Travel Tip #3: Look at the bulkhead seating on SW

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If you are a solo traveler on #Southwest don’t forget to check the bulkhead! SW was amazing at accommodating is when LiAnn broke her ankle. Often times there’s a special-needs traveler (like she was when we realized this) and a companion sitting in the bulkhead seats, which leaves an aisle or a window seat open, but everyone looks ahead and fails to notice. Sometimes there are two seats open. So our tip today is: Notice! #igottotheairport5minutesafterboardingstartedandstillgotthefirstrow


Remembering Pop

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My grandfather was a quiet man with a snarky sense of humor, but what he was more than anything was good man who cared about his family. I remember being a kid and walking around our 10 acre property with him in upstate Pennsylvania. He taught me all about the trees. I remember one that smelled like bubble gum and another that taste like root beer. He took us deer spotting and bird watching, and my grandmother took us berry picking and to Sunday bingo. I remember those days fondly.

My most cherished memory of my Pop was when I was 21. What 21 year-old college student signs up to spend a week on the road with her parents and grandparents? This girl. At ages 10, 20, 30 and now nearly 40, I’ve always love spending time with my family (perhaps not at age 14, but that’s a different story).

I had the great fortune to travel to Europe a few times while in college, and it opened up a whole world to me about art, history and humanity. Although I was a business major, I took every philosophy, art history, and anthropology class I could in college. I was overwhelmed and excited about my newfound knowledge.

So my parents, my two Grans and my Pop rented a van and traveled all over Colorado. As I said, my Pop was a quiet man, but once you got him on a topic, he really opened up. We sat in the back of the van together the whole trip, and I started telling him about what I was learning in college. I brought up Friedrich Nietzsche, The Trial of Socrates, Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. And then my Pop started talking about all of these people, philosophies and creations in incredible analytical detail. I was absolutely floored by his knowledge. He was a blue-collar, self-educated man. And for the first time, I understood the extent of his self-education. We talked for hours a day in the back of that van on our road trip. We spent the most time talking about the impressionism because it was my new passion, and he knew so much about it as an artist himself.

What I liked most about our conversations was how interested he was in spending time with me and hearing my opinions. He was my intellectual superior by far, but he really wanted to know his granddaughter’s thoughts … and I really wanted to know his.

Pop wasn’t the most affectionate guy, but he was very loving. At the end of that week, he hugged me and said, “We’re kindred spirits, Lis.” And that’s a memory I’ll hold onto forever. I love you, Pop.

~ LiAnn

Travel Tip #2: Buy A Universal Adapter

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Don’t leave home without this universal travel adapter. I take it with my everywhere I go—domestically and internationally. Not only does it work in every country, but it also has two USB ports and a regular plug, so I can charge my phone, earbuds and laptop all at once. Sometimes it’s hard to find more than one outlet, so being able to charge 3 devices is great! And I don’t have to worry about hanging onto a bunch of international adapters.

How I Traveled to 3 Climates in Peru with Only a Personal Item and a Purse

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Here’s how I’ve mastered the art of packing light. I’ve included some of my favorite travel accessories, which are all available on Amazon. I do not get compensated for sharing these items (though maybe I should). I simply want to help travelers get around easier by packing right and packing light. It’s life changing!

Over the last few years I have traveled the world with only a personal item: a backpack that is smaller than a book bag (MARC BY MARC JACOBS ‘Pretty Nylon’ Knapsack) and sometimes an anti-theft handbag (by Travelon).

Theo carries one 20L waterproof bag (Aqua Quest Himal 20L Backpack).

It’s easy to pack a small bag for the beach: sun dresses, hats, swimsuits, some comfy lounging clothes and a toiletry bag. So what do I do when traveling in the winter or for an active adventure? Plan. Plan. Plan.

Plan to mix and match. Plan to wear basic color schemes. Plan to dress things up with scarves. Plan when you can do laundry (or wash things in the hotel sink). Plan to bring shoes that can be worn for trekking around and dressing up.

My trip to Peru presented a unique challenge: three different climates. We traveled for 10 days in the city, mountains and jungle–and had a lot of flights, boat rides, train rides and bus trips the whole way–including a 32 hour trek home from the rainforest.

Lima was about 68F, rainy and foggy. Cusco was a crisp and sunny 50F. Puerto Maldonado reached 96F with jungle humidity. And since this was an active trip with lots of hiking and exploring planned, I brought a little more than I normally would.

Inevitably on every trip, some of the things I want to bring get left behind. I have a large and a small packing cube (eBags Packing Cubes) and a small toiletry bag. When those are full, I’m done packing (even though I’ll squeeze a few more items in the bag, like a brush, a neck pillow and a small evening handbag).

Here’s what made the journey:

– 👖 4 pairs of pants. No jeans. They should be light and dry quickly. I like Prana brand. I also have plain black and brown pants with no zippers or buttons, so they don’t take up much room. And I added a pair of yoga pants to the mix.
– 👚 4 long sleeve Coolibar UPF 50 t-shirts. I like these because they are sun protective, can be dressed up and dry quickly.
– 🧦 4 pairs of socks
– 4 sets of undergarments (ex officio quick dry).
– 🧣 3 scarves (to dress up the long sleeve t-shirts)
– 👗 1 long sleeve dress
– 👒1 hat
– 👚1 short sleeve quick dry shirt and shorts set for the jungle or if I want to go for a run
– 1 sarong. I can’t live without my sarong when I’m on the road. It serves as a beach cover up and lounge wear. I can twist and tie it around my neck and add a pair of yoga pants for ultimate comfort.
– 🌂1 rain coat
– 👟1 pair of teevas (the cute ones that can be worn with dresses or active wear, not the ugly ones: Teva Women’s Northwater Sandal).
– 👛 1 small toiletry bag (including a 3 oz bottle of laundry detergent)
– 🕶 1 eye mask.
– 1 neck pillow. (This one is the greatest ever because it works really well and is flat for storage in your bag: Trtl Pillow).
– 📱1 iPhone
– 🤳 1 selfie stick (yup)
– 🎧 1 set of ear buds
– Univeral adapter and cords.

Wearing on plane: Black long sleeve t-shirt, black yoga pants. Lem’s Boulder Boots. Columbia fleece jacket (which doubles as a blanket on the plane and can easily be tied to the top of my backpack for transport when I’m not wearing it). Always wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane and travel days so that they don’t take up all the room in your bag.

Of course, I had more on my wishlist that didn’t fit: sun dress, one more outfit, another hat, kindle fire (my iPhone really has all I need for travel: e-books, audiobooks, notes app for writing, social media and photo apps, Uber, camera, apple wallet for boarding passes and Viator passes, TripIt).

The rest fit! I didn’t miss anything I didn’t bring. In fact, I usually find that I didn’t need everything that did fit.

We did a full load of laundry once during the trip to Peru—our Airbnb had a washer and dryer, so that made it convenient. At other times, we washed a few things in the sink when we were in the dry climate.

A lot of times, the things I’m able to pack for a week would do for months, as long as I can do laundry each week. I understand that some people don’t want to be bothered with laundry on vacation, but I’d much rather wash my clothes than lug around a suitcase.

Traveling with only a small backpack and a purse that both fit under the seat on the plane is liberating!

Light travel was especially important for this trip to Peru, as we had 8 flights (including connecting flights), two bus and boat trips, two train rides and numerous Uber/taxi trips.

For each flight, we checked in online, saved our boarding passes to our apple wallets and breezed through the airports.

On our last day, we traveled by boat and bus out of the jungle and then took two flights to Lima. In Lima, we had a 10 hour layover before our final two flights home. It was great not to lug a bunch of stuff!

~ LiAnn

Into the Dark

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I always find it hard to fall asleep. As an insomniac, I know all about the bumps in the night. Sometimes they frighten me. But at the same time, the night has always inspired and energized me. I love the sounds of the night creatures. As a teenager, I loved the feel of the cold morning dew on my bare feet when I snuck back into the house after a summer night out exploring the world while everyone else slept. The night was my time. I wasn’t trying to be bad by sneaking out, I just didn’t operate on the world’s schedule.

Even now, I am envious of those who sleep easily. I listen to their snores and wish I could simply close my eyes and drift off, too. But there is something about the night–only when everyone else is sleeping–that is so magical.

Tonight, especially, I feel that magic. I am at a lodge in the Amazon jungle. Although this lodge is very posh, it is also very open. There isn’t much privacy between neighboring rooms and one wall of our room opens completely into the jungle. It’s amazing! It’s also a bit difficult to adjust. I had to think of it as glamping at its finest.

The openness made it quite loud while everyone else was awake, but now as they all sleep, I am mesmerized by the calming sounds of the jungle. There are the usual cricket sounds and some unusual chimes and chirps–there are also occasional heavy foot falls and the sounds of rummaging mammals making their way through the trees. It’s all fascinating and also serene.

At the same time, it is frighteningly out of the ordinary. The electricity at the lodge turns off at 10 p.m., and I’m so freaked out by the total darkness. In my insomniac state, I lay here opening and closing my eyes repeatedly without seeing any difference. Totally cool! Totally scary! It reminds me of how overloaded our senses are on a 24/7 basis and how important it is sometimes to just shut everything down.

Although insomnia has its serious drawbacks, this jungle experience had reminded me of what I always loved about the wee hours of the morning when I was a wide-awake teenager and everyone else was sleeping–my senses were alive, there was magic in the air and the world was mine.

Tonight in the crazy and noisy amazon darkness, I feel that magic. I feel like the world is mine.

Refugio Amazonas

~ LiAnn

Finca Montania Sagrada on Valentine’s Day

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Not much of a Valentine’s Day celebrator, but when your new friends from Nicaragua, Italy, Germany, California and Austin welcome you to Ometepe with love, dance and drink .. and maybe even a flower or two, you celebrate. Much love ❤️

Finca Montania Sagrada
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
February 14, 2017