You know what I find really annoying on blogs? When almost every post starts with the writer talking about how much they’ve neglected posting as often as they would like to and promise to get back in the swing of things soon. It distracts from the actual content of the post itself and frankly just gets old to read. Soo…I won’t do that to you. I know, isn’t that so sweet of me? I’ll just, uh, leave the meaning of this paragraph up to your own interpretation.
1. It’s what time of year? Every time I see something Christmas-y online or someone mentions Christmas, it seems like it must be a long way off or a long time ago. When it’s 70 degrees outside (seriously, my windows are open), it’s hard to imagine Christmas being a mere week away. I’m not sure if it is the weather or the blur of events this past year, but it all seems strange and out of place. Or maybe it’s just this guy who insisted we get a photo during dinner.
2. Do you ever have a practically perfect day? Because for me, Saturday came pretty close. At the last minute someone unexpectedly offered to cover for me at work and suddenly the day was wide open. It was the perfect mix of rest and recreation. After a slow morning, we went on a ten-mile bike ride, then went straight to rock climbing for an hour, and then came home to get ready for a night on the town with some dear friends for dinner, dessert, and a show. I enjoyed every element of a day well-spent.
3. Do you know what the best part about a trip is?Planning it. I think it is safe to say that I love to travel, but maybe if we get to the root of it, I really love to plan and dream. Studies show that the anticipation of a trip gives a big boost in happiness. Well, this year’s Christmas presents from family (yeah, I know it’s early, but they couldn’t keep it a secret) happen to include a few trips so my planning mode is in full effect.
Okay, I’ve been pretty clear that the last six weeks have been nonstop travel. So much so that sometimes I’ve not even unpacked my bags before loading up a new one. I love to travel, but it has been a little much for me lately. Thankfully, I’m a light packer, otherwise it could really get out of hand. Regardless of where I’m headed, I tend to take about the same amount of things. Which means, my trip to Argentina, road trip across the South/Midwest and this trip to the West Coast all consisted of one carry-on sized bag for my clothes and belongings.
I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. And you can do it, too. You learn to color coordinate, wear the same thing twice, and pack with intention. There’s other tricks I’ve used like rolling clothes or bringing laundry detergent to wash clothes in the sink, but I don’t even think it has to be that intense most of the time.
With more and more experience, I’ve found my go-to bags for such occasions and have gotten a lot of questions about them. So here’s my inventory of travel bags and suitcases that I use regularly.
This is my newest bag…the one I spent hours researching. Thankfully, it’s been a great bag to have. This was first purchased for our two-week trip to Argentina. This easily fit in buses, taxis, and overhead bins, so I was never worried that it would get lost somewhere. I would highly recommend it for anyone who will be traveling repeatedly in a short time. It suits my short size well and doesn’t allow me to overpack (which is a good thing when you’re walking around with this on your back all day). I use a packing cube, which helps keep my clothes contained and organized, but it isn’t a necessity since the bag has straps to go across it. This zips fully from top to bottom, so you have full use of the bag when packing. The sides are extremely flexible and lightweight, so it forms around what you pack without any extra bulkiness to it (the downside can be…you have to pack thoughtfully so you maintain a good balance within the bag). It has a great hip strap that gives a lot of support, but also has a cover that you can zip around the straps when you want to use it during transport (note: you have to have all straps out when you are carrying the bag on your back).
What’s the difference between this and a regular backpack? This would never be something you would want to take to school. This is not a book bag, it doesn’t have the proper structure or form for that. Likewise, a school backpack doesn’t have a structure that is incredibly conducive to great packing for travel. This is for clothes and toiletries and the essentials you need on a trip, while keeping it manageable to carry and small enough to fit on an airplane. For me, it has been the perfect travel backpack.
I’ve had this bag for awhile now. My mom may or may not originally claim it as hers, but I’ve been using it nonstop since college so it was soon mine for good. Now, why would I use this instead of a travel backpack? Convenience. Ease. Looks. There are plenty of good reasons to use a normal carry-on roller bag so don’t let some trendy travel site well you otherwise. This is the bag I pack when I don’t want to think as much about size constrictions and what goes in which pocket. I like that mine is a dark brown so it’s a bit easier to distinguish from all of the others out there, and the darker color keeps it from looking beat up too quickly like the lighter bags tend to do. It’s great for a trip to a hotel or one place where toting a roller bag around is easy. I wouldn’t recommend it for a trip that consists of multiple modes of travel or running through the streets to catch your next bus. But for a lot of trips, this works just fine, especially if you want to look a little more professional with your bag and have less wrinkles in your clothes. You don’t want to travel by backpack? Totally understandable. But in most cases I would still say you should be able to limit your items to a carry-on sized bag.
Alright, in honesty this is not my first bag of choice, but it is my husband’s (as shown above). Let me be clear in saying this is a great bag! It is set up in a way that holds the sides a bit more structured so you get the same nice form that a roller bag might have but the lightweight and backpack advantage of a travel backpack. It zips open from top to bottom, so you can lay it on the ground and pack it like you would a regular suitcase. It’s still carry-on sized so it can fit anywhere and travel easily.
So what’s not to love? For me it was too boxy. I’m 5’2″ so I felt like a turtle with too big of a shell on my back. Because of that, it didn’t allow me to move easily (which is a problem when you plan to do a lot of walking) and the support straps did not help me out. For him, this bag has been awesome. He’s about 6′ tall and the straps work great. This bag was created for all forms of travel so this is his go-to bag in any situation since it provides the best of both worlds. If we’re going on a quick weekend trip together, this is the bag we’ll share (ha, that way he can do all of the heavy lifting!) since it packs easily and fits a lot in it.
That’s really ALL that you pack?
Yes and no. When we travel, we put everything in one carry-on, but we do each pack another bag inside. I use my Keen purse during the day as it has just enough room for everything from a water bottle to a light sweater, without lugging around a big backpack. This has great pockets for a variety of items to be tucked away safely. I use it in every day life, so it doesn’t feel too out of place for me to use during the day wherever I’m traveling to. While it has somewhat of a structure, I use all of those pockets for things like my travel documents, snacks, and music I want to easily access while on the plane/train/bus. I pack it on top so I can quickly remove it from my backpack while that is stored in the overhead bin.
He packs a Hikpro Daypackfor anything he needs, from the camera to a rain jacket. The beauty of the Hikpro bag is that it really does fold up to sandwich size bag, so it’s easy to fit in the bigger bag until he needs it. Despite it’s portability, it has strong straps and a respectable size once it’s open…that way he doesn’t feel like he’s wearing a kid’s backpack or something when he does use it. By bringing these bags, we can leave our bigger bags at the hostel, hotel or couchsurfer’s house (and lock ’em up if we feel the need).
Ta-da! Once you have the right tools, it really can be simple to pack light. Admittedly, some of these bags were expensive, but when you think about the fact that we never pay a baggage fee (ever), it quickly pays for itself. Not to mention, the peace of mind of always knowing where your bag is and the lack of extra useless stuff to lug around on your journey.
Affiliate links were used above, which does provide me a small commission if you use them. All of these items were heavily researched and were purchased completely with our own money. In a few instances above I bought an item years ago, so the link goes to the version available.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming after a brief week of no blogging because it was all a bit too much. So, let’s go ahead and make this a two-week round up of what’s been happening around here.
1. I attended Influence Conference. There may be a bigger recap at a later date as three days can hardly be summed up in a few sentences, but I was so glad to have the chance to go for the final year of this event. After buying my ticket a year in advance, in some ways it was different than I expected but that might be because I’m in a different place and have done a lot of different things since last year. I spent my time listening to some powerhouse speakers, writing my thoughts in cursive, and meeting some incredible women.
2. I got a new logo! I know you thought something looked different, but no, I didn’t get a hair cut (ha!) so it’s a good thing that wasn’t your guess. My friend Jordie did a wonderful job helping me out with a design so I could have business cards for my blog in time for the conference. We’re still working out some of the details for the layout of the blog and how it all works together, but I am so pleased to have this. She was incredibly kind and gracious to me, and I am so grateful for all of her hard work.
3. We snuck in one last trip to the beach. Going in the off-season means it’s cheaper…but you run the risk of it being cold and rainy, which was exactly what happened this time. We still managed to find a few good hours of beach time and played in the rain before returning to Raleigh for another day of exploring. Nevertheless, we had a great time on our 4th annual trip with this fun family we just so happen to be related to.
This a full season–a packed time of so many good things, but in the end it’s making me feel exhausted and overwhelmed. To start, I’ve been out of town for four of the last five weekends. Not to mention, there’s been major happenings at work for both of us, a quick birthday party for him, and a number of out-of-town guests who have stayed with us. The next few weeks only bring more travel, more out-of-town guests, and more big projects and events.
With so many good things happening, it’s hard to admit that I can’t wait for it to all be over. Somehow everything just got scheduled all at once, making September, October, and part of November exhausting before they even started. Some days it feels like too much but then I think, I should be able to take on just a little bit more! This is all good stuff, why should I need a break? We live in a culture that says more is good and if you’re adding more good things then it must be really good. After reading Shauna Niequist’s post on the Storyline blog, I was reminded today that too much is still too much, regardless of if it is good or bad.
Last week I said “no” to something I wanted to say “yes” to and said, “let me get back to you” on something I almost said “yes” to…but then literally ran out of time to simply send a text saying, “Yes, I’ll do it.” I didn’t blog once last week, and thankfully, didn’t feel any remorse about it even though I had plenty to say. I’d rather say yes to all the things and all the people, but I’m realizing that not all good things are worth taking on, no matter how much I want to do them.
The reality is, I could continue to have a busier life. I have a spare hour here or there that hasn’t yet been claimed or scheduled away. I could technically do more and hustle the heck out of my week. Somehow, other people seem to do it. Half of my motivation sometimes comes from looking around at the people who manage to pull it off…all with three or four kids and amazing looking instagram photos to boot.
So why do I keep failing? If they can do it, why am I having such a hard time keeping it all together with my no kids and fuzzy instagram photos? What’s my excuse for always being slightly behind and never quite enough? Why do I have these goals and dreams, but so little energy that it seems they are impossible to achieve?
I don’t have the answers to those questions…but I can feel with everything in me thatthis needs to be a season of soaking up as much rest as possible. We’re still not out of the woods with all the things we have committed to or the trips we are booked to take, but in the moments in between, rest is what we need.
Therefore, I’m giving myself permission to slow down. To let go of my own expectations and extend grace when rest is more important than the to-do list. This doesn’t mean abandoning my goals or backing out of all of my commitments, but instead discerning what is truly important right now. What needs to be addressed today and what will still be there tomorrow or next month. Where I should ask for help and when I need to say no. This is not shutting myself out from the world, but rather seeking the right balance and telling the truth about where I am right now.
My next few weeks and months will continue to be full, but with the extra little bits of time in between I will do everything I can to hold onto whatever rest that it offers.
Due to popular demand, I am telling you all about my solo road trip halfway across the country and back. This is the third part, starting at mile 1,681.5 because yes, I kept track of all my major stops. If you want to catch up on the miles before now, here’s your chance: Miles 1 through 465.9 and Miles 466 through 1,440.4. Otherwise, let’s get back on the road!
1,681.5 miles Des Moines, IA: I arrived to the place I called home for several years and the clock started ticking. We’ve taken a few trips back in the past, and it always feels like a race to see all the people we love in the amount of time we have (oh yeah, and I kept working during the day on this trip). So, I saw a LOT of people and was so glad to do so.
Mason City, IA: I arrived in the area and then promptly headed a few hours north. I don’t have the miles because this time I got to ride instead of drive to my next stop. A few friends were headed to Minneapolis, MN and I caught a ride to Mason City, IA, which was on the way there. This is where the real surprise was planned.
There’s a reason I didn’t post much about this trip until after it happened. My mom has NO idea I was coming. I thought maybe this trip would line up with Mother’s Day, but when it didn’t I decided not to tell her anyway. There was a part of me that wanted to record the moment, but then I decided to experience it instead. Her jaw dropped as soon as she saw me and this is her trying and failing to reenact the expression. Just know that it was worth it. After the surprise had subsided, she showed me all around her new town as I had never been there before.
Ames, IA: On the way back to Des Moines, my mom and I swung through Ames to visit my alma mater. It’s funny, when I was in high school, I refused to even visit a college in Iowa because I was so bent on moving, which is why my first year was spent at Missouri State before I transferred to Iowa State. Now I am so grateful for my experiences at Iowa State and proud to be a Cylcone, even from afar.
Des Moines, IA: Are you ready for a whole bunch of pictures of people I love and far less description of how my week went? Good, because that’s about to happen. In summary, I spent the week working during the day like a normal person and then using the rest of the time to catch up with great friends over lunch, coffee, dinner and dessert. I stayed with friends who are new homeowners, held tiny babies, checked out the new building of my old workplace and celebrated the next season in life my friends are entering in to. Des Moines was beautiful all week and I kept feeling like a tourist who wanted to capture all that is great about that place. Somehow, there are several more people I got to see and spend time with but didn’t get a photo with this time.
1,817.1 – 2,467.4 miles Clarksville, TN: In one day, I traveled 650 miles by car as I went from Des Moines to Tennessee. While originally planned as a two-day trek, this is another one of those plans that just changed and probably for the best. Luckily for me, it went incredibly quick as I had a co-pilot to keep me company all day. When Nancy and I realized we were thinking of going back to Iowa around the same time, we coordinated our trips so that we could do part of the journey together. She is another friend about to enter into a new stage of life as she was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, and I am so excited for her and her husband to be parents.
2,516.3 miles Nashville, TN: I got on the road thinking I might simply wave hello to Nashville and be on my merry way. Originally, this was to be a stop-and-stay-with-a-friend location, but when you’re on a road trip you’ve got to be flexible and ready to shift plans around. Once I arrived, I realized how much I still wanted a chance to stay for awhile. So, I did. One might think it was for reflection on this trip before returning home and in a way it was, but the reality was that I finally finished journaling about our trip to Argentina earlier this year. It gave me the chance though to let some of my thoughts flow from pen to paper and was just the rest I needed before driving the remaining 450 miles back home. I’d just spent time with a lot of people, heard a lot of truths and challenges and traveled almost nonstop for a few weeks and had a lot to process, so I was grateful for those last few hours driving through the mountains alone on my final stretch of the journey.
Here’s the deal: I’m out of town right now. Yesterday I posted a video about our trip to Argentina, because well, it was way past due. The thing is, I’m currently road tripping and have been gone for the past two weeks. What!? Crazy, right?
Turns out that going out of the country and coming back to normal life can make you go a little crazy, which is exactly what happened to me. It was a (mostly) good crazy that caused me to hope and dream for big things. Before I knew it, I was planning a solo road trip with 45+ hours of driving over the course of three weeks. I visited towns I’ve never been to, stayed with couchsurfers along the way (aka former strangers), saw dear friends and surprised my mom upon my arrival. Believe it or not, this trip isn’t even over yet.
Here’s the route: Raleigh, NC>Charlotte, NC>Greenville, SC>Atlanta, GA>Birmingham, AL>Memphis, TN>Little Rock, AR>Bentonville, AR>Kansas City, MO>Mason City, IA>Des Moines, IA>St. Louis, MO>Nashville, TN>HOME
I kept most of the details pretty hushed online up until now because I thought it would be fun to surprise my mom and she, being my mom, reads my blog. The shocked expression on her face was totally worth it. But now, I can’t wait to share some of my experiences along the way with you!
So far, the route has gone through a few changes since I first dreamt it up, but since I started the trip it has followed the final plans fairly well. The first few days were quite possibly my most adventurous. Not only was I couchsurfing, but I was also visiting a bunch of cities I’d never been to before and had no idea what to expect. On top of that, I’m also working remotely during the week days, so my time and experiences may be limited in all of these places but I still get a glimpse of things along the way.
In case you’re wondering…my husband is not on the trip, primarily because his work is not remote, but also because this trip made sense for me and not for him this time. He got to stay home and work on some of his big dreams and goals. We knew this was a matter of pursuing opportunities as they come–for both of us.
I have taken photos, made memories, thought through life, shared meals, visited dear friends, and become friends with (otherwise) perfect strangers. I definitely hope to give you more of a destination by destination summary later on, but for now, just want to share a few basic things I’ve found along the way…
Context carries a lot of weight. When I had an introduction or someone mentioned my trip, suddenly I was an interesting person with a story to tell but other times I was just another girl in the crowd whose story appeared boring and ordinary.
Creativity can strike in the most bizarre places…and it won’t run outif we use it.
Everyone has a messy house. Maybe you’re that one weirdo who doesn’t have laundry or dishes or a pile of random things on the counter, but you’re in the small minority. Seeing a lot of other (normal) homes has me convinced that it’s okay to have a house that looks well, rather lived in.
There are a lot of (dead) armadillos by the side of the road in Arkansas.
The culture changes in different parts of the country. Different pasts, different stories, different thoughts.
A lot of people think they know how you should live your life. The ones that admit they don’t know the answers but are striving to do their best with what they’ve got are the ones I trust the most.
Some parts of the country just simply aren’t great places to visit.
No matter how nice you are, you might say the wrong thing one day. It feels like the worst moment ever as soon as you realize you hurt someone but had no idea at the time.
Some local coffee shops are amazing, others leave a lot to be desired.
There’s a ton of gospel music on the radio in the South.
Late nights paired with early mornings will catch up to you.
Solo road trips are more rare than I realized. I’ve been told a few times that I’m brave for going at this alone, especially as a woman. Maybe that’s true and in some ways this trip feels meaningful but in a lot of other ways, it feels pretty average. I am only driving between two to six hours at a time and for a big part of the trip I’m with people I know. The fact that I had the opportunity to do it makes a huge difference, but what I’m actually doing is not epic in itself.
Travel isn’t for the purpose of merely “seeing all the things and going all the places.” It’s to gain perspective and understanding, all the while challenging yourself.
I love to travel, but there’s more to life than traveling. If I had to give up everything to travel, I don’t think it would actually be worth it. My relationships, friendships, home, skills and goals hold huge value to me. I think sometimes travel seems glamorous, but it can come at a cost to other aspects of our life.
Okay everybody, I think it’s high time we shared the video montage of our trip to Argentina. You know, that trip we got back from two months ago. (How has that time gone by so quickly?) At first we were stressed as we threw ourselves back into our daily and creative lives. Then it seemed like maybe I would post more photos after a quick post on Iguazu Falls. Instead, let’s get a better view. Without further adieu, here’s the video recap of our trip through Argentina in March 2015.
I think it’s quite clear, but in case you missed it–Argentina was amazing. My husband did an excellent job putting together a video that shares a glimpse of our time there. Of course there were several more moments and memories, but sometimes you just have to experience things firsthand and not bother with the camera.
We spent several days in Buenos Aires as we flew in and out from there and used it as our jumping off point to get to places like Iguazu Falls and Mendoza. Buenos Aires was the big city (that never sleeps)–the place where we walked until our feet were covered in blisters, saw a bunch of museums, tried to tango, experienced city life, attended an incredible drumming performance and met some amazing people in the various hostels we stayed at.
Iguazu Falls was a tiny town in the middle of the jungle where we mainly explored the trails and walkways near the falls but also stopped by a wildlife preserve to see some local animals. It took an additional flight to get there, which unfortunately was canceled and later rescheduled due to an airline strike that day. Thankfully, we got everything sorted out, and it was more than worth it. Iguazu Falls is quite possibly the most epic natural wonder either of us have or ever will see.
Mendoza was a medium-sized town near the Andes. We actually took an overnight 13-hour bus ride to get there and back from Buenos Aires. After a morning to get acclimated, I quickly decided it was my favorite city of the three. Set right next to the Andes mountains, it was a gorgeous area which we got to explore by horseback, kayak, raft and bike. It was a lot of activity but in the most restful and wonderful way.
Finally, we took a short day trip to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, which is just a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires. We were glad to get a quick view of the country, learn more about its history and dream about what life might be like there.
All in all, a great trip through a beautiful country. We were so grateful for the opportunity to go, the time together and the experiences we shared.