Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Saving Money While on Vacation

So, you've booked yourself a vacation to somewhere amazing! I'm so excited for you!  Here's the thing. Vacations can be expensive. Really expensive. But they don't have to be!   I have a motto when planning a vacation. Book your flights. Snag a place to sleep. Then it's time to plan what you will do while you are there.  I'm not going to get into details on booking flights or hotels. You can look here for help with flights or here for help with hotels.  You are the only one who knows how much money you can afford to spend on vacation. Ideally, you have been saving a little money here and there for a couple months or more and you have a good idea how much you can afford to use.  I have to be honest, I'm a huge budget traveler.  I'm usually in it to see amazing scenery, but sometimes I like to go to a nice dinner, see a great show, or visit a unique museum. This is how I do it.  First thing I do is search Groupon for my destination.  I look for places to see, things to do, and places to eat. I've found groupons for massages, huge discounts on food, attraction discounts, shows and movie discounts, and so much more. It's seriously my first stop and I always look there first.  Once I've found a few things there, I typically add those to my itenerary. Some things have specific times you can use them, so be mindful of that.  If your hotel or lodging option has a kitchenette or a small fridge, use it!  Making sandwiches, small salads, or easy meals at your hotel is a great way to save yourself money!   I also regularly use ebates when I'm shopping for things online. I save the money earned until I get ready to go on vacation, and then I use that money for my vacations. It's super easy and if you already do some shopping online, why not get some cash back for it?  If you don't already use this app, please check it out. You might be very happy about it!  Use Yelp or TripAdvisor. Both are great ways to find fun and FREE things to do at your destination. There are reviews and forums that you can review that can answer all kinds of questions.  You don't have to be wealthy to travel to amazing places and enjoy them while you are there. If you have specific questions or ideas I haven't shared, comment below. I'd love to hear from you! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

What I Love About Traveling

I often get asked what I love most about traveling, and I find my answer changes regularly.  I figure it's probably the same for everyone.  It depends greatly on things going on in my life.  Traveling is fluidity, movement, abstract, etc. 

In different times in my life, travel has been an escape.  A way to change who I am, who I've been, and who I plan to be.  Travel can be the intermission of a great play, a time to get refreshments and change the stage of your life.

I love travel because travel doesn't have to be the same thing for everyone.  Some travel to place with great historic significance, beautiful natural scenery, or exotic beaches.  Some travelers indulge in a little bit of everything.  Food, culture, friends and family can all take you in different directions.

For me, personally, I travel for experiences.  I want to see the tallest mountains in the world, see the longest rivers, take pictures of the most beautiful waterfalls.  I want to see statues, temples, and churches.  I don't care to climb them, jump from them, or sky dive over them.  I want to sit and look at them. 

I want to soak in every single image, because some day, I won't be able to.  My eyesight will be gone, and I won't be able to see anything any longer.  I want to capture as many beautiful views as I can before it is all gone for me.  That is why I travel.  Because some day, my memories of beautiful places will be what I have. 

Why do you travel?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wichita Mountains - Always a Beautiful Adventure

The Parallel Forrest
Located in the southwest corner of Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains are full of beautiful scenery and plenty of activities for anyone.  A little history on the area, because who doesn't love a little history?

The Wichita Mountains are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, which also means there isn't much left of them.  They are not tall and mighty peaks.  This adds to the beauty in my opinion.  They are small, dome shaped peaks full of weathered boulders and beautiful hiking trails for every type of hiker.  You can read more history about the Wichita Mountains here

Now, on to our adventures and what I recommend checking out if you make your way to the Wichita Mountains.
  1. I always recommend checking out Medicine Park, a quaint little town nestled at the foot of the mountains.  It is absolutely beautiful, filled with local culture and music.  Check out some of the pictures we snapped the last time we stopped by.

    Jumping from the Cobblestone paths

    Medicine Park Music Hall

    Smelling the roses

    Panorama of Medicine Creek

    Sitting on the steps to the entrance to the swimming hole

    Looking down Medicine Creek
  2.  After your time in Medicine Park, I recommend taking a short drive up East Lake Dr around Lake Lawtonka.  Here you can find great camping, fishing, boating, swimming and so much more.  It is such a fun little lake.  I usually do day trips here, but I spend my evenings in the NEXT destination.
  3. When you are looking for somewhere to camp in the mountains, you have to check out Camp Doris.  It is my families favorite place to camp in the Wichita Mountains.  Why?  I can't even tell you, I just have to show you.
    Sitting by the campfire
    Sipping my coffee
    And then came the deer

    They surround the camp sites

    And they get very very close
  4.  As if these weren't enough reasons to visit this beautiful place, I have more.  The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  Inside the Wichita Mountains, there is a refuge.  As if you needed something MORE, there is the Holy City, Jed Johnson reservoir, and Mount Scott view point.  These are things you will definitely want to check out if you drive through.  If you get a bit more adventurous, you will want to check out these next 2 places!
    Holy City Easter Pageant taken by Trevor Lockhart
  5. My final 2 things you must check out are The Lost Lake and The Parallel Forrest
    Lost Lake after a rainstorm

Monday, May 2, 2016

Staycation Really IS a Thing! - How to Staycation

I used to be like so many other people when I heard the term "staycation".  Queue eye rolling and irritation.  It isn't a vacation if I am still at home!  It's simply a day off!  Then I learned the secret.  Nobody tells you the secret to the "staycation", but I am fixing to!

How to Staycation like a champ
  1. Do something different.  Don't just sit on the couch and turn the tv on.  Locate things around you to do.  I know you LIVE there, but Tripadvisor the city/town you live in!  Just look at the things to do around the small town I am currently visiting!

    I know it seems weird to do this, but often times, tourists see your town in a much different way than you do.  As a result, tourists will often catch new things and even old things that you have never even heard of. 
    Even if you lived in some of the surrounding small towns,
    just look at all there is to do!

  2.  Turn off your phone.  Turn it off.  Wait, not yet.  Wait until you finish reading this.  I know this seems silly, and if you just cannot turn it off in case of emergency then don't.  Just put it down.  Let your family know you are going on staycation and to only contact you in case of emergency.  Step away from the normal day to day activities, just like you would do if you had gone away.
  3. Turn off or put away your computer too.  I mean it.  Facebook will still be there when you get done.  Put down your computer and enjoy your family and friends.  There isn't much to say about this.  I don't really have much to elaborate on.  Just shut it down and walk away.
  4. Do something completely different.  Don't eat the same thing you always eat.  Don't sleep in the same place you always sleep.  Don't do the same things you always do.  Pretend like you are in a completely new place.

    Shop at a different grocery store.  Go into a Korean grocery store and ask them to help you put together the ingredients for a special dinner.  Ask them for a recipe that they would make at home.  Don't care for Korean?  Step into a German grocery, Indian, Mediterranean, etc.  Don't think you have those in your town?  Check the nearest city to you.  If it is less than 45 minutes away, make a visit. 

    Roll out sleeping bags in the back yard and set up candles all around.  Put up a couch cushion fort in the living room and cover it in sheets.  Tell stories and enjoy time with your family.
    Borrowed from Heroes Get Made
  5.  You are saving money by staying home, so do something nice for yourself!  Go get a pedicure (yes, men too!), get a massage, have a special dinner out, or go shopping.  You don't have to spend a bunch of money, but do something nice for yourself.  It's really okay to spend a bit of money on a staycation.

    I hope I've helped you have a better staycation than you thought you could have.  Have any ideas of other ways to have a great staycation, share them in the comments!  I can't wait to hear what you think of my list!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Do What You Love

In all my dreams, I could have never imagined I would get to do something that I truly enjoy for a living.  I know everyone tells you that if you do what you love the money will follow, but how often does that really happen?  Out of all of the people that you personally know, how many of them love their jobs? 

I will turn 30 in just over 1 year, and I can say that I know very few people who love their jobs.  I know people who like their jobs, but they truly wish they could be doing something else.  Well, not me.  Now don't get me wrong, I've always enjoyed my work and the people I work with, but I've always felt as if something were missing.

I don't feel that way anymore.  I work just as hard now as I have ever worked, but now I am working for myself.  I haven't figured out how to make a ton of money, but I didn't set out to make a ton of money.  I set out to enjoy what I do.  I've got that.  The money will follow.  I'm sure of that.

My advice.  Figure out what it is that makes you happiest in life.  Do that.  Don't give up on doing just that.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Feed Me the Food of Your People

There is no greater feeling than sitting down to a meal with your family, in my opinion.  Everyone in my household gathers at the table to share a meal at least once a day.  It gives us a chance to share our day, share our dreams, share our goals.  When we travel, we always try to eat a local meal.  One of the first things we begin doing is asking what a meal looks like for them.

This may seem weird to some people, but a very important part of travel to us is the cultural differences.  When we went to Hawaii, we noticed that Japanese culture had mingled deeply with the Polynesian culture.  We were told by several locals that we needed to experience the Plate Lunch to get a true taste of Hawaii.  Excited, we went to a local hole in the wall that was recommended to us.

Now, first let me tell you that sometimes it is hard to get people to tell you where you can get a true local experience.  Whats more, with the advent of social media and internet travel guides, it is often very hard to find a place that isn't overrun with tourists.  When we go somewhere, we do not want to detract from local life.  We try our best to not disrupt other peoples lives.

Hawaiian Plate Lunch
Moving on, we went to an amazing little restaurant.  There were no other people that looked like us.  The native islanders were overwhelmingly welcoming.  They showed us what to order, told us how things were made and shared their lives with us.  It was an amazing experience.  Here are a few images of things that we ate.
Different types of Poke

The Poke was similar to sushi in some ways.  It was raw, marinated tuna.  It was not something I enjoyed terribly, but my husband loved it.  The Hawaiian Plate Lunch included Poi, Lomi Lomi, Kalua Pig, Pork Lau Lau and Chicken Long Rice.  It was all not something we were used to seeing, but it was all very good and full of flavor.
I encourage everyone to try to immerse themselves in the culture they are visiting.  Something I have learned about culture is that in many cultures, food is something we gather around.  It is central to many cultures.  So, enjoy the food of the people you are visiting.  Show their culture respect.  Happy travels!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hawaii - The Big Island

As a wedding gift from my in-laws, my husband and I got to spend our honeymoon in Hawaii.  We got to choose the island, and it was a difficult decision.  If we had been able to spend more time there, we would have gone island hopping.  We did not have more time though. We had just 7 nights to make our honeymoon amazing.  How do we choose?!

We chose the biggest island.  The Big Island of Hawaii.  We chose this island because it looked like it was going to have the most "wild" to explore.  We could not have imagined just how much there was to do.  I cannot share all we did and all we found in just one post, but I can begin.

First thing I want to share is that there is a huge misconception about Hawaii.  Perhaps it is true on the other islands, but we did not find it that much more expensive than Oklahoma, where we are from.  Depending on what we were doing, it was in a lot of cases less expensive than home.
We ate sushi almost daily for less than $10!  Just look.
Nothing fancy, but they were yummy and fresh!
We also had some of the most amazing views all around us for FREE!  We literally paid for food and that was it.  As long as we didn't go to tourist markets, we paid very low prices for local produce.  Beef was expensive, but we got around that by sticking to seafood and poultry. The only other thing I can remember paying for was parking.  In some of the lots near beaches, there was a small fee ($5) to park there.  If I am remembering correctly, if you paid to park in a beach parking, you could park in other beach lots as well using the same ticket.  Nevertheless, it wasn't that expensive for us.  It just depends on what you enjoy. 

Every view was beautiful.  Every beach had it's own special characteristics.  Each time we thought we found our favorite beach, we were wrong.  It was an amazing experience!  I can't wait to get more video edited!