I have a hard time with Travel blogs.
I love reading them, but I don't like writing them.
Which is why this portion of my blog called "Trips and Travels" doesn't get updated as often as I'd like. I go on trips. I just never know how to share them without it sounding like an extra credit assignment a teacher gives you where you journal your experience to make up for the school time you miss.
When I go on trips, I have a hard time pulling myself away to make sure I'm taking the perfect photos and thinking of the perfect things to say when I get back to sit down and write about it. It's a major killjoy and timesuck for me.
So if you're expecting a post on the "Best 10 things to do in Yellowstone," or "The Tetons in Ten Minutes," I can point you in the direction of some other bloggers who do a great job sharing those experiences, but if you're looking for a blog about a girl whose mind was blown by creation then you've come to the right place.
About a week ago, me, my hubby and two good friends of ours hit the road for the 14 hour drive to Dubois, Wyoming. Dubois is a tiny little town of about 900 people.
Everywhere you look, there's all kinds of horses, cows, and even antelope, but no people. I once had a history teacher in high school tell me that if I was ever worried about the world running out of space for people, that one trip to Wyoming, Montana or Idaho would calm that fear.
He was right.
So yeah, it's pretty desolate and that was refreshing in a way.
What isn't desolate is the amount of incredible creation that we were surrounded by for our whole trip.
I'm a walking contradiction for two reasons. Reason 1: I love the mountains and the ocean. It's pretty rare to be able to have both landscapes in the same area (Unless you're the pacific northwest, which is next on the bucket list). Reason #2: I love the mountains but loathe winter and snow. Would I suck it up just to be in the mountains? I'm not sure.
Regardless, I had this song stuck in my head the whole trip "So Will I (100 BillionX)."
And it came across in a lot of my photos, because I could not help but hear a line of the song as I took a picture of a mountain, a tree, and even Old Faithful.
So I'm going to do the best I can to explain photos that already speak for themselves.
I'm usually a sucker for a good Nebraska sunset, but Wyoming might have beat it in the category of sunrises. As you can imagine, Wyoming has lot's of wide open spaces, and what a better canvas for some gorgeous paintings.
I remember being little and my mom commented on how pretty the sunset was, and I said something along the lines of "eh, I've seen better," and my mom was so upset. At first, I didn't understand why, but as I've gotten older I've come to appreciate a good sunrise or sunset.
God created the sky and the light first, and He typically doesn't do things by coincidence. I image that in his mind, He knew they would be something that would provide a great opportunity to show off.
To my surprise, Yellowstone is a HUGE deal to the science community. There is tons of geothermal activity in the park with lots of geysers and mud volcanoes. In fact, all of Yellowstone is just atop of one massive volcano.
I don't think I ever gave much thought to the idea of what's below our feet, but Yellowstone makes you think of such things. It's amazing to me that there's so much that goes on in this world that the human eye never catches.
It's even crazier to think that when God created it all each puzzle piece fit together in a way that worked perfectly with everything else.
Should there be no volcanic activity underneath Yellowstone, there wouldn't be a Yellowstone. The reason for the park's diverse landscape and lush forests has everything to do with the volcanic soil and dirt that helps the plants to grow. Because of all the plants in the parks, animals find easy food and stick around. Because of all the animals and plants, millions come and visit the park every year.
It's all just one pre-designed puzzle.
So let's get to the cool stuff, the wild life. Luke was searching for a bear our whole trip, but I was content to see the more gentle animals like elk, moose, and buffalo. We saw TONS of buffalo, and they are interesting animals. They are slow moving and more massive than I thought they would be. We saw a couple elk, but had no luck on the moose.
However, there were lots of people in the park looking for much smaller things like birds and insects.
I'm sure some of those people saw the moose and elk and were disappointed they didn't get to see the birds they were looking for, and I'm sure we saw things they wish they had seen.
It's all in perspective. God created a niche for everyone and everything, and while we didn't find ours, I'm sure we stumbled upon some pretty amazing things like the mama Elk who was grooming her baby in the lake.
To be honest, I was here for the views, and the crazy thing was, they were not that difficult to find! You'd think that we would have hiked hours to discover some of the waterfalls and mountain views around us, but they were only just a little ways off the beaten path.
All it took was for us to stop and take a minute to actually look.
I chose the quote above because of the reminders I was constantly given. If something as massive and eternal as a mountain range was made to worship, then something as small as me should probably consider it.
If the ocean and waterfalls worship loudly as designed without stopping, then maybe someone who has control over their words should use them wisely, but if something like the rocks still worship without making a sound, then sometimes silence is the best practice too.
If the wind goes where it's told without ever questioning where, why, or how, maybe that's something to think about.
All in all, it was an incredible trip. I love being in places where I'm constantly reminded of the creation story, and to see things that were spoken into existence thousands of years ago still constant even in though everything else has changed.
If you haven't thought about it in that light, I would give it a try. It's changed my perspective of hikes and scenic routes. It's changed my perspective of the difference between quiet and silence.
In general, it makes the world a more beautiful place to live.
I don't get away enough.
Or so it seems that way. Life gets too busy, or too stressful, or too whatever and I stay stuck in a rut for far too long. With that pattern in mind, my S/O and I decided we break the stressful streak and decided to spend 5 days in the rockies.
We chose Colorado for a couple of reasons.
1. It's a relatively cheap trip for two broke college students to take.
2. We could get there via vehicle.
3. Luke had never been.
We left leaving Colorado with a completely changed mindset of what it means to stay in the mountains, so with that being said. Here's a couple lessons from The Rockies.
My apartment is approximately 50 yards from the interstate. Semi's are usually traipsing through my backyard. I sleep with a fan on at night to block out the sound of my neighbors puppies playing at night, and when I get the chance, my life always has some sort of background music.
So silence? HA. Yeah right.
So when I heard silence, because yes, you can hear it. I stopped dead in my tracks. I felt small in the mountains and to be honest a little scared. But then we stopped and stood there for awhile, and I realized how peaceful it can be to hear nothing. To not hear deadlines or to dos, but to just be standing there in the middle of silence. It's something we should all be actively pursuing. Taking a moment to only hear ourselves, our heartbeats and lungs going in and out in and out.
Check in with just yourself every once and while. You'll be surprised with what silence might tell you.
the view. I was grateful for the hard work I had put in, the sweat I had endured, and the ache in my bones. Every. single. time. I was grateful.
And still, how many times do I forget the view. I lose sight of the view when I get lost in midterms, or when I'm fifty dollars short on rent some months. I forget how great it feels when the hard part has passed, and I'm sitting back looking at all the success I created along the way. The climb sucks, don't get me wrong. It hurts and you're tired and it looks like there's not end to the trail riddled with ice, sticks, snow and rock. And then all of the sudden, you're leaning over the edge of this massive accomplishment, beaming down at everything you surpassed along the way.
And ya wanna know what the funny thing is...
I don't remember the hard parts of the hikes anymore.
Lesson Three: There are hidden treasures if you look hard enough.
Yet another cliche I'm sure that an avid hiker came up with. Personally, it was my favorite thing to come across little niches in the forest. Little brooks people had left unnamed, or a exceptionally gorgeous view off the beaten path. I know these trails were public, but finding them felt like my own little corner of Colorado.
Just like the view, these treasures weren't always easy to find or right in front of my eyes, but with a little extra guidance from my hiking partner, or listening just a little harder to something but my own thoughts, we were able to come across some pretty cool things.
Sometimes that pretty cool thing was a territorial moose, but that's beside the point.
The point is, go the extra mile to find the hidden gem. Work a little harder for the light at the end of the tunnel, and most of all don't be surprised when the universe hits you with something good.
By the end of our trip, I left with aching calves, a new favorite coffee blend, and some of my favorite memories. If I can leave you with this, it's that the mountains have a lot more in store than just the views.
It's okay to feel small. It's okay to feel scared. It's okay to try new things. It's okay to push limits.
I wanted somewhere cheap to stay, and like I said, I wanted to do something different than your average commercial hotel. I opted to do Airbnb (Air-B-N-B, yes it's a word). Essentially, this is an app, or website, where people can book a place to stay for dirt cheap. What's the catch you might ask? Well, you are renting out a room, or floor in someone else's home.
Yes, this sounded sketchy to me too at first, but I will add that the creators of this service have really outdone themselves. The app has thousands of places to chose from, especially in major cities. Each place is listed with messages from the owners, as well as a very strict review policy. Not only do you have to approve of the owners, but the owners have to approve of you.
Don't believe me, check out my photos below. We were able to stay in the attic of an charming home in Westport. For only $66, we were accommodated with a living space complete with wifi, Netflix, Hulu and HBO-Go, a king sized bed, a full bath with a clawfoot tub, and a kitchenette that included complimentary water bottles, coffee, tea, a full dish set, and microwave. Between the two of us, this was only $30.
Talk about a steal. Should you find yourself in K.C., and want to use this app, I would HIGHLY recommend "Bonnie's Place." If you want to know more about Airbnb, or you yourself is looking to travel cheaply and have more questions, feel free to go to my contact page to talk to me about it!
As I said, we were in town for a concert, and a night like that isn't complete without going out to dinner beforehand. While dodging in and out of a very busy rush hour, we looked all over for a place to eat and finally settled on an italian place called "Extra Virgin." We chose outdoor seating for the view, and we knew we were in for an experience when we looked at the menu.
So, Extra Virgin, is true italian with a twist. Each menu item comes in what I would call "appetizer size," and our waitress advised us that we order multiple dishes to share. We asked her what she recommended, and went from there. There were multiple dishes we tried, but the portabella mac and cheese, and the meatballs were my favorite. If we are being honest, I have a picky palate, so I stuck with the basics, but the menu has tons of options for adventurous foodies. Click on any of the photos below for their full menu and website if you're looking to try something new.
At last, the moment I had been waiting for, the Chainsmokers. I have been a huge fan of them for years, and jumped on this opportunity to see them live. If you like light shows and loud music, this show is for you. If you dislike electronic music, this is not the concert for you.
The show went on for two hours, and was well worth the money. While the voices of the lead singer were not grammy-winning, they made up for it in production. This show had pyroglyphics, laser shows, smoke, confetti, streamers, you name it and they had it. You could tell production had been well thought out for months. They had a dj booth that moved up and down, lights that spun around to make staircases and incredible screen graphics. While I will probably only see them this one time, if you like their music, or like to dance non-stop, I would recommend seeing them.
Because Kansas City is a hop-skip-and a jump away from Omaha, we decided it would be fun if we spent the day after the concert exploring. However, we couldn't stop in K.C. without visiting our favorite location of "Union Station." Except this time, we were able to stop and enjoy lunch at the restaurant inside. If you visit, go to "Harvey's." For the location, and quality of food this restaurant is very very affordable. It should be noted that they have odd hours and are only open from 8am-3pm so plan accordingly.
Now talk about lunch with a view! Harvey's has upper and lower seating, and naturally we chose to sit up top. We were lucky and got the whole second floor to ourselves! If you guys remember, or want to scroll back to my Christmas in K.C post, this place was beautiful during the holidays, and it is still just as gorgeous in the spring time. It was cool because we were in town during mid-week so the station wasn't as busy as it is on the weekends. The peace and quiet of our afternoon was wonderful, and the view wasn't half bad either.
For those of you that didn't know, Kansas City is also known for their fountains. These landmarks can be found almost anywhere in town. We drove past countless fountains on our drive in and out of the city. On our second day we walked around a business park just to enjoy the nice weather and these were everywhere! I love fountains so this was for sure my cup of tea as we enjoyed the weather and the scenery.
So fellow travelers, what did I miss? Comment other cool things to do in K.C., because I will definitely be going back.
I love weddings. I mean I really realllllly love weddings. When I was younger, I wanted to be a wedding planner, quickly realizing that small town Nebraska was not the place for such a dream. I had wedding planning games on the computer. I watched "Say Yes to the Dress" nonstop. I started shopping for wedding dresses at the age of 12. I've just always been a big fan of the happiest day of your life, and the beginning of happily ever after.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to be a bridesmaid for some close friends, in northern Texas on New Year’s Eve. I was in traffic when I got the text, and came home to my roommates SCREAMING about how excited I was.
That was six months ago, and this past weekend me and Luke (who was also a groomsman in the wedding), finally got to go down for the New Year’s Eve wedding of Scott and Mayce Stoecklein.
There was lots to be done before the main event. In the 8-hour drive from Nebraska to Texas, I learned that yes, everything is in fact bigger in Texas, this includes the sky, the fields, the cows, the cactuses you name it, it's all bigger. Southern charm and hospitality also do exist, and we could all take a lesson in it. Oklahoma City has terrible rush hour traffic, and should be avoided at all costs. And finally, if you think the drive is going to go off without a hitch, you can just ask me about the duct tape holding my car together the next time you see me. (Lesson learned: you cannot hit a garage two months before the trip and expect the back end of your car to magically be held together by only superglue, as it's driving at 80 mph into the wind.)
Once the whole getting to Texas part of the trip was over, everyone was ready to dive into wedding mode. Well.. specifically the girls were ready to go. We spent the day of the rehearsal dinner making boquets, and getting our nails done, while the boys went down to the river to play in the Texas mud. We got to see the venue that night, and I hope you fall in love with its rustic charm like I did. It was an old warehouse turned into ceremony space decorated compeltely by antique items and mismatched furniture. The perfect place to celebrate a New Years Eve wedding.
The day of the wedding everyone woke up excited to make the day special for the bride and groom. Mayce and Scott met back in high school, and dated seriously until Mayce's dad, who's in the military, got stationed in Texas and she had to move away. After two years of being apart, they eventually found their way back to each other last year and finally got to say the "I do's" they always knew the wanted to say to each other. Everyone was more than grateful to get to be a part of their day. When I say that everyone cried as she walked down the aisle, I'm not exaggerating. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Mayce was absolutely stunning in her dress, and Scott couldn't hide it on his face when she walked down the aisle.
No day can ever be perfect, but their wedding was pretty dang close. It was filled with love and laughter, and most certainly a happily ever after. We all had so much fun together, and couldn't believe it the next day when it was time to pack up and go home. There's something special about weddings that makes you believe anything is possible, and with these two I have no doubt that it is. If I could pick any weekend to go back and relive it would for sure be this one. So, to the bride and groom who deserve nothing but the best, I hope you get all that you deserve and more. Here's to more weddings, trips, laughter, and memories like yours.
Happy Holidays everyone!!
I was lucky enough to get to spend the start of my Christmas Break in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri with my family and my boyfriend's family. This situation is a little unique because, spoiler alert for those of you who don't know, my boyfriend's brother is my sister's boyfriend as well. It's a weirdly wonderful situation that creates memories like this. It was a perfect way to start break and leave the stress of finals week behind.
We left on Friday afternoon, hoping to arrive in KC in the later part of the afternoon. However, the weather had other plans. What was supposed to be a three hour drive from Omaha, turned into a ten hour drive, one minor car accident, and finding a new appreciatin for gas stations in the Middle of Nowhere, Missouri.
We thought we had beat the winter storm that had been forcasted, but, unfortunately, we were wrong. It was a non-stop rainy drizzle that quickly turned the road into a sheet of ice. Semis were stranded, big trucks thought they ruled the road, and cars slid on and off the pavement. We tried rerouting our drive, but the county highways were worse than the interstate. Even my dad's 4-wheel-drive truck was of no use.
We finally made it to a gas station where we were able to re-group, re-fuel and grab some food while traffic picked up speed again. From the gas station to our hotel in Kansas City was only 64 miles, but it took us a total of seven hours to finish the rest of the drive. The running joke was that my boyfriend, Luke, who had just come back from Chile the week before, was able to make the flight from Dallas, Texas to Santiago, Chile, faster than we were able to get to Kansas City from Omaha. (I swear to you this isn't an exaggeration.)
Needless to say, we were a little bit more than excited to FINALLY have reached our destiation around 10 that night. One of the main attractions downtown is a series of structures called "The Links." Essentially, it's a construction of man-made tunnels that connect hotels, resturaunts, shopping, and tourist attractions together so that people don't have to go outside. (A major life savor in the winter.)
The hotel we stayed at, The Sheraton, is part of "The Links," and is one of my favorite places to stay. I was there this past summer with my boyfriend and his family, but that was nothing compared to how decorated they make it for the holidays. It's a beautiful builidng, and a sight for sore eyes after a long day of traveling.
One of my favorite things about this hotel is the view from the club level on the 40th floor. It's a perfect view of downtown and more. Even the cloudy days couldn't take away it's breathtaking quality. It's an amazing view to look out at in the morning with your coffee.
My favorite thing about Kansas City is a tourist attraction called, "Union Station," and it was actually the whole reason we made the trip. It was a real train station built in 1914, and after years of neglect and floods, it was decided that it should be renovated back to it's original state back in 1999. It's abosluting awe-inspiring to see on any regular day, but it's incredibly gorgeous at Christmas time. I wish my pictures could do it justice of just how massive the building is.
They deck the whole thing out in red, and gold, and play old-timey Christmas music. It's nice because it feels like a hidden gem of KC, so while there are tourists, the place doens't feel like a corporate ploy to make money off the visitors. In fact, to tour the building and all of it's shops and mueseums is completely free. There are fancy restaurants to eat at, and all different nooks and crannies visitors can roam around in. Some even say it's haunted, but I have yet to experience that.
My favorite thing about the building is it's ability to transport you back in time. They have the original benches you can sit on, and the building doesn't close until midnight. The best is going there around 11 p.m. when the majority of people have left and just sitting and listening to the music. You can only imagine how many people's lives were changed here, and how many hellos, goodbyes, and tears were exchanged between people coming and going to where ever they needed to be; at Christmas time it's even easier to feel the magic.
This is the main area where all of the benches and people are. The photo was taken at night which is why there aren't a lot of people. This is by far my favorite place to sit and think at night when it's quiet and all the tourists have gone home.
In the end, we got to spend a full day exploring Union Station, shopping, drinking coffee, and, my favorite, opening Christmas presents. We had to cut the trip a little short on Sunday because we didn't want to push our luck with the roads again. I'm so blessed with the people who were on the trip with me, and I think we all agreed that we will be going back next year, but maybe without the 10 hour drive. Hopefully, you're all feeling the magic in the air that I felt as Christmas quickly approaches. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays!
I do on the off hand occasion get to exercise my love for wanderlust. All stories, info and pictures will be published here.