money on? Are you both comfortable riding public transportation or would you feel better spending a little more to take cabs? Make sure these details are covered before you leave so they don't cut into your limited vacation time!
  • Take care of yourself so that you can be a good partner This one deserves a "duh" but wear comfortable clothing (especially shoes!). Drink lots of water, pack sunscreen and actually wear it. Stay healthy and try to be in a good mood, if only as a public service to your partner  
  • Don't depend on the other person to carry your stuff I have been in this situation with so many people and it can be summed up easily. MEN- women don't carry a purse so that you have a place to put your water bottle and wallet and phone. Bring your own day pack. WOMEN- don't pack more than you can physically carry! When you pack, leave room for souvenirs so that you are not struggling later. Again, this a general statement and I believe in equality so whatever arrangements you have about who carries what luggage and purse(s) are wonderful, just make sure you think about it before you leave 
  • Ask for directions and advice You will probably end up with a great story and/or amazing restaurant recommendation if you just suck it up and ask a local for help when you desperately need it
  • Take time apart It's perfectly okay to spend a couple of hours away from each other. Offer to go get coffee for the two of you and use the time to read a magazine or chat with a local barista. You may even want to plan your own excursions apart from each other so you can indulge in your individual hobbies. A little space goes a long way!
  • RELAX, have fun and make the most of your time away!

Have Debt, Will Travel. In defense of travel at any time, by any means

Since we we are just getting to know each other, there is something you need to know. I hope you won’t hold it against me…

 Queretaro, Mexico sunrise

Queretaro, Mexico sunrise

I have debt. A lot of debt. Tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, despite going to community college first and working part time as a university student and receiving scholarships. Welcome to the modern-day American Dream, I guess. Am I stressed out and bitter? Hell yeah! Am I going to let it stop me from being happy? No, of course not! I have never regretted my decision to attend college. It was a great experience that opened a lot of doors for me. And now that I am in the unbelievably overwhelming process of dealing with it, I refuse to let it hold me back from the next 20 – 35 years of my life until they are paid off. I wrong?

There are a lot of people that would argue against traveling until debt is paid off. I myself have attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class and still practice the budgeting techniques from this class. And while I love everything that Ramsey teaches, I can’t justify passing up travel for the sake of saving just a little bit more money.

 Scotland Highlands

Scotland Highlands

So, what DO I do now?

I keep a very tight budget. I have learned to be incredibly organized in order for everything to be paid on time. As a result, I have really good credit for someone my age and know where every penny of my paycheck goes. While this is not very glamorous, it has allowed me to save money for getting on an airplane at least once a year since 2008 when I took my first backpacking trip to Costa Rica.

The hardest part of debt is feeling like it is holding me back from opportunities. So, I don't let it. This is more of a mental/emotional task than it is monetary.

I have always kept some money in savings, and that has saved my butt more than once. I've traveled inexpensively by staying with friends-of-friends or in hostels and taking the cheapest flight, even when it means taking twice as long to get somewhere (time is money!) Now that I am a little older I appreciate staying in nicer places and spending a little more on better flights to maximize my limited vacation time but I loved the hostel environment and would recommend it to anyone on a small budget who is open to a good adventure. I was given free accommodation in exchange for volunteering in Southeast Asia. On a couple of occasions, family and friends have covered my expenses on group trips and this is something I am forever grateful for and hope to return the favor in the future. 

What are you willing to sacrifice to catch your dreams? If you want to travel, you are probably going to have to work hard for it and spend less at home. I think life is too short to wait until everything is perfectly in place, because that time may never come. 

“There’s more to life than paying bills” – My Mom

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

Adventure Awaits!

 Me (Erin) in Fira, Santorini, Greece

Me (Erin) in Fira, Santorini, Greece

Hello! I want to take a moment to introduce myself and thank you SO MUCH for spending your time here. My name is Erin and I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Merchandise Management which led to a career in buying in Portland and Bend, Oregon. During my senior year I completed an internship at a non-profit in Dublin, Ireland which would change the course of my professional life. For the years to come, I would always wish I was on an airplane instead of sitting in my cubicle (I have heard this is an unfortunate side-effect that most students experience in the years following a semester abroad). 

“If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.”

While I spent 40+ hours at work I would listen to travel podcasts and find myself daydreaming about a million different lives in a million different places.

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” -Helen Keller

I love talking to my friends and family about where they are going, where they have been and what their wildest adventures are. I LOVE taking trips to new places. I cried when I first saw Rome and laughed my butt off when, on our third day in Phnom Penh the streets flooded and we had to chase our shoes down the street in the foot of rain that accumulated in less than 20 minutes.

 Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon

When I am not traveling (which, for now, is most of the time), I am in the lovely Bend, Oregon where I paddle board, craft, hike and am learning to ski. My home is shared with my fiancé, our little dog named Moose, cat named Avi (short for Avalanche) and a tank full of freshwater fish. 

I hope you will join me on the adventures to come. I believe that life is short and I want to fit as much as possible into whatever amount of time we have left!

"The trouble is, you think you have time.” - Jack Kornfield