Inspiring Books for the Adventurous Soul

lifestyle, travel

 

There’s no shortage of media that inspires us to book a flight, pack our bags, and set off on our next adventure. Whether it be social media, a documentary, or your favorite TV show, we’re constantly presented with the benefits of travel. I’ve found that for me, one of the most inspiring outlets is books. Authors have a way of putting into words feelings that we encounter but can’t figure out how to describe. I find that to be incredibly fulfilling in the sense of travel and adventure, because there’s so much raw emotion associated with these experiences. Below are some of the books that have truly sparked a light within me to head off on my next trip. They discuss the power of persistence, the attainability of your own dream adventure, and the most fulfilling ways to take in our beautiful world.

I hope for this post to be a running list in the future as I keep turning pages. Books are an incredible way to to find meaningful connection in this world where we’re overwhelmed by stimulation. If you enjoy this list, have read any of these books, or have other recommendations please share and comment!

**For best results, read these books in a hammock, next to a fireplace, on a mountain, or with loved ones

The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho

This is on my list of all time favorite books. I read it at a point in my life where I was feeling kind of lost, and was surprised with the inspiration I felt while turning the pages of this classic. The book talks about everyone having a “Personal Legend,” which is a concept I really vibe with. It takes you through the journey of Santiago, who is craving direction to find his own hidden treasure. With a few bumps along the way, this book is a great reminder that the ups and downs of life always lead us to the experiences we were meant to have all along. This book got me excited to engage with this journey of life, and to always remember that the pursuit IS happiness. I remember when I read this book I talked about it for several weeks after. I ended up lending this book to a few different friends t

hat all loved it in different ways and for different reasons. Pick this book up and find your takeaway.

Trespassing Across America |Ken Ilgunas

“On a hike, you’re less of a job title and more of a human being. Our commute, our shift, our shows: how quickly does the routine- masquerading as life- block from our view the grand vistas of possibilities. A periodic hike not only stretches the limbs but also reminds us: wow, there’s a big old world out there.”

This book is the story of Ken Ilgunas, a brave storyteller that hikes the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. Picture the Pacific Crest Trail, but dangerous, illegal, and terrifying. A powerful non-fiction account of a guy trying to understand all sides of the story, Ilgunas drops himself into the heartland of America to prove a point. Instead of rejecting and expecting the worst of the supporters of the pipeline, he immerses himself into their culture to take a backseat and truly listen to their perspective. His findings are both heartbreaking and fascinating, as he quickly understands the stubborn mindset of many of the people he interacts with. He describes in great detail the beauty of the heartland of America, with surprising facts about the very small percentage of public land in this region. Greeted by thunderstorms, gunshots, and angry dogs, this story is quite the capture. The book successfully educates the reader about contemporary issues in environmentalism while telling a interesting story about this insane journey. This book is educationally inspirational and powerfully written, and getting lost in it is a great way to start making a difference in our delicate environment.

Wild | Cheryl Strayed

This book is a staple in the “inspiring” and “adventurous” categories. It has been praised as a New York Times bestseller and more importantly, made it on Oprah’s complete Book Club list.  This is a personal memoir of Cheryl Strayed, who felt terribly lost and boggled down by devastating personal challenges. With zero hiking experience, Cheryl naively prepares to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon by overpacking and under-training. Nevertheless, she continues on this gruesome journey to find herself, with some interesting bumps in the road. Within the story, you’ll find intertwined  flashbacks to her lifetime hardships to grasp the big picture. This book is an inspiring example of the power of perseverance, and makes the reader want to embark on a hearty adventure of their own. Strayed exemplifies the power of having an outlet and connecting with nature as a way to persist through hardships and find the beauty in the world. She has gone on to become a very successful writer, and I also highly recommend a great read that’s a compilation of advice column responses written by Strayed called Tiny Beautiful Things. 

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The Last Lecture |Randy Pausch

This is one of those books that really puts life into perspective. This is a hit non-fiction novel written by Randy Pausch who was a computer science professor at Carnegie-Mellon. When Randy was told he had three to six months to live due to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, he set out to present his last lecture on how to achieve your childhood dreams. The book describes in detail the process of his lecture in a way that makes you want to live purposefully, fully, and generously. It’s a great reminder of how precious life is and a great motivator to start pursuing your passions today. It made me start thinking about not just my childhood dreams, but what I want to do before I die, and this insight really got me into the idea of creating my own bucket list. This book was recommended to me by a special individual in my senior year of college. If you have kept up with my story at all, you most likely know about the leadership class that changed the way I view the world. This man came in as a guest lecturer, who had endured some serious hardships and spent many days outside the campus library talking to students and reading books. One of my classmates asked what book he would most recommend, and he said The Last Lecture. This style of lecture where an individual engages in a presentation of knowledge as if it was there own has become increasingly popular since this book was written. Pick up this book and see if it changes your life the way it changed mine.

1000 Days of Spring | Tomislav Perko

A few years ago when I was obsessively watching Ted Talks, I came upon one called How to Travel the World with Almost No Money. It was insightful and hilarious, and a few months later I was gifted the book “1000 Days of Spring” by the same fella. Tom is a very authentic and insightful writer that has a powerful way of connecting with the reader. In this book, he talks about this itch he has to leave his job at a smoothie bar in Croatia to see the world. The problem is, he has no money. He becomes a huge fan of couch surfing and eventually starts to document his adventures. His accounts are passed on to news outlets and he is supported worldwide for his minimalistic travel. Tom tells some incredible stories of his travels all over the world where he hitch-hikes, couch surfs, and relies on his new friends for his adventures in each new place.

“What truly mattered was the passion with which you approached and lived life: were you actually living it or were you just passing by, not having enough time for the details, the small things, the miracles. In that case, you were only a passive observer, instead of being the star of the movie.”

My favorite part about this book is how genuinely Tom describes the travel community, and the impact that travel can have on your life. He even leads a hitch-hiking competition that ends up being a great story. For a good adventure read and some inspiration for how to get around for cheap, check out this awesome book.

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The Happy Traveler | Jaime Kurtz

In an effort to be transparent, I feel as though this is the time to mention I have not read this book all the way through. However, my adventure partner in crime, Taylor, (@taylorcorcoats) has and happily agreed to write a summary for this post. The reason I felt so adamant about incorporating this book is that it was written by one of my college professors who doubles down as a positive psychologist passionate about travel. I learned a lot about travel and making the most of your experiences when I studied abroad with her in Denmark and Sweden.

Here it is:

Jaime Kurtz’s witty and insightful book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations is both entertaining and helpful for those of us wanderers looking to make the most of our travels. Her candid approach to revealing secrets about the who, what, when, where, and why of travel in order to create a happier you is everything the adventurous spirit needs before their next big trip.

As I read through, I found myself underlining tid-bits and dog-earing the pages. Not only is the book backed by science, it’s funny too. I could imagine Jaime, whom I studied abroad with in Scandinavia, sharing suggestions about how to spend my money, soak in the world (really, really soak it in), savor life’s moments by disconnecting, and even spend average days at home like a happy traveler. Although this book is more science based non-fiction than an inspiring story, it is a must read for an adventurous soul.

 

Cheers and happy reading!

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It’s Never too Late to Pick Up a Passion

adventure, featured, lifestyle

When I was younger, I had a really hard time answering the question, “what are some of your hobbies?”

I would say, being outside, spending time with friends…

… and then kind of got stuck there. I was never really good at drawing (although I certainly tried), painting, sculpting, or any of the things that were considered creative hobbies. I was always intrigued by photography, but never thought of myself as someone who would excel in it because it seemed too complicated. The only writing I did was essays for school and the only reading I did was to figure out how to write those essays. Although I was fairly active, I struggled to run more than a mile no matter how many times I got out there and tried. I had a difficult time touching my toes and my mind was always racing.

A few years ago, I decided to put intentionality behind everything I do. Time moves inescapably fast and I didn’t want to wait to try new things. I wanted to spend my time doing things I love that balanced out the things I don’t.

And now, years later, when I get asked that question, I can answer with confidence and a long list of hobbies. I decided one day last year that I enjoyed the emotional and physical reaction I had to a stunning photo so I would pick up a camera and just start taking photos. I decided I wanted to express my thoughts and support others by starting to write. I decided I would get past the mental barrier and found great peace in running. I decided to learn how to practice mindfulness and feel the benefits of yoga. Creatively expressing myself has become both an outlet and a source of great joy. But if you would have asked 6th grade me if these would be the things I would spend my free time doing? I probably would have laughed.

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But this hasn’t exactly been an easy process. I recently found myself in a tough spot, where I had to re-center why I started writing and creating in the first place. So I opened my journal and tried to gather my thoughts. I asked myself, quite literally, why I started writing. I realized no one had really ever asked me this question. I asked myself why I automatically thought that anyone would give a crap about what I had to say. I was never told I was an excellent writer in school, but I was never told I wasn’t. I realized one of my favorite things is when I’m reading something, whether it’s a blog post, a book, an article, or an instagram caption and the writer puts into words an emotion or feeling that I’ve felt intensely but never been able to describe. And I want to do that for other people.

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I also think words go well with pictures, and I really like taking pictures. I’ve had so many people inspire me through their words and pictures and I want to do that for other people too. I realized I was getting so caught up in how my writing or photos would “perform,” and trying to compete in this world of creatives and my passions were causing me more harm then good. So I re-centered. I re-focused. I wrote down why I started and what I hope to get out of these passions. And while I love the idea of being an inspiration for others, I realized this is about what these creative outlets do for me. I love this process. I love this journey.

In this technology-saturated world, it’s hard to imagine doing things for yourself. We’re conditioned to think that a like, a follow, a comment, defines the worth of what you put out there and ultimately yourself. And it’s the biggest struggle to battle that sensation. It can be so defeating. I heard in a presentation that the next generation cares about authenticity in advertising, and is also quite good at recognizing when authenticity is lacking. If people are literally craving authenticity, why is it so hard for us to put it out there?

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And among all that, I started working full time. It became a little more of an effort to do these things after a long day of work. I was intentional about listening to my body and mind about what I wanted to do with the rest of the day after work so these hobbies wouldn’t start to feel like a chore. But the little effort to get my hammock up or my running shoes on is always worth it.

The reason why I sat down to write this blog post is because the fire of these passions was lit quite recently. Most have been developed in the last year, and I’m 24 years old. If there’s something you are interested in, try it. We get caught up in growing older and don’t feel like we have time or energy or ability to try new things, but do it. You might just find yourself capable of much more than you could have ever imagined. As a result of working to find and nurture these passions, my goals and career aspirations have shifted. I love sharing my work with those around me and they’re always unconditionally supportive. But what I love more, is how my work makes me feel.

While I love a long hike, international travel, or a good road trip, if we live solely for the big adventures we’ll surely miss out on the little ones.

If there’s something you’ve wanted to try, do it. Get on the internet and search pottery classes near you, running clubs, trapeze lessons, poetry slams, or whatever it is that’s got you curious. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone. Try something new and do it for you.

Pass this along if it meant something to you, cheers!

Why My First Solo Hike was Terrible and Amazing all at Once

lifestyle, travel

I’ve been pretty lucky. Most of my close friends are really adventurous “yes” people. They’ll almost always take me up on plans to go hiking, kayaking, climbing etc., if they’re not already making those plans themselves. As a result, I’ve never really done the solo adventure thing. My first full day back in Fort Collins, Colorado I decided I was going to do my first solo hike. It sounded like a great way to kick off my upcoming year in this rad state, celebrate recently becoming an Adventure Enthusiasts ambassador, and get a good workout in to start my day.

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I wanted to pick a hike I had already done before and near where I live, so I chose to do the notoriously crowded Horsetooth Mountain hike. I woke up around 8:15 am, packed my bag with the usuals (ENO hammock, whatever book I’m reading, and my camera) and headed for the trailhead. When I got to the parking lot, I was happy to see it wasn’t too crowded. As I went to pay the entry fee, I noticed a warning sign on the window of the pay station that said “Rattlesnakes Live Here” and what to do in case you are bit.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a walking oxymoron. I absolutely love a good outdoor adventure but have a debilitating fear of snakes. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, when, or how this self-diagnosed phobia started, but seeing this sign before taking off on this hike was a rough way to start the experience.

Usually when I go on a hike with friends, they’re aware of the situation and (hopefully) know not to tell me if they see a snake. I operate much better with an “out of sight out of mind” approach to this problem and if I don’t see it, I usually won’t freak out. This was true until I started my first solo hike, when the fear that I would cross paths with a snake lingered with every step.

For someone who considers themselves pretty adventurous, I really struggled on this hike. I flinched at every noise I heard and movement I saw, trying to just keep moving forward. Before I started the hike, I figured I’d be walking near people the entire time since this hike is generally pretty crowded. Nope! Of course, the one day I choose to do this hike, taking each step with crippling fear, the trail feels completely empty.

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I was walking at a swift pace, trying hard to keep my eyes on the trail and not let my gaze wander into the tall grass where there was a higher likelihood of me seeing something that would put me over the edge. More often than not, I debated turning back. I thought to myself, “no one would know I didn’t do it,” and “I already got this far, and I know what it looks like at the top.” I kept moving through these thoughts, worrying that if I stopped the silence would reveal hissing or rattling.

As I got further towards the top, I passed several groups on their descent. When I approached other hikers, I always debated whether or not to ask them if they had seen a snake, terrified that the answer would be yes. I continued on, greeting passerbys and hoping to get to the top fast.

Although I didn’t rest much because I was too scared to stop for too long, I realized quickly that this fear was draining my energy. I trust the physical condition I’m in, and knew this experience was feeling much harder than it should have. I tried my best to focus on enjoying the experience, but it was tough. I struggled with the thought that if I had been with other people, this fear would have floated to the back of my mind. I felt defeated because there were some incredible trees to put up my hammock and enjoy the view, but I could not muster up the courage to walk through the tall grass off the trail to set it up.

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As I kept moving, the views became more and more beautiful. The trail was full of wildflowers that I hadn’t seen the last time I had done this hike, and I stayed distracted by enjoying these views.

I started to think about what I was enjoying most about this experience. It was nice to stop whenever I wanted. Sometimes when you’re hiking in a group with varying abilities, it’s hard to ask to stop if you’re tired or to not move at a faster pace if you’re feeling good while others aren’t. I was only in charge of keeping my pace and listening to my body without having to worry about disrupting others. While I was trying to stay distracted from thinking about snakes, I noticed smaller details that made the trail so beautiful. A good view after a certain turn, the wildflowers in several different colors, and much more. These are all things I could have easily overlooked had I been walking and talking with a partner.

When I got to the top, I felt like a ginormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. To the West, I could see Rocky Mountain National Park, to the North, Wyoming. There was a 360 degree view with an interesting thing to look at from every angle. I was one of two people at the top, the other who was also a woman solo-hiking. We acknowledged each other’s presence and each enjoyed our little victory.

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I’m grateful to have gone on some incredible hikes all over the country, but I felt a sense of accomplishment on this one that I hadn’t felt before. I had combatted this debilitating fear all the way to the top, and was now being rewarded with incredible views on a beautiful day. I spent a while at the top, enjoying the experience and being humbled by the view ;).

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On the way down, I passed two really nice guys and ended up making the hike down with them after disclosing how terrified I had been on the way up. They shared their fears, one of which was also snakes. I made it to the bottom feeling successful for both finishing the hike and not seeing any snakes.

I wanted to write about this experience to share that while someone might be adventurous, it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all humans battling our own fears in our own spaces, and it’s what you do with that fear that will make all the difference.

If this resonated with you, or you know someone who would benefit from a story like this, please feel free to pass it along.

 

Cheers!

Two Girls, One Car, Countless Views

lifestyle

The Planning Phase

Although sometimes it’s easier to execute than others, I like to take a semi “big” trip at least once a year. It helps me recharge, develop my passions, and does fantastic things for my bucket list. I started this unknowingly in the summer of 2015 and have had a meaningful adventure every summer since. These trips have been amazing, but we’re so used to putting on display the breathtaking photos and awesome experiences and undoubtedly sometimes make this feel like an unattainable process for those following along. I want to take the time to paint the big picture of this experience and hopefully help anyone craving this type of adventure along the way.

The most difficult parts of planning these trips is timing, people, and place. Through post-grad life, many of my friends have begun their careers and have been operating within the confines of the daunting PTO. This in itself is responsible for complicating both timing and people. In addition, I began this summer with uncertainty about my next move which complicated the process even more. Without knowing where I’d be working and when I needed to be there, weeks passed and my window of opportunity for this trip was quickly closing. My go-to travel partner, Taylor, had just graduated with her Master’s and paralleled my uncertainty of what’s next with the same thirst for adventure. We spent hours on google flights, playing with dates, places, and prices.  Things slowly began to settle into place as we locked down the window within which we could take the trip- about three weeks beginning in early June. We discussed with each other, friends, and family and decided to explore the upper West corner of the US, transition into Canada, and work our way down to Colorado. After discussions of who may or may not be joining and accepting the realization that this would be a low-budget trip, we finally locked down our flights just three days before taking off.

**Disclaimer: As I talk about trying to keep a low-budget, there’s just a few things I’d like to point out. First off, camping/backpacking gear is not cheap. There are certainly ways to attempt to get around it. I’ve known people to reach out to adventure companies asking for gear in exchange for good reviews or social media exposure. I also recommend becoming an REI member, because for a small price there are tons of benefits from member only sales to the dividend and more. Invest in quality gear instead of going for the cheap option, because in the long run it will work more effectively and last longer. Also, I want to debunk a myth I often hear. Camping is NOT always free. It’s generally much cheaper than a hotel/hostel/Airbnb, but almost every campground has some sort of fee to keep it running. And when it is free, you are often in a very primitive situation.

The nice thing about trips like this, that involve a lot of camping, driving, and overall simplistic living, is that a) it’s much easier to go with the flow when you don’t have a plane to catch or a reservation to get to and b) you’re really able to focus on the beauty of the Earth and if you see something that looks interesting, it’s easy to pull over and check it out. Although it’s a good feeling to have everything organized and reserved ahead of time when traveling, we saw some of the most incredible views and have the best memories from trusting the process and going with the flow.

The Doing Phase

When we left for Portland, we had a tentative plan to stay for two nights before heading up to Olympic National Park. We would spend a day exploring the city of Portland, and then head out the next day. Our plans changed when we caught this incredible golden hour view of Mount Hood from the plane.

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Mount Hood | Oregon

So as it turns out, we stayed an extra night in Portland to navigate the beautiful state that is Oregon. Now you might be thinking, how in the world do you just “stay an extra night in Portland?” Before leaving for this trip, Taylor and I had it very clear that as we both just finished up our Master’s degrees, we needed to be cost efficient wherever possible. And as Taylor is an Airbnb host in New York City, she had a woman stay in her apartment a few weeks prior who was from Portland. They exchanged contact info, and she had told Taylor that if she was ever in Portland to get in touch. So what did we do? We got in touch. After going back and forth through logistics, this woman allowed us to stay in her house in Portland for 3 nights for $50.  This just goes to show how being compassionate and following up on connections can really benefit you in the long run.

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Voodoo Donuts | Portland, Oregon

One of my favorite parts of traveling is the connection you make with this community of people passionate about exploring our beautiful earth. There is often an unspoken bond among travelers and it’s such a rewarding feeling to share your space with others and have them return the favor down the road.

So as we explored Oregon, I was excited to continue developing a passion for creating photographs. We visited Multnomah Falls, Trillium Lake, and made it to the coast of Oregon. I tried new things and got some incredible shots which kept me so excited and motivated for the rest of our trip. Overall, the first time straying off of our original plan was a great success.

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Mount Hood from Trillium Lake (upper) Multnomah Falls (lower) | Oregon

From there, we began our journey up to Olympic National Forest where we had no camping reservation set in stone. We’ve had mixed experience with this, so we tried something we had never tried before. We got online and found a campsite and were on our way. When we got there, we ended up at a better one we found a few miles from beautiful Lake Cushman. After a great conversation with the guy who checked us in, we ended up getting a discount and comfortably were able to set up camp among some of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. At this point in time, I was feeling pretty good about our impromptu spot. Although it’s such a cliché, there is a wonderful inner peace that comes from being in nature completely disconnected.

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Lake Cushman (upper) Skokomish Campground (lower) | Olympic National Forest 

We were able to drive though much of Washington on our way up to Olympic National Park and enjoy some incredible views all the way up to the park. This state is absolutely breathtaking, and if you haven’t made it there yet you absolutely should!

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Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park | Washington

Because we had stayed in Oregon a night longer than we had originally intended, we had to make up for it in a later part of our trip. That’s when we decided to drive through Seattle and stop for only a few hours before heading to our hostel in Vancouver. I’d like to take the time to point out the irony that we ventured to sunny Seattle to escape the DC rain…

Seattle was an awesome city. It was so full of life and we were only there for about 3-4 hours. I was happy we were able to check out the Starbucks reserve, as someone who nerds out about good coffee this place was truly incredible. If you like coffee (even if you hate Starbucks) and are ever in Seattle, you should absolutely check it out.

Our trip to Vancouver from Seattle was relatively short (2-3 hours). We crossed the border with no problem and made it just in time to watch the Caps take home the Stanley Cup #ALLCAPS! Vancouver is a beautiful city, and although it rained almost the entire time we were there, we really got a great feel of this incredible place.

After Vancouver, we took on the biggest stretch of driving yet, 9 hours to Banff National Park. The drive through Canada was absolutely beautiful. It’s amazing to think we have this incredibly breath-taking country attached to the US. Although we were both exhausted from the 4:30 am wake-up call in Vancouver, the views in Alberta gave us life! Up until now, all of our drives from one destination to another had been breathtaking and reminded me once again that the pursuit is happiness.

Unlike our pretty much empty campground in Olympic National Forest, this campground was full of big, rowdy groups. We had to work hard to find our peace at the campsite. It became very clear that Banff is a really hot international tourist destination, and this was only reinforced as we heard all sorts of different languages in our few days there. Banff was one of the most incredible national parks I have ever been to, but there were certainly times in which the touristy feel was hard to escape. We did some incredible hikes that isolated us from the thousands of people and were able to once again reconnect with nature. In order to combat this, I recommend getting up and out early in the day and going during the week.

My favorite hikes in Banff include:

The Inkpots Trail

This trail passes through several water falls in the Johnston Canyon, where I got one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken. We continued passed the Upper falls to the Inkpots which took us to one of the most unique views of the park that we had seen.

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Inkpots Trail |Banff National Park

Sulphur Mountain Trail

This is an interesting hike. There’s the option to take a Gondola to the top, or do the 6.2 mile round trip and as has been stated many times above, we were here for adventure (and to save money) so we started the 3.1 mile trek to the top. At first this hike was really disheartening… we saw the Gondola go up and down and it felt like we would NEVER make it to the top. When we finally did about an hour and a half later, we were absolutely beat. At the top, we were greeted by hundreds of people enjoying the view, coffee shop, restaurant, museum, and gift shop at the summit. We were able to find a spot to disconnect from the tourists, take in an incredible view, and be proud of the work we put in to enjoy it.

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View of Banff from Sulphur Mountain | Alberta, Canada

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Photo from the Rock pile at Moraine Lake | Banff National Park

Banff was an incredible experience, but we were excited to head South towards Montana to escape the tourists. I had made a reservation at a campground right outside of Glacier National Park, and when we were arrived we were a little hesitant. It was full of mosquitos, felt semi-deserted and we had a bad gut feeling. It appeared to be empty and we didn’t know how to go about finding our reservation when we couldn’t find anyone to talk to. So we drove around the campground for what felt like 30 minutes until we finally found the campsite with my name on it. Many of the campsites at this ground were right on a beautiful green river but ours wasn’t, so we set out to find the people in charge to change that.

We finally were able to get in touch with the campsite hosts, which were a couple with two young children and a dog named Bob. Being fully transparent, I’ll admit that when we first saw their RV we were worried they wouldn’t be very welcoming. It was a vibe we got from the way they were set up in combination with our initial reaction to the campground. We approached them and introduced ourselves, and asked if we could move campsites. They said they really weren’t supposed to let us, but that it would be okay to move to a campsite on the river. An hour or so later, they were doing their rounds at all the campsites and came to talk to us. They gave us great advice, suggestions, and were and overall blast to talk to. They had such a way of engaging in conversation that really made us feel that they were intrigued by us and our journey. In addition to that, they were such an inspiration. They were living a life of adventure as campground hosts and living so simplistically. Their children were simultaneously dirty and happy. They spent all day outside, growing within nature. I learned a lot from this family and will never forget our short stay in Montana. This experience reminded me to check my own biases as these people were incredible despite my initial reaction. We had a great few days in Montana.

Avalanche Lake (left) Lake McDonald (right) | Glacier National Park, Montana

It was in our original plans that our next stop would be to meet some friends in Yellowstone for the next three nights. The trek from Montana to Yellowstone was about 8.5 hours, and as our plans changed so did this number. In this change of plans, we would drive to Yellowstone, explore for an afternoon and stay a night, and drive down to Fort Collins to camp on the Poudre River the next day. We headed out of our wonderful campground in Montana towards Wyoming and this drive felt like forever. It began pouring rain, and with no campsite reservation we started to get nervous. Thoughts raced through my head, “I don’t want to set up camp in the rain.” “How are we supposed to make a campfire to cook our food in the rain.” “I’m honestly kind of tired of sleeping in a tent.” And from talking to Taylor, she was feeling the same way.

And to be perfectly honest, by the time we got to Yellowstone I was incredibly cranky. We had been on the road for 8 hours, and were told it would take at least 2.5 more to drive through the North entrance of Yellowstone to the South entrance where we were hoping we could find a cheap motel to stay. Getting nervous as the hours kept passing and we didn’t have a plan, we did our best to enjoy the weirdest National park I’ve ever to.

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Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming

We drove through the park with no cell service whatsoever. And this is great and inspiring and helps you connect with yourself and the Earth as I’ve mentioned many times before, but its a daunting situation when the sun is going down and you don’t have a place to sleep. We kept the environment light, we were listening to great music and laughing and feeling so present. Unexpectedly, we realized that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National park are pretty much overlapping and we ended up driving through Grand Teton although that was never on the original itinerary. In hindsight, I’m so grateful for the way things worked out although we were slightly terrified at the time. We got to drive through an incredible view of the park at golden hour and I captured some incredible shots. We felt so at ease that the fear of finding a place to sleep was distant.

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Eventually, after trying embarassingly hard to see a bear and 12 hours on the road we made it to Jackson, Wyoming. We were hoping to find a really cheap motel for the night, but as we started calling and stopping into places we realized cheap was not going to happen. It was getting late, and we reached a hotel that told us that there was no place in town that would be less than $200, if that (including the motel 6). As we were reaching the end of our trip, this was an unexpected expense that was not in our original budget. Knowing it was our only choice, we bit the bullet and appreciated the f*** out of sleeping in a real bed and taking a real shower. At the end of the day, it was more than worth it.

The next day, feeling reenergized from the night in the hotel, we made our way to Fort Collins to officially end the trip at Odell Brewing company with some great friends to reflect on our adventure.

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The Reflecting Phase

After I finish a trip, I like to take time to really reflect on each day and experience. Although you might go into the trip with a plan and expectations, it almost never goes exactly the way you thought it would. And it didn’t, and for that I’m grateful. As I reflect on this experience, I am so content with how much my passion and ability for photography has been enhanced. I’ve learned so much, and I really feel like it’s beginning to click. We tried new camping tricks and were able to expand our meals from just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were vulnerable and leaned into any discomfort we were feeling that made for an honest and wholesome adventure.

My advice for anyone who wants to take a trip like this is start. Start by writing down potential places you want to go, and doing research about what to do when you’re there. Talk to people. I have been on several trips with people that I barely know and are now my best friends, from conversations that started about wanting to travel. And with that, lean into discomfort, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Trust yourself and be flexible and open to new experiences. These big adventures make up some of the happiest and most fulfilling memories I have and I couldn’t have done it without taking those steps.

If you know anyone that might enjoy this post or would like to follow along, please feel free to share.

*All photos posted taken either on iPhone or Nikon D3400 35 mm*

Cheers!

The Intentional Use of Social Media

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Social media is an undeniably prominent part of our lives. Whether we’re using it for personal or professional reasons, it’s an ever evolving platform for expression. Sometimes it can be a source of inspiration- other times a source of anxiety, and the comparison can be debilitating. At some point in the last few years I decided I was going to be intentional about my use of social media to avoid those negative experiences. I remember a few times where I laid mindlessly clicking through Snapchat and felt absolutely awful about the amount of time I had wasted. Although I’m not incredibly religious, I took lent as an opportunity to distant myself from Snapchat and really reflect on what social media means to me.

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So what does social media mean to me?

Taking the time to really introspect about what exactly I want to give and get out of social media has helped me hold an important balance. I’ve learned to look at social media as a tool for inspiration to help me grow in unique ways. When I say social media, I’m mostly talking about Instagram, Facebook, and blogs. I use each platform for different goals and being clear and honest with myself about these goals has helped me engage with each in a meaningful way. Instagram is a way for me to get inspiration from people following their dreams, photography, and travel. Facebook is a way for me to stay up to date with friends and stay in the loop about interesting events going on around me (and watch cute dog videos). I use blogs as a way to learn; either about how to become a better blogger, tips for traveling, or photography.

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I’m also critical of what I put out on social media- and when. As someone who is incredibly passionate about travel, the outdoors, hiking, etc. it’s been an important part of my journey to reflect on when to capture the moment, and when to just enjoy it. I’ve also tried to focus on the realness of adventure, because sometimes we portray this perfect lifestyle that is neither realistic or attainable. Traveling is hard. It often requires being awake at absurd hours, and is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, and these aspects are very rarely displayed on social media. I find myself connecting with those who portray the realness of these experiences on a much deeper level than those who don’t. Filling my feed with people who are chasing their dreams keeps me engaged and motivated, and it has been an incredibly helpful tool on my life journey. I’m purposeful about finding inspiration wherever I can in each day, and being able to share that with anyone willing to listen is an awesome thing. If one person is inspired along the way, I feel incredibly accomplished. I don’t want to convince anyone that the way they are doing it is wrong, because we are all unique.

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This picture was taken in a dirt parking lot in Santorini, just minutes after leaving an incredibly luxurious hotel we decided to splurge on for the night

I feel so engaged with the people I follow that constantly inspire me. Whether they are following their dreams, on a path I’d like to be on, taking amazing pictures or some combination of each, I can always count on feeling inspired by these people, whether they know it or not.

Here are some of the people that continue to inspire me (and you should check them out):

@Justwavyj

@bennemtin

@everchanginghorizon

@byhopemarie

@travisburkephotography

@world_nate

@MJx

@chelseakauai

@intrepidintrovert

As always, if this post resonated with you or you know someone who would enjoy, please share!

Cheers!

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The Power of the Bucket List

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The bucket list- the list of all the things you want to do before you die. How many of us really take the time to think about it? How many of us intentionally create this list and refer to it? I do. It’s a powerful tool for me and has given my life so much purpose and meaning.

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I truly began to create and write down my bucket list my senior year of college. I was stuck with this constant, awful feeling that time was moving too fast and the best four years of my life were slipping through my fingers. I got caught up in trying to slow time down, and since (duh Maria!) that’s not possible, it only led to more disappointment. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have been selected to be in a leadership class with some of the most amazing people I know to this day. Because you had to be a senior to be a part of the experience, everyone else felt like I did and we were given a space to discuss, grow from, and share this feeling.  Through these discussions and my own personal reflection, I realized there was nothing I could do to stop time. I could wish and hope and fight it as much as I wanted, but the days continued to fly by.

During this time I started practicing intentionality. I looked for meaning in every day, realizing that we can’t only live for the big stuff because there’s so much little stuff that can bring us joy too. I began to enjoy walking around campus to class and being mindful of the things that made me happy. If it was the weather, a cute dog, a good song in my headphones, I truly took the time to enjoy it. Once I started to get better at this practice, I realized that as my days felt more joyful I felt as though I was truly making the most of the time I had left and I quickly became okay with how quickly it was passing. I made it a point to say yes to plans that came up and really cherish the time I had left with some of my best friends. Although there were still times where it was incredibly difficult to come to terms with what I felt was going to be the end of the best four years of my life, the intentionality behind creating those experiences has left me with some of my favorite memories. I’ve also been able to reflect on those incredible times while working to make the years following the next best four, and so on. I remember learning in one of my Psychology courses how having something to look forward had a big impact on our happiness, so after an invigorating conversation about passions and dreams in my leadership experience I made my bucket list.

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Without thinking, I wrote down everything I could remember I ever wanted to do. From really really big things, like put my hammock up on every continent or meet Ellen Degeneres (if anyone reading this has any connections… let me know), to really small things like see the Lumineers in concert or take a photography class I scribbled it all down. If you’ve ever heard someone say that when you write goals down you’re more likely to accomplish them, this is the perfect example. When I have an itch to do something or when I’m planning my next trip, I can always refer to my bucket list for perfectly concrete ideas.

Since writing it down, I’ve gone skydiving….

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backpacked the Grand Canyon…

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traveled Europe…

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moved to Colorado…

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and much, much more!

Some of the most incredible experiences of my entire life have come from my bucket list. It’s a life tool that keeps me excited to be alive, and excited for what’s to come. If you haven’t made a bucket list, or if it’s only in the mental stages, I highly recommend creating one and/or writing one down. It’s your personal experience and you can adjust it as often as you’d like. Be honest with yourself about the things you want to do and get out there and do them! If you know anyone that could benefit from my experiences, please share!

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Cheers!

How to Make a Big Move

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Something I hear constantly in conversation with people my age, is that we’re young and have our whole lives ahead of us. It’s continuously engrained into our minds that now is the time to live, I mean REALLY live, but many of us are stuck on how to make fulfilling changes. Whether you’re unhappy with your job, where you live, your situation, or if you just feel like it’s time to shake things up and create new experiences, the thought of picking up and changing environments can be incredibly daunting.

I recently just moved from a small town in Illinois to Fort Collins, Colorado, while my family lives in Maryland. Although I enjoyed my time in Illinois, I’ve always been hungry for adventure and drawn to the outdoors which fueled my transition from corn fields to mountains. Although I’m just a few days in, I wanted to create a blog post to help anyone begin to process to make a change they too have been yearning for.

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1. Identify your Reason for Wanting a Change

Making a significant effort to understand WHY you are looking to make a big move is an essential part of a successful transition. In addition, it’ll help you decide where to go that will help satisfy whatever it is you are missing.

I decided to come to Colorado because I realized in Illinois that I was really missing mountain views everywhere I looked. This past summer I took a trip to Colorado and surrounding states with friends, and saw some breathtaking views. Views unlike anything I had ever seen. I was amazed with how kind, environmentally friendly, and active the majority of people were and it was a lifestyle I could really picture myself in.

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2. Create (don’t wait for) the Opportunity

The biggest thing you hear from people who want to make a change but haven’t, is that they’re waiting for the right opportunity. The truth is, this opportunity likely won’t be presented to you in bold letters on a silver platter. Depending on what you come up with after step #1, you’ll need to create the opportunity yourself. Start by doing research about where you want to go, and if possible take a trip there. Feel it out, see if in fact it is for you, and from there start to make concrete moves like scoping out a job, activities, and/or a place to live.

In order to complete my Master’s degree, I need to complete an internship that can be done anywhere I choose so long as it fits the internship requirements. I took this as a perfect opportunity to make a move to Colorado.

3. Look for Roommates with Similar Interests to Yours

This isn’t always possible, but if it is definitely stress it. Chances are, you’re moving somewhere where you know few to no people, so finding living mates that you could see yourself getting along with is a great way to find your first friend(s). From there, you will learn about the city you’ve moved to and have someone to try new things with, which can substantially ease the process.

After some issues with housing I ended up on an emergency house search when I got to FoCo and saw several different options of places to live. In the end, I made a decision based on the roommates in the house in hopes of being able to make a friend or two that would create opportunities for me to get the most out of my experience here. So far, so good!

4. If possible, have someone go with you to make the move. 

I realize that this can be a stretch, but if you can make this happen do it. It’s so much easier to overcome obstacles and enjoy the journey with someone you care about along for the ride. However if you can’t have someone, make sure you actively seek out a support system to help you with the transition, because while it’ll be beautiful it sure won’t be easy.

I was lucky enough that my mom was all about coming on the journey with me, and she really helped me make the most out of the 25 hour trip. She always kept me laughing and enjoying myself which made the process a little less scary.

5. Things will go wrong, it’s all about your attitude. 

“It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about what you do with what happens to you.” This is a quote I wholeheartedly stand by. Life is going to come at you whether you’re ready or not, and it’s important to be purposeful in how you react to obstacles. See it as a challenge, and take it head on. When something goes wrong, take the time to process it, acknowledge it, and move the f*** on. In the end, it’s all part of your story.

On the end of the first day of our road trip, I received a text message saying the house I was moving into had completely flooded and was not going to be repaired by the time I got there. The next day, we drove three hours before I realized I had left my laptop in the hotel. We had to turn back, and that day we lost 6 hours of precious time. When I got my laptop, as I was reaching to put it in the back of the car, I hit my mom square in the eye with the corner of it. 5 minutes later, all we could do was laugh. It was an absolutely ridiculously long day, but in the end it’s just memories of that time I picked up and moved to Colorado.

By the time we got to Fort Collins, Colorado we were absolutely exhausted. As soon as we saw mountains we felt better and instantly began exploring this beautiful, vibrant city. I know the next few months won’t always be easy, but will they be worth it? Absolutely.
If anyone you know is looking to make a big change but doesn’t know where to start, please share!

 

Cheers

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P.S. The photography thing is really fun.

 

Two Roads Diverged…

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If you have followed my story at all, you know that I have been lucky enough to be a part of a family that yearns for adventure. Not just taking trips, but pushing boundaries in a way that’s thrilling and eventful. These journeys are often incredibly humbling.

We recently took a day trip through the mountains of Colombia in our 1946 Jeep Willys. The journey was what you would consider “off the beaten path.” Several times, the car got stuck in deep trenches and it took everything in us to get it out.

We encountered little to no cars along our journey, but we did encounter very small living spaces. Mind you, these roads were tough to manage for our Jeep that’s meant for this terrain, so it’s tough to think about the getting to and from these houses into civilization. We enjoyed so many incredible views and the journey was incredibly humbling. When we live in a fast paced world full of technology, convenience, and everything we need at our finger tips, we seldom stop to think about those who don’t enjoy the same luxuries. And although many of these people are perfectly content with their situations, it’s empowering to empathize with them in order to gain a holistic perspective on the world.

To wrap up the journey, we spent about three hours in the dark, rain pouring, with no windows or doors on our car. The trip was exhausting as it took every muscle in me to keep from being thrown out of the car.  However everyone was too content with the unique adventure we experienced to be too concerned, and I fell asleep that night joyed knowing that I pushed my limits to live my dash.

Cheers!

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Live your dash

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I once attended a conference where I heard a powerful poem entitled The Dash. It goes like this:

The Dash

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?-

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I was incredibly impacted by this poem and it instantly shifted my perspective on life. I knew from then that I wanted to live my life investing in my ‘dash.’ This means actively investing in my interests and ideas, while creating a positive impact on the world around me. I’ve always been fascinated by photography, and have recently decided to jump in. Photography and travel exist in great harmony and I’m excited to pursue an interest I’ve had for some time now. If you or anyone you know could benefit from this little inspiration, feel free to share!

Cheers!

Let’s get started…

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Traveling is something that’s been engrained as a value in my family from a young age. Right next to honesty, respect, and responsibility, I was always taught the importance of experiencing culture.

I was born in Colombia, so my journey to the United States was my first out of the country trip. From there we traveled back and forth several times. My first time to Europe was to Madrid, Spain, on a family vacation. At that age museums and tours were not only unbearably boring, but they were how I defined “traveling.”

During my college career, I had the opportunity to push my boundaries of traveling past a family vacation. After my first solo trip on a Study Abroad to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, I was bit by the travel bug and began itching for more. After my undergraduate graduation, I backpacked Europe for about 2 months and really began to understand my love for the world.

Although I saw some incredible places and was immersed in beautiful cultures, I began to realize the humility of what it means to travel. Sure, enjoying a cup of coffee in an Italian villa and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea off the edge of Santorini was great, but what the pictures don’t show is how humble traveling can make you feel.

When I decided I wanted to begin this blog, getting started was tough. How was I going to separate myself from the hundreds of people blogging their incredible adventures all over the world? I took the time to think about traveling as a holistic entity and decided I wanted to paint the story far beyond the incredible views. Because it’s not always a pretty journey, and you will meet people that have faced significant hardships in a way that will sit you down and reassess yourself. Travel is a powerful force and I believe that this humility is what truly brings together the people passionate about embarking on these humble journeys. I want to portray the entire picture- the beautiful views, but also the incredibly powerful experience that is to travel.

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