Do or Don’t? :Thoughts on Touristy Spots

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I’ve given a lot of thought to whether or not it’s worth my precious travel time to see the touristy spots and take pictures of the monuments, restaurants, movie scenes, buildings, etc. When I first started traveling, visiting tourist destinations was the only way I knew how to travel. And the only real reason anyone goes to touristy spots is to take pictures of themselves with the thing that’s been standing for hundreds of years in the background. Because my face is super important, right?

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Yikes. I have several pictures of us in front of things like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Kilkenny castle in Ireland, and this particularly weird one of me in front of Big Ben. Kathleen is a natural ūüôā Even then, I found it awkward to have someone take pictures of me standing in front of a monument. What are you even supposed to do with your hands/arms/face/neck? Clearly I don’t know.

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Millions of people have that exact same photo although most people look decidedly less awkward than I do. My trip to Paris was largely touristy which I regret on one hand, but we had so much fun! I also learned a lot about different cultures and humanity in general. It was a wonderful experience.

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Now I’d much rather sit at a cafe and speak to the locals about why they live where they do and where would they live if they could. I’d rather talk to them about their culture, daily lives, habits, and things like that. I like to get a feel for a destination, and I certainly can’t do that when visiting touristy places. They are often watered down parts of the culture. And they feel the same everywhere I go. People trying to sell you pointless things, food and drink price gouging, people with cameras over their eyes, people without cameras in front of their eyes but right in the way of your view of the Mona Lisa, etc. Ugh.

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See what I mean about awkward? I took so many pictures on that damn boat ride in San Fran that I barely remember the experience without my phone in front of my face. It took me the ENTIRE boat trip to get a decent selfie with the Golden Gate bridge at the most artistic angle possible in the background. Out of 55 pictures, I only got one good one. And even that one reads as weird and self-absorbed. There’s a sort of beautiful, venerated, and world famous icon in the background which clearly makes my face look better.

Touristy spots while traveling is a DON’T about 95% of the time in my book.

Maegan

 

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Do or Don’t: Travel Thrifting

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This one is DEFINITELY a do for me. I usually only bring a few outfits and shoes on my trips so that I can stuff my suitcase full of one-of-a-kind treasures. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is perusing unique thrift or antique stores. My family and friends know that I refuse to spend precious trip time in a gaudy souvenir store (Sorry, Mom! Don’t expect any postcards or refrigerator magnets). To find uncommon souvenirs that won’t be sequestered to junk drawers, I seek out any and all thrift shops, antique stores, and bazaars.

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I found this little guy on a shelf the back room of an antique store in Pikes Place Market in Seattle. It’s a grumpy bowl! If the price matched my budget, I would have snatched this guy up in a heartbeat. He would have looked spectacular with a tiny little succulent in him, situated on my bookshelf. I often look back at this picture and regret that I didn’t buy him. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since. Ahh, the sting of regret.

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This was at a flea market in southern Illinois. I couldn’t justify purchasing a cat wedding cake topper or a sole rabbit salt shaker, but don’t think I didn’t contemplate it for a bit before walking away. I’m certain that if I had scooped up these figurines, I would have most certainly had buyers’ remorse. No one I know would have appreciated any of these. They would have ended up being donated, for sure. Good call, self! *Self high-five*

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I found these vintage hats in an upscale thrift store in Roswell, New Mexico. The hats even came with their original hat boxes! Again, they were out of my price range. I ended up buying a turquoise bowl with a fun little pattern that’s currently holding garlic on my kitchen counter. A decent priced, useful souvenir always wins in my book.

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These came from a funky art/antique shop in downtown Oklahoma City. This was before I started my vintage glassware collection of all colors. When I get enough colors, I’m going to arrange them in a rainbow. Rainbows make me so happy! I spy a few cups and glasses that could have diversified my current collection for sure. Next time, Oklahoma City!

Warmly,

Maegan

Sleeping in Your Car: Do or Don’t?

New Mexico
New Mexico

When I first told my family I planned on sleeping in my car on my first solo road trip, they were very concerned. After telling me every horror story they had seen on the news since 1985, they offered to pay for my hotel. As a poor college kid living off cheese, crackers, and macaroni, I did not see the point of paying to stay in a dingy cheap motel for less than twelve hours while I made my way across the country. Since then, I have slept in my car several times. Here’s my advice on sleeping in your car.

Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park

1. Unless you cannot find anywhere else with which you feel comfortable, don’t sleep in a Walmart parking lot .
I have had many successful naps in a superstore parking lot; however, I would not recommend it for overnight. There are constantly people walking by and talking about how creepy you are like you can’t hear them. Because of the constant flow of people walking near, you are also more likely to run into someone who might want to take advantage of the situation. Yes, there are a lot of people around. But then again, there are a lot of people around.

Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean

2. Think Ahead.
There were several things that I did not think through the first few times I opted to sleep in my car. The first time, I did not bring a blanket or a pillow. I ended up sleeping with my purse as a pillow and my sand covered, slightly wet towel as a blanket. Bring what you need to feel comfortable.
The second time I slept in my car, it was winter. This, my friends, is not a good time of year to sleep in your car unless you are in a part of the world that does not get below 45 degrees at night. I only slept for four hours at a time because I woke up shivering every so often.
I also didn’t have any ideas where I would stop. I thought I would just stop when I got sleepy. However, I was not in a safe place when I got tired. Then I was trying to make a solid, logical decision when I was tired which can lead to bad decision-making. I recommend picking a small to medium-sized town and stopping around 9 or 10 PM.

Salida
Salida

3. Find Somewhere You Feel Comfortable
A friend of mine once gave me the brilliant idea to sleep in a hotel (not motel) parking lot. She told me that you can go inside to ask them if it’s okay that you sleep in your car in their parking lot. You can tell them that you don’t have enough money for a room, and they might even offer you a room at a discounted price. It actually worked when I tried it! They always say yes, and they did offer me a discounted room once or twice. Find a well-lit spot and get comfy.
Pay attention to the neighborhood. This is where your intuition comes in handy. Do not sleep in a place that makes you uncomfortable in the slightest.
You can also try a camping site. I have only done this once, and I’m pretty sure I was supposed to pay to stay. Sorry, little town in Oklahoma.
Also, if your seats lay down, lay those suckers down so you can stretch out. It only took me three trips to figure this out.

Sleeping in your car is a DO if you do it safely.

On Using Your Intuition When Traveling

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Spot overlooking the Cascades in Seattle 


One of my favorite ways to explore a city is to wander. When I come to a street corner, I let my intuition guide me. Right, left, straight? I have stumbled upon wonderful adventures using this method.

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Lincoln Park in Chicago 


Some people, like my dad, memorize maps of the city to which they are traveling before they ever get on the plane. These people tend to research restaurants and sights to see. In short, they plan most of the trip before they get there. I tried this method early on in my travels; however, it left me feeling disappointed. Yes, I knew where I wanted to go at a certain time of day, but there was no spontaneity, no excitement.

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Cheeky statues outside of Lakefront Brewery, INC. in Milwuakee


I like to ask locals where they like to go in the area. They can always point out interesting places to go where the prices are not inflated for the tourists. With the help of a shop owner in Vancouver, I found a swanky little pub filled with warm and welcoming people that I would not have otherwise noticed from the street.

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On top of Tiger Mountain in Seattle 


A large portion of the adventure is discovering the unknown. If you haven’t used your intuition when you travel, I suggest you try it at least once. (Disclaimer: if you’re going to do this, don’t be stupid. If you get the slightest negative feeling or if you begin to feel uncomfortable, do not proceed. Our instincts are primitive and programmed into us. They are an early warning system. If they say no, trust them.) This method has not only honed my intuition, it has solidified the trust I have in myself and in my decision making capabilities. If you can travel using your instincts as your guide, you can accomplish anything.