U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Baltimore, Maryland

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. 

The East Coast has always been one of my favorite places, mainly because I’m a huge history nerd. For this round of cities you should definitely visit, I’m talking about Baltimore, which I last visited when I was about 10 years old. Whew! Do I feel old? Yeah, maybe a little.

I’m really excited to talk about Baltimore because I have a gentleman friend from Maryland who gave me the deets from a native’s perspective. Ready to get knee-deep in pink plastic flamingos? Let’s go!

History

To start off, I think it’s important to mention that the state sport in Maryland is jousting. You read that right: jousting. Baltimore might not seem that old, but it’s been a city since 1729. Here are some of my favorite historical facts about Baltimore:

l A Mixed City: Baltimore used to be right up there with Ellis Island as the second-largest point of immigration in the U.S.

l The U.S. Flag: The original Star-Spangled Banner Flag was designed in Baltimore by Mary Pickersgill. Today, there’s a museum in the home where her family once lived, and I want to visit so badly. This is the flag that inspired our national anthem. Girl power!

l Cool People: Fredrick Douglass, Billie Holiday, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall all lived in this city, leaving amazing legacies in their wake. Babe Ruth was also born in Baltimore. There’s also a pretty cool museum in Baltimore that you can visit if you’re a baseball fanatic.

Cool Things to Do

While obviously having a pretty groovy background, Baltimore also has a pretty awesome scene right now. First off, I must tell y’all about a little friend, “Natty Boh,” who’s a big deal in Maryland. The National Bohemian brewery logo is the head of homie sir. Another logo you’ll see frequently in Baltimore is the “Utz girl,” a doll who represents a brand of chips I’ve never heard about (#westcoast). Anyway, Natty Boh is a big deal in Maryland. If you’re visiting, be sure to stop by the billboard that’s been up since 2007, where you can spot the huge logo in person.

If you want to party like a Baltimore native, you’ll want to head down to Ocean City. If you want to say you’re going to the beach like a native, try something along the lines of, “I’m going downy oshun.” Yep, that’s a thing. Don’t be surprised if you hear it. What is Ocean City? It’s basically miles of beach and a wooden boardwalk with your typical shops and restaurants.

Accommodations

Looking for a place to park your motor? Try staying in either an Airbnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Baltimore to find hotels like the Holiday Inn Express. This one is particularly awesome because it’s built in the Old Town National Bank, and the interior is to die for.

Wherever you stay, I hope you love every minute of your time in Baltimore. The friendly people and unique culture make Baltimore an absolute must stop on your next vacation. See you on the other coast!

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U.S Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Minneapolis, Minnesota

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. 

Welcome to round FOUR of U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit (or USCYSDV…which sounds ridiculous)! In case you missed my previous posts, you can check them out here:

Richmond, Virginia,
Bernalillo, New Mexico
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This episode we’re gonna jump over to the Midwest (pass the Tater Tot casserole). Don’t freak out if you’re a coastal girl/guy, like me. One of my good friends is from Minnesota AND I happen to have been there — it’s not that bad. In fact, there are a ton of things that make Minneapolis easy to check off your travel bingo card (y’all have one of those, right!?)!

History

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)

Minneapolis has kind of a quirky history because historically it was known for its grains — flour to be specific. Known as the “Mill City” or “The Flour Milling Capital of the World” back in the 19th century, this city grew from a population of 13,000 to 165,000 from 1870-1890. And we complain about people moving to Seattle, rapidly (#snap).

Anyhoo, the city has grown into a Mecca for gluten since the forerunner to General Mills raised its flag in 1856. Long live Cheerios!

Cool Things To Do

You might not know a whole lot about Minneapolis culture, but once you’ll get there you’ll probably fall in love. Honestly, if it was by an ocean I’d probably be moving there myself. Here are some spots you shouldn’t miss:

Tattersall

Hipsters put yo’ hands up! 
This spot is just about everything you could ask, with an Edison light on top. Tattersall Distillery was recommended to me by some Minnesota natives, and I’m pretty excited to try it out next time I’m in town.

Minnehaha Falls

Okay, so part of the reason I love this is because of the name. How can you NOT smile!? This waterfall park (stretching 170 acres!) is beautiful, and I love that there’s a waterfall just hanging out in the city. Go forth and soak up some green.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis has established itself as an art central, and a lot of that ties back to the Institute of Art. The museum has exhibits and exhibitions varying from 1700s England, to the Jazz Age. You’re not gonna want to miss out on this classy spot when you’re in town.

The Gutherie Theater

Located right on the Mississippi River The Gutherie Theater is the top recommended location I’ve heard about. The theater is a self-professed, “mix of classic and contemporary plays” this is a go-and-see-anything-and-everything kinda spot. If you’re feeling in the theater mood, don’t miss out!

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Minneapolis, try either an AirBnb or pop over to HotelPlanner Minneapolis to find amazing spots like The Commons Hotel which looks like something straight outta Mad Men.

Wherever you choose to stay during the frigid winters or sweltering summers, you’re sure to get some true Midwest hospitality. AKA people are super nice. Could it be just the thing to break the Seattle Freeze? We shall see.

When Your Life Doesn’t Look Like It “Should”

I have 112 unpublished blog drafts. That means 112 times I started writing, got frustrated and stopped. Yet, I am still a blogger.

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure, lately. A friend and I were talking about how in college you’re asked 101 times,”What’s your five year plan?” But after college? Nah. Nobody asks me that anymore. Life a decade after college is something halfway between eye-rolls that I don’t have 2.5 children and people gasp-asking how I do everything I do (Hint: I don’t have 2.5 children).

My life is couture, I’ll admit. It’s custom cut to fit me.

And as I sit here drinking copious amounts of tea, I’ve been thinking about how I’ve made my life what it is—the decisions that brought me to where I am. Once upon a time I was offered the white picket fence life, but instead I chose to travel.

And here’s a little insight into why:

 

Because doing what you’re “supposed” to do, just to keep up with societally imposed schedules (based off of age/ gender etc.) does not guarantee you any more success or happiness than waiting to be personally ready.

 

Live your life on your time. When you’re ready to travel, travel. When you’re ready to get married, get married. When you’re ready to adopt a dog, adopt a dog. But please please don’t do these things to make your life look “right.”

My life right now is nothing like what I thought it would be. In fact, according to my child self, I’ve failed spectacularly (still not the lead singer of a band). But, you know what?

That’s okay.

My little under-developed freshman SPU self wouldn’t have even been able to imagine the wild adventures I’d go on. She wouldn’t have had a clue how many amazing people I’d meet, or how many bucket list items I’d check off. She wouldn’t know that I’d be able to build a life where I did what I loved…and got paid to do it.

Easy isn’t the answer.

Amidst the stress and crazy, I really really love my life, and I’m really f*cking happy (sorry, mom). I’m starting a new career at a beautifully brilliant company where I get to help women all over the world. I live in a beautiful 1928 vintage house, full of strong independent women, in one of the most beautiful cities. I get to geek out over things as much as I damn well please, and I write for a living. Let me repeat that so my child self can hear it back through the sound waves of time: “YOU GROW UP TO BE A PAID WRITER!”

Life doesn’t look like it “should,” but I’m okay with that. It’s not about predicting outcomes five years down the road. It’s about taking what life throws at you and creating beauty out of it. That’s what makes life this messy and magnificent thing.
Obviously there are times when things get absolutely frustrating. Curve balls get thrown. But being frustrated doesn’t mean you give up on building the life you want. It might mean you walk away from things for a bit, but it does not mean you stop.

 

I like to think about it this way: Growing up I always thought I was going to reach adulthood and be handed this telescope with which I could see my future. It would be clear, and entirely in focus. But, in fact, it’s so much more beautifully intricate than that.
My life is a kaleidoscope. There are shapes and colors and weird little speckle things that I haven’t even discovered, yet. Yes, my past plans for the future failed spectacularly, but they were replaced by experiences I literally could not have dreamed for myself. And that’s beautiful.

A group of friends used to say, “Yesterday’s ceiling is todays floor.” And I honestly believe that. The best is yet to come.

Now pardon me as I go buy tickets to a zombie ball. 

 

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.

U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Richmond, Virginia

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. 

Fun fact: I’ve been to 43 U.S. States!

Another fun fact: I hardly ever talk about it.

I’m a big advocate of traveling within your own country, as much as you do internationally, so I’ve decided to do a mini-series on some of my favorite state capitals. First up? Richmond, Virginia.

Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful city. I visited back when I was a kid, and even then I remember loving it because of all the history. That’s one thing I wish we had more of on the West Coast. Of course, we have history, but it doesn’t go back as far as the Eastern United States. Here are just a few nuggets about Richmond, VA.

History

  • It’s the third capital city for Virginia, after Jamestown (been there!) and Williamsburg (been there!). Richmond became the capital in 1780.
  • Remember Patrick Henry? Well, his famous speech of, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” happened in Richmond!
  • There’s an epic statue that features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Andrew Lewis, John Marshall, George Mason, and Thomas Nelson Jr.
  • Thomas Jefferson designed the state capitol building! Cool, huh?
  • Pocahontas lived here! That’s right, the princess herself.
  • The first African American governor was from Richmond: Lawrence Douglas Wilder

When I was a kid, I used to be obsessed with colonial America, so I loved popping over to Williamsburg (less than an hour drive), when my family visited Richmond. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget Williamsburg. I still have an “E” shaped bar the ironsmith there made for me, on my wall… 16 years later.

Williamsburg was pretty much my favorite thing ever, after reading the Felicity American Girl Doll books.

Cool Things to Do

But enough about the past (but kinda still about the past)! There are tons of cool things to see in Richmond right now.

  • Hollywood Cemetery: I absolutely love cemeteries, and this one should not be missed. Not only does it host amazing architecture, but it also holds 22 Confederate generals, two U.S. Presidents, and six Virginia governors. It’s second only to Arlington National Cemetery in the number of visitors it receives.
  • Central Virginia Highland Games: I’m all about celebrating my Scottish heritage, and I just found out Richmond has Highland Games that are on another level! They include competitions in everything from harp playing to rugby and once upon a time they had a competition for who could keep a ferret in their pants the longest. True story.
  • Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: The botanical gardens in Richmond are on another level. The gardens stretch over 50 acres, and include a healing garden, a children’s garden, and more varieties of plants than you can count. It’s definitely a must-see.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Richmond, you could find an adorable Airbnb, or if you’re more in the hotel mood pop over to Hotel Planner Richmond to find amazing spots like Jefferson Hotel, which has hosted five U.S. Presidents (William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin D. Roosevelt)! Have a blast in Richmond!

Men Who Transplant To Seattle Need These 8 Things

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be moving to Seattle for a tech job. For us Seattle natives, this is a less than happy truth. But since we can’t do a damn thing about the housing market, the best course of action is to laugh. But, enough about us.

This post is about you, the lonely mid-western bachelor who got away from the corn fields just in time to join the western boom of America’s greatest. Here’s a guide for everything you’ll need to know when moving to our city.

1. Buy A Tiny Overpriced Apartment

When you’re making $100,000/year starting, who cares about square footage or reasonable pricing?! Find that apartment you’ve never dreamed of, and throw down that first, last and deposit. It may be more money than most people see in a month, but this is YOUR time to shine. Oh, and make sure your apartment building feels half-way between a dorm and a post apocalyptic office building. We’re all about authentic in Seattle.

2. Buy A Rescue Dog

Now that you have an apartment too small to lay across, you’ll need a canine companion to help ward off SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Thinking small? Nah. Go for the Great Dane. Small dogs say, “This is my girlfriend’s dog that I’m walking for her.” Oh, and make sure it’s a rescue. Ain’t nobody gonna high-five you for a pedigree dog in this town.

Take this dog with you on sporadic walks and to as many festivals as possible. Not only will this help you meet people…who are walking with their boyfriends, but it will also allow you to meet other dog owners (who you should never talk to, just smile awkwardly as your dogs sniff each other).

3. Find Someone On A Dating App And Never Meet Them 

Love has nothing to do with it. Not knowing anyone after living here for six months has everything to do with it. Hop on that Bumble or Tinder train and get your text on. It’s time to find that distraction you’ve been looking for (especially since the wifi in a state penitentiary works better than yours).

The key is to never (and I mean NEVER) meet up with this person. I don’t care how much y’all have in common. Drag them along month after month after month and deny having the free time to hang out…even though your social life consists of spending the last four nights cleaning Great Dane pee out of your thousand dollar throw carpet.

4. Get Rid Of Your Car , And Single-Handedly Support The Uber Industry

Say goodbye to Bessie, it’s time to list that Lexus and live the real Seattle life—via Uber. Now, I’m not saying anyone…and I do mean ANYONE else, who lives here, does this. But as a transplant, you have your own unique mindset for living in a new and strange city. And speaking of filling that lonely void in your life: Why not have a driver to talk to as you travel one mile down the street? Never ever use public transportation. That’s for the sane.

5. Complain Daily About How Bad The Weather Is (Oct – Apr)

Now this one is seasonal because, as we all know, your work had you interview in August so you were mesmerized by the lush green surroundings and light summer breeze. But by the time you moved here in October? Things started to get real dark, real fast…literally. Like, we’re talking lights out at 4pm.

We may have just had the coldest wettest winter on record, but thank GOD you’re here to remind us how amazing your home state is. Wow. I wish I too could live in such a paradise. I’m so sorry you’re trapped here. Speaking of…

6. Keep On Reminding EVERYONE Where You’re From Is Better 

Remember the good old days? When you lived back in that town you hated, and felt trapped in? *Sigh* Those were the days, huh? Now that you’ve moved to a new city, it’s your chance to disregard absolutely everything you hated and really take advantage of those rose-colored glasses.

But, whatever you do, don’t keep this to yourself! You need to tell every. single. Seattle-ite how much better the last place you lived was. Don’t hold back! It’s not like you willingly came to this city, and are eating through our resources and sky-rocketing our housing market. Keep spreading the good word!

7. Only Make Friends With Other Transplants

Repeat after me: Transplants are my only safe friends.

Seattle people are scary. They don’t hug strangers on sidewalks, or high-five you when it’s dark and you jump out from behind dumpsters. Honestly, it’s amazing this city has socially survived.

Your best option? Don’t talk to anyone who’s actually from here. Just keep going to the same overpriced downtown bar every day after work, and get plastered with those six guys who also moved here from forgotten states. Oh, and forget exploring social events in Seattle neighborhoods. Remember: If it isn’t sponsored by a name you recognize, it’s not worth going to.

8. Get Off Your High-Horse And Admit This City Is Amazing

I wish I’d made up the above circumstances, but they’re all taken from people I’ve actually met. Don’t be that guy. Hopefully, after a while, you’ll be able to admit this city is kind of amazing. We’re a bit rough around the edges, but look into our history—Seattle was built by Scandinavian fishermen, loggers and harlots. Honestly, it’s a miracle we’re still standing.

Take some time to get to know us! I know it’s not what your other transplant friends are doing, but go to the MOHAI and learn about where we came from. Seattle people are like our weather. Amazing…but it takes us some time for us to warm up.

Tea Talk 5: Johanna Luz | Traveling Environmentalist

It’s been 9 years since I met Johanna at college. We were both assigned to the smallest dorm on campus, and the memories of that year are some that will stick with me the rest of my life. I remember when I first found out that she wore glasses every day not because she had a prescription, but just because she felt like it. How can you not admire someone with that level of dedication?

Johanna and her husband are currently on the trip of a lifetime, driving down from Oregon to South America while providing medical and environmental help/education in exchange for world knowledge about how to live a more sustainable life. They’re driving down in a veggie bus (aka a bus that runs on used kitchen oil), while simultaneously writing a book about their adventures, and it’s kind of the coolest thing ever. Their blog is an absolute inspiration and I would highly recommend hopping over for a read! But first, here’s an introduction to one of the coolest girls I’ve ever met:

What started your passion for traveling?

I think there was never a time when I wasn’t traveling, so for me it became more about figuring out how to continue to travel. My Mom is from Germany, my Dad is from Oregon, USA and I grew up in Venezuela. Since the age of 1, I was on an airplane flying to visit relatives in different places around the world.

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

There are many different ways of traveling. Sometimes people have a fixed idea that it requires a lot of money and privilege, and that therefore, it isn’t accessible to everyone. The more I travel, the more I run into people traveling in the most alternative ways. My husband and I recently made our way down Baja California, Mexico. We ran into bikers, hitchhikers, a family living in a school bus, buskers, and artists, all figuring out ways to travel long periods of time on low budgets. We, ourselves, converted our van to work with used vegetable oil fuel. We collect it for free from restaurants in the cities we travel through and in that way minimize our fuel expense on the road.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

My husband. We met as teenagers but we re-connected when I backpacked through Guatemala years later. It was the beginning of a 2.5 year long distance relationship (Guatemala-Venezuela). I have picked up eating beans, eggs & tortillas every day, saying “chilero” (cool) and much more!

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

Do it. Period. I did my first extended solo trip when I was 19 through Spain and Portugal. It felt extremely liberating and powerful to rely 100% on myself in a place where I knew no one and where no one had a prototype of who I was. I felt truly free and that feeling is something I try to hold on to ever since.

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

I’m always trying to make sure I don’t fall into a tourist trap or get ripped off in an incredibly stupid way. When I was traveling through Central America in 2012, I crossed into Guatemala from Mexico by land without knowing the exchange rate (not something I recommend). After exchanging some money on the border, I hopped on a tuk tuk (3 wheeled vehicle) to go to the nearest bus terminal. I was charged 150 Quetzales for a 5min ride. Then I rode the bus for about 3 hours and was only charged 15 Quetzales. I realized at that moment the tuk tuk driver had overcharged me. I had paid him$20 instead of $0.50, which was the real price!

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

During many points of my life, I struggled with being timid and embarrassed about a lot of things about myself. When you travel, you don’t have a choice. You have to put yourself out there, ask people for directions, get to know strangers and look like a total lost foreigner. You also are constantly getting to know people and explaining who you are to others who have very little context about where you come from. Traveling and meeting people on the road has helped me get to know myself better and feel more confident with who I am in the world.

What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

The road less traveled, whatever that may be. But usually, it’s not by plane. Right now I’m doing an extended trip with my husband called Camino Casamel. We are traveling in our van that we converted to work with used vegetable oil as fuel (Veggie Bus Diaries on Instagram). We began our trip in Oregon and are currently midway through Mexico, collecting used oil from restaurants along the way. We plan on making it to Panama and possibly further South.

Traveling this way has been a lifestyle choice, as we live in our van and have a purpose beyond visiting tourist attractions. We are also learning about natural medicinal practices from the different regions we visit. It’s been very enriching to travel slowly and connect in a deeper way with the people and places we visit.

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

I’ve always wanted to travel more extensively through South America. I grew up in Venezuela and have visited Colombia. I would like to see the rest of the continent and make it to Brazil, especially.

Let’s talk about your current trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure? 

Our current trip is a huge project we began dreaming about a few years ago. We started by thinking about ways of connecting our passions and wanting to begin our lives together in a different way. Our project Camino Casamel (or Veggie Bus Diaries), came about after Aidan had graduated from Medical School in Guatemala and after I worked with community environmental projects in Caracas, Venezuela. Ancestral medicinal practices and more natural lifestyles are areas that drew us together. We decided to travel through different countries where we could learn more about this, using waste vegetable oil as a greener fuel option and living in our van so we could cut on traveling expenses.

What has been the best/toughest part of your current trip?

Getting started was very difficult. We originally thought we were going to start our trip in Spring 2016 but we were delayed a year. We had mechanical issues, a difficult conversion to vegetable oil system, and needed a lot more time and money to prepare.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from your current trip?

We both learned a lot the year we had to wait to begin our trip. At times, we didn’t even know if it was still going to be possible. I definitely learned that sometimes things don’t work out the way you anticipate. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Sometimes you will have to wait, sit back and re-evaluate. Then, do it again but better. And take your time. Rushing things often will set you back more.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve traveled and lived extensively in Latin America and have a few strong opinions about certain things I wanted to mention J Throughout the years, I’ve met a lot of travelers and been one myself. One thing that I think is EXTREMELY important is learning about the local context and history of the places you visit. Often, travelers from “developed countries” will visit Latin America with very little knowledge about how U.S. political intervention and foreign economic interests have shaped, damaged and are currently still harming the region. This is true not only for Latin America, but for most developing countries in the world.

I don’t say this to accuse or create guilt, but as a means to encourage travel a way of educating yourself about what is happing in the world and how your home country may be affecting lives overseas in ways you aren’t aware. I think this type of awareness also creates a deeper travel experience as you hear personal stories from the other side of history and learn things that aren’t included in classic text books.

For example, in Nicaragua there is the Museo de la Revolucion (Revolutionary Museum) in Leon, exhibiting a civil war the U.S. was directly involved in. Ex-guerrilla fighters give the tour. Our guide shared his personal experience of the war, of the friends and family he lost and how the country was destroyed. I remember the guide told us with a depth in his eyes, “There is absolutely nothing worse than war, avoid it by all costs.”

To follow along on Johanna’s adventures, you can check out her blog, purchase the book they’re writing or check out their Facebook page

A Geek Guide To Vancouver, BC: Part 1

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If there’s one thing I like to do, it’s find out geeky things about a city. Remember that time I uncovered a Sherlock Holmes society in San Francisco, or when I visited every major spot in Paris that was from “Midnight in Paris”? Or what about the Star Wars x-wing in Denver? Game of Thrones castle in N. Ireland? Or the site in Ireland of the huge Braveheart battle? Yeah, yeah, I love geeky things. So, it makes sense for me to join the two things together while I’m on the road.

This weekend we’re spending some time celebrating our anniversary in Vancouver, and it’s been such a fun trip. Of course, any time I come to a new city I have to find out EVERYTHING GEEKY about it, so here is a compilation of my findings from day 1 in British Columbia.

Famous Geek Icons from Vancouver: 


Alexander Ludwig: 
It wasn’t until today that I realized that this hunk was from both the Hunger Games AND one of my favorite shows, Vikings. I really had hopes that I could correct the grammar on Vikings based off of the actors being Scandinavian, but nope. This boy’s from good ‘ole British Columbia. Luckily, he’s still fun to watch being a Viking bad ass on the show, and it’s nice to know we both hail from the west.


Michael J. Fox:
Blast from the past, and Back to the Future, it’s true that this Hollywood icon isn’t as active in the geek world right now, for obvious reasons, but he’s a geek idol, nonetheless. Back to the Future was a series that molded and shaped my childhood and I’m happy to find out he grew up not too far from me.
Ryan Reynolds: Obviously most famous, at the moment, for his portrayal of the Marvel bad-boy Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds has been a favorite from Just Friends to The Proposal. In case you (and half the geek world) are trying to still forget – he was also DC’s Green Lantern, and appeared in the Wolverine, as well.

Hayden Christensen: Personally, I prefer to think of him as the actor who brought Jumper to life, but we do have to credit him for some of the weirdest Star Wars movies, as well. To be fair, it wasn’t entirely his fault that they’re the embarrassment of the geek community – the script writers weren’t doing to hot, either.

Shawn Ashmore: I may or may not have had a crush on him when I saw the first Xmen movie (I was like 12) but how could you not!? Him and Rogue were the perfect couple and then she went running after Logan – what was she thinking!? Anyway. He only kind of counts because he was raised in Alberta. But he was born in Vancouver, so they still claim him as their own.
Colbie Smulders: To be honest, I still don’t even know her Avengers character name, but she’s awesome and one of the few female characters in the movies who doesn’t have powers. She can also be found on Agents of Shield, a show that, for the life of me, I can’t find time to watch, mainly because I’ve heard some good and a lot of not so good about it.

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Somewhere to grab some geeky books: 

I love used bookstores. In fact, I love pretty much any place I can get a good deal on a good read, and this morning that was the first place I plopped off to. I was really excited to score on a book by Diana Gabaldon, who writes the Outlander series. I learned about the books via the STARZ show, but I’ve started to read the books and I adore them, as well. The book I found was an accompaniment to the series, called “The Outlandish Companion” which goes into details about the series and why Diana chose certain aspects to put in/leave out. It also has commentary and helpful additions, such as genealogies, to help out along the reading of the first four books. Overall, I’m really happy with the find. Especially since it was only about $15 (with the conversion rate). Somehow I always end up finding the heaviest books while I’m traveling and this one weighs in at about 600 pages to keep the trend going.

My stop today was at Book Warehouse, which is located at  632 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1G1

 

Geek places to eat:

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Storm Crow Ale House: This is an updated/more contemporary version of the Storm Crow Tavern, which is amazing in its own right. We kind of accidentally stumbled upon this one, not actually realizing there were two in Vancouver, and really loved the atmosphere and the people who were hanging out in there. I actually was really happy to be hanging out mid-day because a lot of people were just hanging out there, playing games and having good food. I would definitely recommend. Click HERE for the website.

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Storm Crow Tavern: This Tavern is also a real treat, and is decked out with memorabilia, geek art, books and a giant octo-monster head. And they also have tons of games to choose from playing. The best part is that the food is also amazing. I had a cod sandwich and some raspberry rhubarb crumble for dessert. It was sublime. Definitely stop by this spot if you’re a sci-fi and fantasy fan. Click HERE for the website.

Epic Colorado Adventure – Day 1: #MeetTheParents

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This is an example pic of where we’re headed once we drive out of Denver. Pretty, huh?

I’m back in Denver. Those aren’t words I thought I’d be writing this soon after my last trip to The Centennial State.

I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t love Denver when I was here last time, and I really didn’t plan on coming back any time soon. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and you end up flying to Colorado to meet and spend time with your boyfriend’s parents. It happens.

Shortly after I got back from my last trip here, I got the news that we’d be coming back, and I had mixed feelings. But you know me, I love any excuse to travel, and this trip is no different. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting to meet some family and friends close to someone I care about. Win – win.

As far as actual travel, I can honestly say this has been the smoothest I’ve ever had a trip go (knock on wood), while traveling with someone else. It helps, of course, to have someone on your team who has taken multiple solo trips themselves (and who you’ve already established a great communicative style with).

So, what’s the 411?

This  morning we boarded our flight a little later than it was scheduled, but then ended up getting into Denver before we were scheduled to land. I’m not sure how that worked out, but we landed at about 3:30pm (and we got to fly Alaska, which is the best – duh). We got picked up, and we’re staying with some relatives at a lovely house just outside of downtown Denver. We’ve pretty much just been hanging out, eating good food and playing some fun games, so far. But the real road trip will begin in a couple of days.

This trip is exceptionally different in that almost all of it is being planned for me. So…I can’t really give my usual itinerary or let you know what I’ll be doing over the course of the next week because I have no idea. All I know is we’re temporarily at this spot, and then driving south to explore the beautiful countryside. Don’t worry, I brought my camera, so there are plenty of photos on their way. I also brought my instant camera, so hopefully I can grab some shots with that too.

That’s the baby update for now. Did I mention it is/will be 90+ degrees the entire time we’re here? Hahaha someone get me a refrigerator to sleep in.

Belfast, Northern Ireland Part II: Bridge Of Death

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I didn’t have to think very long to come up with a title for this blog post, because the second part of our Belfast tour almost ended abruptly with us falling our deaths, into the Irish Sea. That’s right. Dead.
After the museum, and the chilling winds that we fought on our way back to the bus, the skies around us were gray but they started to clear, letting us see some patches of blue. Relief at last, we thought, climbing off the bus. All I have is to laugh, now looking back.

I have never felt rain so hard that it hurt. Until Northern Ireland. I don’t know how fast the winds were blowing, but what I will say is that we were the last group let across the popular Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge (aka the bridge of death). A little history about this bridge:

This is where I didn't go. If the weather had looked like this, maybe I would have.
This is where I didn’t go. If the weather had looked like this, maybe I would have.
  • It was built in 1755 by fishermen
  • It was probably not intended to last hundreds of years, and have people walking over it
  • The bridge leads to nowhere extraordinary, it’s just something to check off the books
  • Peer pressure makes you do stupid things.

The good news is – we didn’t die, but we were completely soaked and freezing cold by the time we made it back to the tour bus.

Where I did go to. I wish I had a photo of the inside, it was such a Victorian beauty.
Where I did go to. I wish I had a photo of the inside, it was such a Victorian beauty.

Our last stop was at the Giant’s Causeway, which has a really awesome story, but which I didn’t go to a) I was freezing cold and soaking wet b) I know I’ll go back to N. Ireland, again c) I was freezing cold and wet. Instead, I ended up at the most beautiful hotel, and enjoyed one of the best Irish stews and brown bread that I’ve ever had. It was absolute heaven. Here are some of our pics, all of which were taken dangerously, with the potential for my camera (or me) falling into the sea. P.s. Don’t be fooled by the blue skies – it was FREEZING.

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Coastal beauty will always take my breath away.

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READ THE SIGN
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These were our German friends who were full grown men being blown over while crossing the bridge. Help.
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Hahaha we’re going to die.
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Once we were completely soaked the sky finally DID break out in a beautiful sunset. We got a pretty good taste of Northern Ireland, on both sides of the spectrum.

 

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You can BARELY see it – but this is the castle which inspired CS Lewis’ Cair Paravel and some castle in Game of Thrones

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