U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

I’m a West Coast girl through and through. I love the Pacific Ocean, living in a mountain surrounded city, and celebrating random Scandinavian holidays. But I’m also a huge advocate for exploring your own country. I’ve been to 42 U.S. states, and I’ll definitely be visiting all 50. In the meantime, I’ve started this series to explore other cities I think you should know about. You may have caught my last post about Richmond, Virginia. Today, I’m talking about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

History

One of the most interesting parts about Pittsburgh is its history of rebellions. Just reading about them made me want to write 10 historical fiction novels. Here are just a few facts:

Whiskey Rebellion: This ain’t no Boston Tea Party, but it’s a great example of how important alcohol was. In 1791, taxes were raised on whiskey to offset the debt from The Revolutionary War. Needless to say, peeps weren’t so happy to see their whiskey targeted by higher taxes, so they fought back. Ultimately, 500 farmers marched against the government, and George Washington himself headed over to calm them down. This rebellion is a defining factor in establishing U.S. political parties.

City of Steel: Starting in the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known for American manufacturing, including the production of iron, brass, tin, and glass. But what really sets Pittsburgh apart is the steel industry, which began in 1875.

Pittsburgh Railway Riots: Right on the tail of steel production were the Pittsburgh Railway Riots. They were a result of the government once again trying to offset debts from the Civil War. These riots were pretty rough, with burning buildings and dead people, but they started planting ideas for the workers’ unions of the future.

Cool Things to Do

As a pretty sassy city in its own right, there are some pretty cool things to do in Pittsburgh. Some of the coolest include:

Andy Warhol Museum: Ready for a splash of culture? The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the largest collection of the artist’s works, and it’s an absolute must if you’re in the area. The museum has everything from saturated prints to hands-on art creation techniques that you can try. Don’t miss out!

Robot Hall of Fame: If you’re geeky like me, then you’ll definitely want this one to be on your radar. It’s located in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld section and home to all types of robots, including C-3PO, Gort, and WALL-E.

Canton Avenue: Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in America? Honestly, since I’m from Seattle, this looks pretty normal. If you want to get a serious workout, then this just might be the spot for you.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pittsburgh, try an adorable Airbnb. If you’re in more of a hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Pittsburgh to find amazing spots like the Renaissance Pittsburgh. It was lifted stone by marble stone in 1906, before the invention of the crane. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Bernalillo, New Mexico

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

Usually I’m not a fan of heat. There’s a reason I’ve been to 42 states, leaving the eight states with some of the highest temperatures in the nation for last. Since it’s my goal to go to all 50 states, I’ll admit that I’ve been scoping some spots to see while I’m there. During this series I’ve talked about Richmond, Virginia and today, for that Southwest vibe, I’m highlighting the little town of Southwestern spice: Bernalillo, New Mexico, which is located just outside of Albuquerque.

History

Kiva Painting. Image via Wikimedia via Unknown

This little part of New Mexico has a history that dates back 1,000 years. It’s known as the historical center of the state of New Mexico, possibly because most of this state is a desert, so there isn’t much competition. Over the years, the town has hosted archeological digs that produced kiva murals, some which are considered to be the best examples of Pre-Columbian art ever to be found in North America.

During the 16th century, conquistadors scoured what is now New Mexico for the Seven Cities of Gold, which straight up sounds like something from “Indiana Jones.” The Coronado Monument commemorates the journey of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, who camped near Bernalillo during his expedition to find the golden cities. The good news is that he made some great maps during his trip. The bad is that he was almost killed for failing to bring back gold. Oops.

Cool Things to Do

Since it’s a small town, you might not think that Bernalillo has a whole lot to offer. However, you might be surprised at how many quirky tricks it has up its sleeve. Try out the following fun stops when you’re in town.

Ghost Stories

I’m the type of person who can’t handle visiting any kind of scary place. But I do love myths, legends, and scary stories, as long as they’re told with the lights turned on. Bernalillo has quite a list of scary stories, most focused on the Santa Ana Star Casino. The workers there have claimed everything from hearing children laugh to feeling a presence in the room with them. Rumor has it that there was once a graveyard located where the casino is now standing. For a comprehensive list of haunted locations in this area, you can check out hauntedplaces.org.

Commune With Nature

Seattleites love nature more than life, so Bernalillo is a great spot for us to venture. Since Bernalillo is about 15 minutes outside of Albuquerque, it’s far enough away from the city that you can easily access the Rio Grande and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Bernalillo, try finding a rustic place to stay. If you’re more in the hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Bernalillo to find amazing spots for cheaper than you might think.

Wherever you choose to stay, hopefully I’ll see you out amongst the cacti. I’ll be the one hugging an ice block.

Why You Should Stop Waiting To Be Happy

When I was in fourth grade I learned the meaning of my name.
My little introvert self was at sleep-away camp, which I distinctly remember hating because I was constantly surrounded by other girls. Well…I loved camp, I just hated the giggly-socialness of pre-teen girls 24/7.

One day, while I was in the camp snack shack, I found a little bookmark that I fell in love with. On the front there was this magnificent floral design (let me tell you how much I love floral designs) and my name, on the top there was a pink braided string, and on the back there was a bible verse. The verse was Proverbs 30:31 and the definition said this:

Emily: “Diligent one.” One who strives. One who is eager to succeed. 

I was pretty happy to find out I was given a strong name. To this day I’m a huge fan of name meanings and giving kids names with a legacy they can grow into. I guess my mom did a pretty good job because I felt like someone had just told me I was actually Wonder Woman. I bought the bookmark from the little shop and kept it in various books for probably close to a decade. Ever since, I’ve done my best to live up to it.

One slight problem. Constantly striving is great for the short-term, but how do you make this into a sustainable lifestyle? How do you keep pressing forward to the next big thing, without having a mental breakdown?

Simple: Find balance.

Not simple: I’m not naturally gifted with the ability to enjoy life.

I know, I know, that doesn’t seem to make sense. But, bear with me. See, I’m a fighter. And while that’s great (sometimes), it also means I’m hot-headed and impulsive and I’ll take a swing even when life is trying to help me. It’s a family curse: mistaking turmoil, for authenticity.

I come from a very hard working family, and it’s a lot to live up to. We were raised being constantly reminded of our family name. It meant something. It still does. Most importantly, we were constantly reminded so we would aspire beyond the limitations of past generations.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a blog post about not working hard, because I do and I advocate for others to do so as well. BUT. Lately, I’ve been challenged to learn another lesson: How to be kind to myself. Maybe this sounds too full of fluff for you, and maybe you’re like “What does this even have to do with a travel blog!?” but I think it’s really important that you all understand that the girl behind the keyboard is a mess under construction, as much as she is a world traveller and general bad-ass (your words, not mine).

I push myself really hard. And sometimes that’s great, because feeling like you’re moving forward is one of the best feelings in the world. But what if you’re moving forward in the wrong direction? Over the past six months I’ve had to make some really huge decisions and I’ve had to let some really important things in my life go. We’re talking foundation pillars being pulled out of the life I thought I was building. It was rough, and took a lot of tears and prayer to make the decisions.

But here’s the thing. As cliché as it might sound, letting go of those things has allowed my life to be filled with so much more substance. More laughter. More opportunities. More love. More books. More Art. More friendship. Just more.

I’ve always been the type of girl who likes to have a plan. But in the past six months I’ve been challenged to walk by faith, and faith alone. We’re talking, I had no back-up plan. Just the conviction of my heart and a million and a half prayers into my pillow at night. Something please work out. 

And it did. And I can honestly say I’m happier today than I’ve been for over two years. The future is looking bright, I’m regaining the use of my right arm (#crylaughsmile) and I have some absolutely awesome things to share with you guys in the near future.

We’re gonna be okay. Listen to that little voice that tells you what you really should be doing. Chase happiness, and most of all: be kind to yourself. I’ll be here to cheer you on.

Tea Talk 1: Jessica | Travel Blogger, Artist

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Welcome to the very first “Tea Talk”! I’m so excited to introduce you, twice a month, to inspirational women who share my passion for travel. From artists to bloggers to moms to videographers, these posts are meant to highlight the lives of women who dared to strike out and explore the world around them. If you feel inspired, share this post with your friends!

First up: Jessica.

Jessica and I met while working at a childcare center a couple years ago and found common ground around the issues of feminism, social justice and teaching kids the rules of consent. Having worked in childcare for the past 4 years, I’ve always found it interesting how many childcare workers are simultaneously world travelers (whether they know it yet, or not). Last year Jessica set out on a solo adventure around southeast Asia. An epic journey that left her with buckets of stories to tell, and me without her as a roommate (#shameonyou). But now that she’s back, I couldn’t be more proud of her exploits, and adventures. Be sure to check out her blog where you can find stories, travel tips and art!

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What started your passion for traveling?

I have always been a huge book nerd ever since I can remember, and it wasn’t until high school that I really started thinking, “Hey, I could actually visit some of these places one day.” The more I read, the more the wanderlust started to take hold. I began reading more biographies and memoirs and dreaming about place outside of Washington State. I just knew I needed to see as much of the world as I can.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

Give yourself freedom. In that, I mean don’t schedule everything out to a T. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and if you budget in a little flexibility, it usually ends up being okay. Or, you may get to a place that you absolutely love and want to stay longer than planned. If you get so wrapped up in the little pieces, you are more likely to be disappointed when things don’t go exactly “right”.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

This is probably less of a cultural habit and more of a “travel habit” but I care a lot less about how I look now. After trekking around in all kinds of weather, meeting strangers you are not likely to see again, it is easy to forget about makeup, smooth hair, and put-together outfits. Now I hardly ever wear makeup at all (my last trip I didn’t bring any with me) and I let my curly hair go free.

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What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about solo traveling?

Trust yourself. I think one of the biggest things holding women back from traveling solo is fear: fear of getting hurt, getting lost, or worse. In reality, those things can happen in any part of the world. What makes the difference is that you are going to a new place, so it’s expected that you will feel less confident and prepared than you usually do back home. If you carry yourself with pride and trust in your own strength and abilities, you won’t have time to be scared and paranoid. Solo travel is such a great experience because this can be a great way for women to realize their strengths and how capable they are.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

When I traveled solo for the first time, I tried to make friends with as many people as I could right away. I think it was my own insecurity about being alone and unprepared. I quickly got a reminder that I am not that person – I am an introvert who likes her “Me Time”. I met great people along the way, but I couldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I started feeling burned out from trying to be a socialite party animal fashionista. I decided to stick with a few people I got close to and skip the daily bar crawls.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Best: the freedom to do what you want, where, when, and how you want. I like being my own boss lady.

Worst: Getting tired and/or sick without your mommy or best friend to take care of you L

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

On my last trip I tried rock climbing for the first time. I am TERRIFIED of heights. I just sucked it up and did it. Now I love it.

What is your favorite way to travel and why?

I love traveling by boat. I think it is because I grew up on two islands and have always lived closed to the ocean. I love being on the sea. It’s is calming and usually not as crowed at a bus or a plane.

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What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Be patient. Good things will come.

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

Morocco

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing?

The next country I am likely going to is Nepal. Otherwise, I hope to go on a longer backpacking trip through South America once I save up enough money. For now, I have a few connections in Nepal and really want to explore more of Asia.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?

When I was in high school I planned on taking my first trip to Thailand, but was unable to because my grandma passed away (she was going to pay for the trip). I went on my first trip to Thailand in memory of her.20170127_092943
Want to learn more about Jessica’s adventures? Hop over to her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram!
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Why Moana is the Anthem for Every Travel Girl

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A couple of weeks ago I saw Disney’s newest film, Moana. There were a few problems I had with the overall story structure but the music was just about flawless. Shout out to Lin-Manuel Miranda! One of the best parts of this movie is how empowering the songs Moana (and her grandma) sing. As a woman who travels, I know how hard it is to find support to go “beyond the horizon.” And while I may not live in a small village, and I’m not a chief’s daughter (clarified in the movie as NOT a princess *Pocahontas rolls her eyes* ) the stigma about leaving home is still very real.

One of my favorite songs in the movie comes when Moana finds herself hopelessly lost and defeated, despite her braveness and tenacity. She didn’t get it right on the first try…or even the second time.  I think this is a really powerful lesson for girls who want to strike out on their own, regardless of whether it’s through travel or not. You’re not going to magically get it right. Even with magical help, Moana doesn’t get it right. Here’s my takeaway from how one of her songs should be the anthem for every girl who travels.

(Gramma Tala): I know a girl from an island
She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people
She makes her whole family proud

The first stanza of this song is beautiful. Her grandma reminds her that she is loved and affirms that her family is proud of her, despite her own feelings of inadequacy. This whole song had me on the brink of tears, but the beginning is especially poignant because it’s not often enough that women from older generations speak identity over the younger ones. Women, rise up. Stop complaining about the younger spoiled millennials and start speaking to the generations younger than you, no matter your age. They need to hear affirmation. You might be the only voice giving it to them.

Sometimes the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just
Where you are

Scars are okay. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to fail. It’s through these obstacles and failures that you discover not only who you are, but what you want. You are made stronger by your “weaknesses” because once you challenge yourself you can find ways to overcome them. It took me so long to realize that being hurt, being disappointed and being found lacking was actually one of the best things that could happen. When you’re living in another country and you ‘just can’t’, you start to realize how strong you really are, by pressing forward anyway.

The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on Earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper
Moana, you’ve come so far
Moana, listen
Do you know who you are?

Every woman needs to be asked this question, “Who are you?” One of my life changing moments came when an older lady asked me that at a local market. I started to tell her what I did for my job (at the time I was a nanny) and she stopped me asking, “But is that what you want to do with your life?” The answer was no. And so she told me to start defining myself by what I longed to do. I am a writer. I am an artist. I am an advocate. This is who I am.

(Moana): Who am I?
I am the girl who loves my island
I’m the girl who loves the sea
It calls me

Here’s we go! This is the part where I almost pulled a Shia Lebouf and stood up clapping. Moana is questioning herself and what she feels called to the whole first part of the movie but when she takes some time to reflect she realizes who she really is. I’m not crying – you are.

I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me

Okay, so now shit (sorry, mom) gets real. Not only is Moana claiming who she is, in this part, but she’s claiming what she’s done. Not only what she’s done, but that it has value. Impostor syndrome is a very real part of American culture, for women. We feel like even if we accomplish something it’s because we were “lucky” or “the stars just aligned” we don’t claim that we fought and clung and crawled our way to get there. That’s not right. And also not healthy. CLAIM your victories – you have journeyed farther! You are so much more!

And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me
It’s like the tide, always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You’ll remind me
That come what may, I know the way
I am Moana!

Throw the confetti! Light the fireworks! She won! She hasn’t even made it to her “foe” in the movie and she’s already won! Why? Because she gets it, now. It wasn’t ever about needing to travel across the sea (although that is a big part of her identity). She realizes that her strength comes from within and the love of her family (her grandma’s spirit) is something that she always has to hold onto. The physical journey was only one part of her transformation and overcoming. SHE DID IT! And so can you.

And now, this is me:

Here’s the full song, in case you want to re-listen:

10 Ways I Save Money and Travel More

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Saving money has always been a hobby for me. It really does feel more like a game, at this point. How much can I save? How far can I stretch one amount? This is not because I have to, but because I love being able to do twice as much with what I have. Not only do I think that it’s fun, but I also think it’s important to be a good steward of your money, in general. During the holidays this can get a bit tricky, but here are some of my ideas for saving a little extra cash so you can travel more!

1. Popping Tags


I have a degree in fashion design. That being said, I love expensive clothing (or well made clothing, which is usually very expensive). I love well made fibers and fabrics and leather boots are my weakness. I know that clothes are important to my psyche, so I make room for them in my budget. But there’s a catch. First off, if I want to go shopping for clothes, I have to sell clothes to Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. This way I’m not only buying new clothes at a discount price, but I’m also cleaning out my closet and using credit to reduce how much I’m spending even more. There are also apps that do this, so don’t panic if you don’t have a store near you. The best part of this system is that I end up paying 1/10 of the price for designer clothing.


2. Discount Tickets

I grew up doing theater and I’ve always loved the stage (whether I’m on it or not). That being said, paying to see theatrical performances can feel like cutting a hole in your bank account and watching it drain. But I NEED theater, so I’ve found a few ways around the system. I usually go to previews or first performances (which can be based off of a “donate what you can” system) or I buy my tickets through GoldStar which is a discount site for just about everything in your area. I’ve literally paid $6 for a performance, before. Some aren’t quite that discounted but it does save a whole ton of money, especially for date nights.


3. Volunteer

I am hugely into volunteering. I grew up volunteering basically every weekend and I think it’s so important to give back to causes that you’re passionate about. For me, this includes some local venues that promote the arts. In exchange for volunteering I get free access to the performances and I’ve even been able to catch one by the amazing spoken word artist and poet, Sarah Kay.


4. Buy And Cook In Bulk

I have a bit of a dietary advantage because I’m allergic to pretty much everything expensive (cheese, dairy, alcohol) but I still keep an eye on how much I spend on food. Not only do I make massive meals which I then store so I can eat them in the future, but I also buy in season (fresh food that are usually on sale). This is a great technique for people not onboard with a Top Ramen diet.

I’m also very pro stats and analytics, so I love drawing up lists of what I’m going to buy and then trying to keep it all within budget. You might not be so nerdy. But here’s one small tip: Do not go in the store without a list – and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how much money it saves you.


5. Monthly Phone Plan vs Contract

I decided a few years ago to go off of a contract and grab a “pay as you go plan” for my phone. Why? Because it’s really important for me to be flexible about where I live and what I’m paying for. If I end up moving back to Europe, I don’t want to be tied to a three year plan. This also saves me a lot of money since Verizon offers plans for as little as $40 for 3gb of data and unlimited texting/call.

6. Phoning A Friend 

I’ve had my iPhone for three years, and while it’s not cutting edge, it’s also not cutting into my savings with a $700 bill. I do like technology, but I’m not onboard the get further in debt to get a phone the size of your face train. My phone is just now starting to show signs of wear/needing to be replaced, but even in replacing it there are ways to save money! For instance, I’m going to be buying a refurbished phone rather than shelling out for a brand new phone. You might be surprised how much you can save! Check out some buy options HERE, if you’re not crazy happy about searching Craigslist.


7. Breaking Up With Netflix

Here’s the controversial one. I don’t have Netflix. I know: how do I survive? But I manage it with only having to occasionally explain that I don’t have it, to people who refer to shows/movies based off of them “being on Netflix.” To clarify, I also don’t have Hulu. These services just aren’t something that I need in order to be happy. A lesson that I didn’t learn until I lived in France and couldn’t afford them. Even now that I can, I just don’t need the temptation. I do have access to PBS because I donate to them monthly. Supporting public programing is really important…and I love documentaries.

 

8. Negotiate EVERYTHING

I save $240 a year on my wifi bill because I negotiated it down with my provider. Why? Because prices are arbitrary and companies would rather be getting some money from you, than for you to go to a competitor because of $10/month. The moral of this story? Ask! If you’re paying bills you can always call and ask if there’s any way they can decrease the bill. The key here is to be really nice. Customer service people get yelled at 60% of their day ( #unofficialstat) for things they have no control over. Show them some kindness and you’ll go far.

 

9. Invest In Things That Last

Okay so this goes back to the same idea as saving money on clothes. Something I never realized (being raised in the consumer capital of the world: the U.S.) was that if you buy a good pair of shoes then you can literally wear them for YEARS. Well, I apply this principle to everything I buy. If there’s a sturdier option, I go for that one. It might be a few more dollars initially, but if you don’t ever have to buy that thing, again, then it’s so worth it. Example: buy glass, not plastic, to save food in.

 

10. Make It Myself

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Here’s another thing I learned whilst being hopelessly broke in France: there are a lot of things that are pretty easy to make. While I realize not everyone is crafty, there’s always the option of hopping on Pintrest if there’s something you love, but can’t swing budget-wise. Chances are, there’s a tutorial (let’s be honest, Pintrest has everything). Especially if you found it in a store that rhymes with Shmanthropology, look it up on Pintrest – you can probably save 60% just making it yourself. Check out my crafting Pintrest board for more fun ideas!

Phew! Fun, right!? Here’s the great part – even if you only follow one or two of these, you can save a little more and put that money toward travel. Want more ideas? Check back for part two (because I have that many ways I save money) next week!

Did I miss something? Comment below with your money saving ideas!