I don’t know about you guys, but I always compile playlists before I travel, whether it’s for a short plane ride or a long road trip. I will be roadtripping with my significant other and one of our friends in May for a music festival, so I’m currently rounding up solid road trip playlists for our 22 hour journey one way (yikes!). Here’s what I have so far:
Can’t You Wait – Geographer
Anna Sun- WALKTHEMOON
On Our Way – The Royal Concept
Indian Summer – Jai Wolf
Molecules – Atlas Genius
Atomic Man – Portugal. The Man
Shake it Off – Florence + the Machine
The Wire – HAIM
Ghengis Khan – Miike Snow
Often – The Weeknd
(This is just a piece of one of the many playlists I’m making. This particular one has all the bands that will be playing at the music festival. Can you believe that all of those people will be there?!)
I always find that you need playlists that convey different moods, depending on the ambiance of road trip when you listen to it. I usually go for upbeat and optimistic as there are frequently unexpected challenges that pop up that can be stressful to deal with. I tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes, hence my whole “Rookie Mistakes” category, so I find it best to have positive songs on hand that I can listen to while I’m dealing with whatever fallout that’s happening. Like getting lost. Have I mentioned that I’m AWFUL without my GPS? Let’s just cross our fingers that we have 4G the whole way…
There’s something enchanting about Montreal in the winter. In late December and early January, there was a steady dusting of snowfall which made everything sparkle in the moments when sunshine peeked through the heavy clouds. Though I had to buy proper winter boots upon my arrival in order to walk anywhere, the powdery snow enhanced the sightseeing experience. But because of the cold, there were times when I just wanted to curl up with a crepe in a warm restaurant. Here are three restaurants I would highly recommend visiting in Montreal.
Le Cartet- This place has such a great atmosphere. It was a bit unnerving to be seated in their communal dining, but it seemed to work so cohesively as a whole. The breakfast menu items were all delicious, but that’s not why I highly suggest that you visit.
You have to go because the coffee is the best that I’ve ever had. Hands down. I’ve been a coffee connoisseur for quite some time now, and I’ve never had coffee that smooth with just the right amount of rich flavor. And it comes in a bowl! It’s an entire bowl of coffee. There was a long line out the door, but I’d gladly wait in the snow again just for that coffee.
2. Universel Déjeuner & Grillades (Peel) – Just look at those portions! This restaurant has a fun atmosphere whether you’re sitting outside or inside. The Billy Goat, poached eggs with salmon, spinach, goat cheese, and Hollandaise sauce, was delicious. The creamy Hollandaise sauce paired with the fresh, smoked salmon and perfectly poached eggs made the rather hefty price worth it. Because I was traveling with three people, I got to sample more than just my dish.
Normally I would not order a plate of meat like my friend did, but everything on the plate was delicious. The bacon was especially crispy and smoky. This was served with a tiny cup of custard in which you could dip the crepes. It was so creamy and buttery but not overwhelmingly sweet. As I was sampling the custard, I imagined myself digging into an entire bowl of nothing but the custard. It was that good. 3. Schwartz’s Deli – If you read any guides on where to eat in Montreal, they inevitably include Schwartz’s Deli. As my group was full of meat lovers, we had to make the trek there to check out their “World Famous Original Smoked Meat”.
We had poutine just about everywhere you can order poutine. I could have taken or left the poutine here. But their fries are homemade and had that crispy crunch on the outside.
My friend ordered the liver steak to be adventurous, but it turned out to be a bad decision. Unless you are really into the texture of liver, I wouldn’t recommend getting this. She left most of it uneaten because she couldn’t get past the chewy, greasy texture.
So why do I recommend eating at Schwartz’s when it’s a bit of a taxi/uber drive from downtown? This. The smoked meat sandwich. I’m not much of a meat eater, but I devoured this sandwich. It’s served with mustard which brought out the rich, smoky flavor. It’s the best sandwich with any type of meat on it that I’ve ever had.
Montreal boasts some pretty lofty claims about their food. And the boasts are true, if you know where to go.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot since I started traveling, solo or otherwise. I have mixed feelings about taking pictures while traveling, but my perspective has shifted somewhat since I decided to start a blog.
When I first started traveling I had a tendency to take pictures EVERYTHING. Sunsets, shops, streets were all captured by my low quality cell phone camera. I felt the need to document all of my experiences so I could share my trip narrative with visual aides. I liked the idea of the vacation slide shows of the 1960’s. I soon realized that my friends were all humoring me through the painstaking explanation of each of my trip photos. It also quickly became apparent that I was spending too much time focusing on snapping memories than actually being present in the moment. When trying to recall what it felt like to witness a sunset on the beach, I found myself having difficulty. What did it feel like to have a Chicago style hot dog in Grant Park? I couldn’t tell you. But I have a plethora of pictures that are all mysteriously slightly blurry. And I feel no connection to them.
On my next trip, I challenged myself to take less photos in order to focus on soaking up the experience. My first trip that I really exercised this was on my first solo trip to Seattle. I have vivid memories of hiking up my first “mountain” just south east of Seattle proper. And I only took five photos of that entire journey. And for someone coming from flat land, it really was a journey. On the way up I took one of my favorite pictures, though admittedly, not my best. A foggy mist permeated through the pine trees, and a cloudy sky cast a gentle ethereal glow on the trail. Fresh dew drops cascaded from green and yellow leaves of all shapes and sizes. The smell of pine and fresh rain floated through the air, just subtle enough to remind you that it was there every few breaths. Instead of stopping to take pictures every fifty steps in order to capture glimpses of my trip for other people, I paused to consciously absorb my surroundings. After I was satisfied I had experienced that moment to its fullest, I grabbed my crappy cell phone and took five seconds to take two pictures. This was the raw, unedited result:
I am confident that I will remember the details of that glorious moment, not because of the picture, but because I took the time to let the moment wholly envelop me and my senses.
Now that I’ve started my blog, I realize how important it is to take numerous pictures. But I’m finding it rather easy as long as I focus on being present first, then taking a quick photo to remind myself of how I felt.
My DSLR – I have been thinking about and researching investing in a DSLR camera for years. After chewing on it a lot recently, I finally took a dive into the more serious photography world this morning. The price tag was a bit steeper than I usually feel comfortable with investing into a hobby, and I had a bit of buyer’s remorse on the way home. But when I took it out of the box and began taking some snapshots, I immediately knew that I had made the right choice. This is one of my first test photos, and look at it. Just look at it! That’s my cat, Simone. Isn’t she a babe?
Coffee in the mountains – On a spontaneous solo day trip through the mountains this weekend, I stopped at this charming coffee shop. They serve coffee, tea, a limited breakfast menu, and an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re sipping a latte in your old, slightly tacky grandmother’s parlor.
A thrift store plush pug that actually whines and barks. If it snored like the real thing, I would have purchased it, logic and reason be damned.
Lazy Sunday lounging – Another one of my first few snapshots on my DSLR. This is Grayson slowly waking up from a nap. I love a good, unreasonably long weekend nap.
In January 2015, I set some goals for solo traveling to San Diego, Utah, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, and Yellow Stone here . I had also booked a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest in February. Most of my travel plans were thwarted because I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Despite my medical dramas, I managed to visit a few destinations in the latter part of the year. 1. Denver, CO – Denver is only about an hour away from where I live. In 2015, I took the short jaunt north to see one of my favorite bands, Geographer. I also took day trips for tattoos, to see Mary Lambert, another favorite artist, for Denver PRIDE, and to visit some friends. I also spent Halloween in Denver at one of the best Halloween parties that I’ve ever been to. Denver is a wonderful city with such good vibes, and I would love to relocate there at some point.
2. New Orleans, LA – My second time to New Orleans was on a business trip in early summer. It was my first business trip, and it was such a relief not to have to foot the bill for the hotel, meals, and transportation. New Orleans doesn’t sound like a great place to go for business, but we still managed to have a lot of fun while we were there. It helped that a fun coworker got to go with me. I also was able to reunite with some of my former coworkers whom I hadn’t seen in years, which made for a very special trip. 3. Roswell, NM – I took my first solo road trip in years to Roswell. You can read more about my experience here. 4. Washington D.C./Baltimore, MD/Dewey Beach, DE – One of my friends, who relocated from Oklahoma City to D.C., invited my significant other and me to stay with him during the late summer last year. It was the first time traveling a long distance with my significant other, so it was definitely an interesting journey. We had so many wild adventures during this trip that I look back on it very fondly. It might have been my favorite trip of the year. 5. Mesa Verde, CO – My second road trip of the year, but this time it was with my best friend. Being alone with my best friend for basically the entire four days was such a joy. It’s so grounding to be around someone who has known me for years. She always has a way of reminding me who I am. That trip was so healing in so many ways.6. Albuquerque, NM – This was my third road trip of the year and my second time at the International Balloon Fiesta. Though I went a few years back, I found myself looking at the balloons in wonder and amazement for hours. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. But you have to get up REALLY early if you want to see the Dawn Patrol. Traffic is awful before and after. But look at that sunrise! *heart eyes* 7. Dallas, TX /NYC– I grew up in a Dallas suburb, so I often go home to visit family and friends. I flew home for Christmas and flew to New York City before New Years to take a trip to Montreal in Canada. Most of that trip happened in the new year, so I count that as a 2016 trip.
In Colorado during the summer, the weather hovers around 80-90 degrees during the day, but the night is vastly different. Depending on where you are, the overnight temperatures can drop to a chilly 20-30 degrees. If you want to camp at night anywhere in Colorado, you need to be prepared for some cold weather camping.
My trip to Mesa Verde during late summer last year was the first time that I had ever been camping without an expert camper. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve camped several times in my adult life, but it’s not quite the same when you rely on someone else to put up all the tents, cook, and generally bring everything that you could ever want. In an attempt to NOT make a rookie mistake, I heavily researched what we would need. I packed two sleeping bags, pillows, and several, several blankets and cold weather gear. So how did this turn into a rookie mistake, you ask? Well, my friend, Breann, and I left the sleeping bags and most of the cold weather gear that I had packed in the garage: mistake number one.
Mistake number two: not going to a local store to buy sleeping bags in the last big town we went through before reaching Mesa Verde. Because the trip took longer than planned, we rushed to get to the campsite before dark, which meant no stops. After getting mildly lost (cell reception is spotty at best through large parts of Colorado), we finally found the campsite right at dusk. We turned on our car headlights and pitched the tent. Which turned out to be for 50 degree weather and above.
We spent two very, very cold, uncomfortable nights in that tent without sleeping bags or clothes warm enough for that environment. One night, I wore a thermal that I happened to have in the car, a sweatshirt, a scarf, a beanie, my winter coat that also happened to be in my car, and two pairs of sweatpants. That definitely did not suffice, but it didn’t stop me from making the most of it, as evidenced by this picture:
P.S. We also forgot a cork screw, so I uncorked our wine with my keys, but not without a bit of the cork falling into the wine. Rookie mistakes all around.
My first solo sojourn after my surgery and my long recovery period, both physically and mentally, was to Roswell, New Mexico. I am endlessly enthralled with the wide range of beliefs and experiences with extraterrestrials that permeate our culture. (Side note, ever heard Fermi’s paradox? SO FASCINATING! Seriously, Google it.) I live only six hours away from Roswell, so one hot June afternoon I set off in search of alien culture. What I found was nothing short of magical, but in a surprisingly goofy way.
I knew that I was in the right place when I saw alien paintings, logos, and diners lining the small streets. The whole city has a very small town feel to it which I generally enjoy because the pace of those cities allows for me to converse with locals. I always love asking people why they live in the area. Are they going to stay? Why?
I spoke to a woman who owned a downtown antique store, on the main drag of Roswell. She told me that she lives in Roswell because her whole family lives there and it’s always been her home. Sure, she’s visited some “far out” places, but she feels that she belongs in Roswell.
After visiting Whataburger for the third time since arriving the day before (we don’t have it in Colorado. Have you had their spicy ketchup?! ), I set off to explore the International UFO Museum. Because of the “Museum” in its title, I assumed it would be like any other museum, with artifacts and actual facts. Instead, what I found was an enchanting amalgam of reports and suspected alien encounters, landings, and abductions. Peppered throughout the museum are alien autopsy reenactments, life size alien statues with which patrons can pose, and even a full fledged landing site recreation. Though I’m not sure if I learned any hard facts, the evidence presented, though some of it cheesy and kid-oriented, made me question what we know about aliens on the entire drive back.