Photo Friday 

I love everything about this sign, especially that it rotates. I found it walking around downtown  Seattle on a cold, rainy day. There were a lot of rookie mistakes that happened later that night that I’ll share in another post. Despite that, it was a wonderful adventure.

Maegan

P.S. I posted this on Instagram and A Beautiful Mess liked it! Guys, they are my blog idols. I’ve been a reader since 2011. If you haven’t read their blog, go check it out!

New Beginnings

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View of the Sound from Tiger Mountain

Hello, friends! I have an exciting announcement–no, I’m not pregnant–but I am relocating to an area just south of Seattle, Washington. My three years in Colorado Springs have been challenging, heart wrenching, beautiful, inspiring, motivating, and I could go on. So many things have happened in the last three years. I value the people I’ve met in Colorado Springs and Denver, and I’m so honored to have the privilege of being part of the community.

Now this blogger goes West again! Stay tuned for new life experiences and inspiration.

Sending out so much love and light,

Maegan

P.S. I’m in Seattle presenting at the National CASA conference. I am so inspired by all the connections that I’ve made here. I also became galvanized to actually sit down and write the book that I’ve been writing in my head for years. On a particularly rainy day in Seattle, I dreamed up my first chapters over a burger and fries in a downtown bar in grill. If anyone has any knowledge about publishing, I would love to learn from you!

Solo Trip to Taos

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When I first got to Taos, I was in search of some beautiful scenery. I drove to the Taos Ski Valley to see what natural beauty I could find. I went on a mini hike and took A TON of photos. Here are a few of my favorites:

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There was a torrential downpour about three hours after I got into town, so I headed off to a restaurant in the historic part of downtown Taos for some Mexican food. Unfortunately, it rained for the rest of the night, so I finished my late dinner and went back to my hotel.

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When I woke up, the sun was shining and all of Taos seemed to be glowing and refreshed from the rainfall. I walked around downtown Taos for a few hours before anything was open, except the charming little coffee shops sprinkled throughout the town.

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The culture in Taos seems to be heavily influenced by religion. There were several artistic nods to Jesus and Mary painted throughout the town. These renditions were my favorite. There’s just something about bright religious spray paintings complete with modern bandanas.

Stay tuned for more Taos posts! I spoke with several locals while in town, and they shared some interesting stories with me.

Happy travels,

Maegan

Currently Loving:

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This weekend I did some solo traveling for the first time in a long time. I took a mini road trip to Taos, New Mexico. It was so invigorating and refreshing. This picture was taken on the Taos Pueblo where the Tewa live. I spoke with a woman who is fluent in Tewa. She shared some of her grandparents’ stories of the American boarding schools they were forced to attend.

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I visited the earth ship community about ten miles outside of Taos. This is taken from the visitor center there.

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This is the Rio Grande Gorge. It’s the closest thing to the Grand Canyon that I’ve seen. It’s breathtaking. Literally. Walking across the bridge to get this picture triggered my acrophobia. Because I rarely put myself in situations that require me to face my fear, I sometimes forget that I have it. Until I do something like walk across this bridge that was, in reality, completely safe. But when I looked down at my feet, I could see the rocks at the bottom. Yikes. I didn’t stay very long 🙂

Happy weekend,

Maegan

Salida, Colorado

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After a long stretch of little to no solo travel, I decided that I would make the three-hour trip to Salida Colorado to explore. It’s a beautiful little mountain town with lots of shops with local artists’ work, a gin distillery that makes a mean cocktail, and beautiful views.

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It rained for most of my drive in, but it was still breathtaking. The road to Salida from Colorado Springs is rocky with enjoyable curves, juxtaposed next to a vivacious river. When I arrived, I spotted a double rainbow. I have seen more rainbows since I moved to Colorado than I ever have in my life. Calling all LGBTIQA+ people!

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After visiting Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, a swanky little distillery and bar that serves their freshly distilled gin and organic ingredients, I took a sunset stroll around town. The little downtown area is filled with cool coffee shops, quaint bookstores, and old antique shops that seem to have a mysterious layer of dust, which adds to the magic of antique hunting. The river that you can spot almost the entire journey to Salida culminates in a wide, picturesque river perfect for rafting.

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Salida is a charming town full of life and loveliness. It’s a wonderful spot for a short, slow-paced weekend trip. Slow-paced solo travel is by far my favorite kind of travel. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out this little town if you’re in the area.

Happy Travels,

Maegan

 

Day Trip to Milwaukee

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While solo traveling in Chicago, I rented a car and headed to Milwaukee. It was mostly on a whim which is fun, but doesn’t allow for a lot of planning. I thought I could casually stroll through the streets in November and find an adventure. What I found was the cold. And the wind. I specifically remember walking towards the Milwaukee Public Market with tears in my eyes from the bitter cold thinking, “No one else is out walking because they have the sense to stay indoors!” I quickly ducked into the public market for  a reprieve from the bone chilling cold.

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Once inside, I found several people dining on the various fares while on their lunch breaks. I also found cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

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I warmed up with a bowl of clam chowder and drank a local beer, which is where I got the idea to track down a local brewery. After talking with some natives about how they love winter, I drove to Lake Front Brewery.

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I bought a ticket for the next brewery tour when I arrived. Luckily, they take walk ups on weekdays from noon to 8 PM. Tour tickets are $9 on weekdays and $10 on weekends. You have to buy your tickets online for Saturdays. With your tour ticket, you get a few tokens to try their different beers before and after your scheduled tour. Because I had to wait a bit for my tour time, people gave me their unused tokens which allowed me to sample all of their beer. My favorite was their organic Belgian white. I’d highly recommend going if you haven’t tried it. Don’t forget to get there early on Friday and Saturday nights because they get very busy.

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I got so many tokens from people ending their tours that I had to hang out in the gift shop for quite a while so I could sober up. I had a long conversation with the person working the gift shop counter. She told me that she loves snow shoeing, and the cold, and she can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.

With all the craft beer, locally made cheeses, and friendly natives, I suppose I could stand the cold for a while too.

-Maegan

Rookie Mistakes: Vancouver Edition

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During one of my first solo trips, I bought a train ticket from Seattle to Vancouver. I pictured myself gliding up through the Cascades in a train car, sipping hot cider. I could envision walking around the streets of Vancouver, bundled up in several layers, searching for the most appealing restaurant among a cadre of cultural dining options. I planned to meet a friend at his favorite local bar. And then I planned to take a long, hot shower in my hotel room. The next morning, I would explore the shops with enough time to walk back to the train station and head back to Seattle.

This is not at all how it turned out.

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There was an avalanche in the Cascades, so I had to make the four hour trip on a smelly bus with an old man falling asleep on my shoulder. On a positive note, the view on the drive was spectacular. I basically had my face and my whole body pressed against the glass the entire journey.

The bus station turned out to be two miles from my hotel, which I decided to walk to save money. I quickly found out that I couldn’t use my phone  or GPS because I didn’t have an international plan. So I got lost. Really lost. About a mile and a half later, it started raining. Keep in mind that this was during winter.

It took me another mile and a half to finally find my hotel. By the time I got there, I was drenched, annoyed, and hungry. I quickly threw on some dry clothes and headed to the nearest restaurant I could find. It ended up being a place called “The Bodega” which was a Spanish, family style restaurant. Not the ideal place for solo dining. The waitress asked if I was single. After I sputtered out a surprised, “Yes…?” She asked if I would like to dine with the gentleman in the front of the restaurant. When I glanced over in his direction, I saw that he was a middle aged man with sparse hair. I quickly declined. She rearranged her face in what I can only assume was a sad, maternal facial expression. She looked at me with that expression the entire meal.

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After my meal, I felt a bit refreshed and ready for another adventure. I used the restaurant’s wifi to find the bus route that I needed to get from the part of town in which I was staying to the part of town with the bar to meet my friend. When I found the right bus line, I didn’t have enough change in Canadian coins to ride. The bus driver gave me a sorry look and politely asked me to get off the bus. After going to a Starbucks and buying whatever was on the menu to get change, I got back on the bus. Twenty minutes and eight stops later, I realized that I was going the complete opposite direction of where I needed to go. I immediately got off the bus and had to buy another drink at a local sandwich shop. By this time, all the shops were closing as it was well after dark. I got back on the correct bus going the correct direction just to arrive a few minutes after he left.

At that point, I was fed up with my stubbornness and my experience in Vancouver. I hailed the nearest cab, returned to the hotel, and spent the rest of the night and the next morning watching French cartoons and eating some disintegrated granola bars that I found in the bottom of my backpack.

Because of all the mishaps and misfortunes, I only had the presence of mind to take three, mostly blurry, pictures during the entire jaunt to Canada. I happily boarded the bus back to Seattle, conceding to explore Canada another time. I learned a lot of lessons on that trip. The most important one being that if I had it all to do over again, I would have just paid the money to take a damn cab.

Sincerely hoping that you avoid my rookie mistakes,

Maegan

On Taking Travel Photos

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

-Maegan

5 Solo Travel Destinations of 2015 Review

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. IMG_5561
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.

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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.IMG_4404
3. Roswell, NM – I took my first solo road trip in years to Roswell. You can read more about my experience here.IMG_4892
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.IMG_5217
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.IMG_54776. 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*IMG_5816
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.

Where did you travel in 2015?

 

A Night in Roswell

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One of the many gift shops in Roswell

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.

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Found on the back of a building

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?

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Alien landing

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.

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Evidence at the International UFO Museum

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.

-Maegan