Vegas Baby!

Two weeks ago I wasn't even thinking about Vegas.  Then all of a sudden, a week ago, I find myself getting ready to head out on a "shotgun" trip to Vegas, as my brother and I like to call them.  

I did all the usual Vegas things you do.  Wander the strip, shop, gamble, eat, drink.  Wait, no I didn't.  I didn't do anything I might usually do in Vegas.

I went to opening night of the Wrangler National Rodeo Finals.  Spent 4 HOURS at Cowboy Christmas.  4 hours!  That's as much shopping as i might do in 3 months! I am very proud of myself because I did not buy one thing.  Except for a 1/4 lb. of sweet, roasted pralines because I was starving.

I helped celebrate my niece's 21st birthday with her friend and her mom, my best friend.  For me this was less about going to Vegas and more about being with my best friend of more than 30 years.  We also managed to fulfill one of her bucket list items, to see Reba in concert.  And if you have to ask "who's Reba?" well, shame on you.  She and Brooks & Dunn have a residency at Caesar's Palace.  Nothing like deciding to go to a show last minute.  

My mom used to say things like "you may never pass this way again" and "sometimes you gotta jump the fence".  Pretty appropriate for a rodeo-themed vacation.  We took the proverbial "bull by the horns" and got ourselves to that show Friday night.  

None of these things would I have ever done on a trip I planned to Vegas.  But you know what?  It was awesome.  I was sad when the rodeo ended that night.  We criss-crossed the strip with so many Lyft drivers they all start to blend in my head and we shared some simple moments of time with some pretty cool people.  

And I remember how much I love traveling.  Every. Single. Bit. Of. It.  Traveling shakes the rust off, puts one in uncomfortable places and forces you to learn new things and interact with people you might never have met otherwise.  I talked to some incredible vendors at Cowboy Christmas.  Sat inches away from strangers on the plane rides.  Rediscovered my love for Brooks & Dunn and nearly cried when Reba sang "Just Like Them Horses".  

I am so very grateful for the time spent with my best friend, my niece and one of her best friends. We talked late into the night, squeezed into tight backseats and traipsed from one end of the exhibition hall to another.  I don't know how it happened that I ended up there, but some angels must have been working overtime.  

When I was thinking about whether I should go or not, rearrange my work schedule and put in a six-day work week to make it happen, I lay in bed thinking "if I was dying, would I go?" the answer was a resounding YES!!!  Would that I could frame all my decisions in that light.  Wait.  I can!  

And on the plane ride home, I sat and scribbled notes for not one but two more future books.  One inspired by my very favorite Brooks & Dunn song "Red Dirt Road" and another idea I have been kicking around for 10 years or more.  Not to mention a plan to finish my first book and get that draft completed and move on from there.  A plan to shrink the things in my life that are of little value, and to enlarge those that are.  For me, that is writing.  

I can't tell you everything that happened in Vegas because after all, you know how the saying goes.  "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".  But I'm sure thinking about the next time I can go.  Take the opportunity to travel every chance you get.  For me, it is not a luxury, it is a lifeline. 

 

 

How Travel Took Over My Life.

I took my first big trip when I was 11, going overseas to England with a school group.  Just a small-town girl from Banks, traveling to England opened my eyes to the world.  I've never looked back.  I always loved flying, loved hotels.  Not scared for one second.  I loved the adventure of it all.  I even dated a guy who lived in Norway and spent a few months there.  Had a next-door neighbor who ended up stationed on the naval base in Sicily and so my brother and I visited him there and had an amazing time!  That same trip, we visited London and Dublin.  

For a long time I told myself I "couldn't afford" to travel again, and that was partially true. As I started to look at my life and design it over these last few years, I realized traveling was very important to me.  I made a vision board of the places I wanted to go and bought a carry-on suitcase patterned with a map.  Instead of feeling constricted about it, and not looking at places I wanted to visit, I opened myself up to the possibility.  If I needed a break from the mundane, I went on Airbnb dreaming about all the cities I would visit.  

In January I took a month-long trip to Ireland. It was the first international trip in 10 years, and a dream come true.  A month in a rural Irish cottage?  Yes please!  I've been been to San Francisco multiple times, Napa Valley and the Palm Springs area, not to mention road trips through Idaho and Montana, in the last year.  I've been asked many, many times how I'm doing it.  It's easy.  I made traveling a priority. Well, maybe not that easy.  Traveling does take money, it's true.   I had a little help with that in the way of an extraordinary job opportunity last year which made these trips possible.  

I saw this photo on Facebook the other day, and I've been thinking about it ever since.  I do not view travel as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Last night for dinner I made some gluten-free pasta, with a pork cutlet and fresh veggies and squash.  You know what that cost me?  $3.00.  No joke.  So, think about it.  If you want to travel, start looking at the areas in your life you can cut back.  And start eating at home more often, if you don't already .When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. It is no different with traveling.  If you want it bad enough, you'll figure out how to make it happen.    

 

 

 

Shotgun

My last post - July.  Pathetic.  Every month this summer I took a road trip.  In July I went to Idaho and ended up in Montana for the first time in almost a decade to visit my dad.  In August, I drove down to Oakland, CA from Portland, OR and back in the span of 36 hours.  This was very unexpected.  Talk about brutal.  I left Thursday afternoon and drove to Medford, then on to Oakland Friday morning.  We loaded up the car, had lunch, and then left for home Friday afternoon.  We got into Portland at about 3:30 am Saturday morning.  

In September my brother and I took another road trip, this time my brother was on his way to Missoula to live with our Dad for awhile.  The plan was we would rendezvous with Dad at our aunt and uncle's house in Spokane.  We left Saturday morning, arrived in Spokane late afternoon.  Dad was supposed to arrive Sunday afternoon.  Well, turns out, Dad could not make it.  Ben and I soldiered on to Missoula.  In one evening, we drove from Spokane to Missoula, I dropped my brother off, then turned around and went back to Spokane that same night.  In the morning, I headed back home.  That trip lasted from Sat-Mon.  

I'm not sure what it is about driving 1200 miles in the span of 2-3 days.  Kind of exhilarating, kind of brutal.  And so we termed them "shotgun" trips.  You load up in the car and make it happen. You stop at gas stations, eat terrible foods, consume copious amounts of energy drinks, coffee and soda. I don't think I ever want to drive I5 from here to California again.  I've had enough.  

So, in the span of one month, I drove roughly 2500 miles, through California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  It makes me tired even thinking about it!  I have no plans for a road trip in October, but then again, I didn't plan on those road trips in August and September either.  With the Freelance Adventurer, you never know what could be around the next bend.  I am hopeful there will be no more "shotgun" road trips.  I would like to take some time and enjoy the journey.  

The problem is I get itchy feet when I don't have a trip planned.  My heart pines for traveling, longs to explore the world and see new places.  Perhaps I'll plan something a little closer to home, maybe a beach trip.  Who knows.  But that's the thing...you never know where I might be at any given time.  So we'll see how long it takes me to get back on the road.  


Missoula Or Bust.

On the 4th I headed out from Portland to Boise to spend the day with my best friend and her family.  Today I sit at a hotel in Missoula, on the final leg of my journey, visiting with my Dad.  In the course of that time, I took a mini road-trip with my best friend Chris up to the Old Sawmill Station campsite, near Clayton, ID, to spend a few nights camping on my way to Missoula.

The drive from Boise to Old Sawmill Station was gorgeous.  We stopped a lot along the way so I could get pictures.  And, if you know me, you know I did.  We had one episode where we had pulled over off the highway so I could snap some pics.  Chris was backing up and all of a sudden I felt the right back tire of the car floating on air.  Luckily, we did not end up in the ditch.  We stopped in at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, and made our way to the camp site Wednesday night.  I loved being outside.  Chris cooked us kebobs for dinner and we sat outside enjoying some adult beverages and waited for the sun to set.  And then we saw the deer! It was magical.  The mama and babies were playing out in the field behind the trailer.  There is something so right about sitting on a fence drinking a beer with no place to be.  

Old Sawmill Station Road Trip

On Thursday we spent the morning at the trailer and then decided to go out and see some ghost towns in the area.  We hit Bonanza and Custer, and then went down to the river across from Sunbeam.  The land and scenery is gorgeous!  We drove along the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River (I think that's right) and saw the old gold dredger which turned over tons and tons of rock looking for gold and silver.  And for whatever reason, I collected rocks from every site we went to.  Now I have a pretty good little collection rolling around in the car.  When did I become such a nerd? 

Bonanza Ghost Town

Custer Ghost Town

Yankee Fork Dredge and Sunbeam

We had so much fun kicking around exploring.  The one ghost town we didn't make it to was Bayhorse.  We spent my last night at the camp site hanging out.  We thought we might go eat in one of the towns but Chris ended up cooking up some brats and we sat around and shot the shit.  When I say we, I mean Chris, her boyfriend Brian, and I.  A few of the guys from Brian's job came over and said hi.  They're doing road work at milepost....205 or something like that, so they've been up there for the whole year working during the week.  Then we decided to watch "Hot Tub Time Machine".  Can't say I missed much not seeing it up until now, but after the movie was over, I did get to see the baby deer eating outside the camper.  It was pretty cool.

On Friday I left for Missoula.  I drove the Salmon River Scenic Byway and came into the Southern end of the Bitterroot Valley.  I did stop in to Bayhorse on my way through.  It was awesome!  I love history, so learning about all these old mining towns was very interesting to me.  Fires destroyed most of them, and so people moved on elsewhere.  Custer has a pretty cool museum and they make their own old-fashioned soda, so when we were there on Thursday I got a Black Cherry old-fashioned soda.  The drive went pretty well.  There were a few instances when a deer was out on the road, but luckily no mishaps.  At one point there was a semi truck bearing down on me and I wasn't sure if he was gonna hit me or I was gonna hit the deer, but everyone was safe.  I didn't take a lot of photos of the Bitterroot Valley because I was anxious to get to Missoula and had already wasted a bunch of time.

Bayhorse Ghost Town

It's been raining in Missoula since I got here Friday.  A little unusual for this time of year.  So, I've been hanging out with my Dad and doing mainly inside stuff.  But, today we might get out to a baseball game or do some exploring since it has stopped raining.  We'll see what happens.  I'm heading back to Portland on Tuesday.  I'll be glad to get home but will most likely start planning another adventure.  I've got some ideas in mind already about where I might go.  I'm never happier than when I'm on a trip, or planning one.  

Some New Shit.

I've got some new links up on my site to some cool products.  Chris Guillebeau is one of my top "inspirers".  He's got some great guides on living an "unconventional life".  I have adopted a lot of what he is about.  I mean, the man has been to every single country in the world.  If you want to "Get Paid for your Writing", want to know how to "Live and Work from Anywhere" or how to get luxury travel "Upgrade Unlocked", check out the guides on the left.  I am picky about who I advertise for, but he is just too awesome.  You might have heard about the "$100 Start-Up".  Yea, he's that guy.

I have not been doing much traveling myself, except for driving around the city.  I spend so much time ferrying people around I figured out I might as well get paid for it.  So, I have now signed up to drive for Lyft and I am in the process of getting all set up with Uber.  Last night I turned on my pink mustache for the first time.  I like to ease into things, so I logged in for about an hour.  I had a ride request just as I was getting home.  Just kidding!  The ride was cancelled.  

Same thing happened today.  I have been logged in for part of the day while at home.  I got one ride request and tried to accept but a rare phone call interrupted it.  Argh!!! And then I accepted another ride, only to get punked again.  Oh well.  It's my training week so I'm figuring out how stuff works.  And, if you are interested in driving for Lyft, they need more pink mustaches out there!  If you do, please be so kind as to use my referral code:  JENNA389228.  That way you get money and I get money.  Or, you can use my custom code: SASSYGIRL in order to get a $20 credit on your first ride.

While were at it, if you have never heard of or tried Airbnb, it is the lovely site I found my magical cottage in Ireland on, and, let's face it, like porn for travelers.  When I need a travel break, I just pick a destination I want to visit and go look at Airbnb listings.  I have a referral code for this one too, for your first stay:  www.airbnb.com/c/jamundson1?s=8.  You must be a new user, but get yourself signed up!  Much more fun than a traditional hotel.  

Let's hope I can get my first rides in this weekend.  I am determined.  And then I will have even more stories for you.  In the meantime, be sure to sign up for Lyft, use my codes, and sign up for Airbnb, if you have not already. 

7 Things on My "Shit" List.

I have a new Twitter friend, Luke Marlin (aka @BackstreetNomad) who inspired me to write this blog.  And, he writes "Anti-Travel Guides", which I love the idea of!  That is brilliant.  Anyway, he made a comment about my Twitter mantra "Do Epic Shit" and then came the idea for this post.  I'm "sorry not sorry" if you don't like the word shit.  Read no further.

I also have a new Facebook friend, Jeff Buehner.  So while stalking his page, as I do with new friends, I came across this quote photo, which is another "sorry not sorry" post to do with shit.  Love this too. Jeff is one badass musician who plays in a Bon Jovi tribute band, Steelhorse.  He also collaborates with some other badass musicians in an original band, The Loyal Order. But, think on this.....

A few years ago I started writing down every possible thing I could think of that would be epic shit on seven blank sheets of legal paper taped to the back of my bedroom door. I wrote all kinds of things, but then I started writing other things related to shit.  Not just doing epic shit, but other things related.  So...here's my "shit list":

1.  Do Epic Shit.  Of course this is number one.  This became my Twitter mantra, and it lives on in me.  One of my very best friends even bought me a small framed photo of an old-fashioned, angry little girl with her arms crossed, with the mantra underneath her photo.  On the back of my door, I wrote things down like "quit my job", listed places I want to travel to, put down things like "make $120K in a year".  Just whatever came into my mind I listed, no matter how seemingly silly or out of reach. Oh, and I did quit that job.  And then went on to travel, having just spent a month in Ireland, by myself, which is some pretty epic shit, at least for me.

2. Clean Shit Up.  Whatever is cluttering up your life, clean it up.  And I mean physical shit.  Most of us have way more shit than we need, lots of shit we don't use, broken shit, torn shit, whatever.  If you don't love it, get rid of it!!!  Donate what you can first, then trash the rest.  I periodically clean my shit up, usually every 3 or 6 months.  It keeps me light, I'm not burdened down with a lot of shit I don't need.  Not having a lot of shit right now allows me to do what I want to do, which is travel and write.

3. Get Shit Healthy.  We all have areas of health we need to work on.  Our lives are like onions, peeling off a layer at a time.  I'm not just talking about working out or fitness shit.  I'm talking about our soul, our spirit, our personality.  If you find yourself asking "Why is this not working? What am I doing wrong?" find someone to talk to, write about it until you get an answer from yourself, get some books on the subject.  Take a look inside and make sure your shit is as healthy as it can be.  It will never be perfect, we all know onions have TONS of layers, so this will be a lifelong process, if you accept it. We don't need to carry around residual shit from other people either, so get rid of it.  This ain't healthy.

4. Make Some Shit.  I think everyone has creativity.  I don't buy that shit that only this person or that person is creative.  If there is something you want to make, do it! Or find someone to teach you if you don't know how.  Maybe it's writing (that's my shit), maybe it's visual art, music, furniture, maybe soap...candles...I think you get what I mean.  This might turn into your "epic shit".

5. Own Your Shit.  We all say it, we all agree with it, but I'll admit, it's hard to do.  So be who you are, and own your shit.  If you want to be a crazy fool, whatever that means, then do it!  But don't blame it on mom or dad or Obama or the economy or zombies.  Live your shit out and recognize you create your own reality.  And don't get your shoes dirty with other people's shit.  If you own your shit, you have no time to worry about everybody else's piles.

6. Be Happy With Shit. This is gratitude.  Wherever we are in this crazy journey called life, I can bet there is always one thing you can be happy about.  Right now, I'm happy I'm sitting out on the patio in sunshine with birds singing. There, was that so hard?  No.  And guess what...that happiness shit grows.  So try it.  

7. Let Shit Go. This is HUGE!  Probably why we all have such a hard time with it.  Loosely translated, it's forgiveness.  Forgive the guy who cuts you off in traffic, forgive the idiot who parks their cart in the center of the aisle at Trader Joe's, and forgive people's shit even when they DO NOT deserve it.  Why? Because that frees you up.  Holding on to shit, at the very least, creates unnecessary stress in the body which can lead to things like....cancer.  So let shit go.  It only hurts you anyway.  If it's hard, think of whatever shit it is like a balloon.  Send it out to the Universe,  just don't hold on to that shit. 

I am sure there are so many more things I could add to my shit list, and maybe I will, eventually.  But this is a good start.  

 

 

48+ Hours Later...Ireland

I touched down in San Francisco 2 days ago.  And now, here I am in Ireland.  On Tuesday, I crossed a continent, an ocean and landed in the West of Ireland.  Not bad for a days work.  

I arrived at approximately 6am in Shannon, 10pm West Coast time.  I made it through customs in about 1 minute.  The passport control agent stamped my passport and away I went.  I came out into the Arrivals hall, no sign of my host anywhere.  Myself and maybe 10 other people were in the airport.  Think a tiny, tiny airport.  My worst nightmare, traveling thousands of miles to a place I've never been, only to find no one there to greet me.  For a very few seconds, I felt alone and disconnected, thinking, "what have I done?"  As I sat patiently and calmly under the "Meeting Point" sign, I saw my host walk through the door. I knew all would be well.

Even at 7am, the weather was dark, rainy and stormy.  Very blustery.  Boston had been a cool 19 degrees and snowing.  This climate is very akin to home.  I was also grateful Steph picked me up!  I could not have even fathomed driving to the cottage after 18 hours of travel, let alone doing it on the other side of the car on the other side of the road.  I am sure my trip would have been cut short as I would have ended up in a ditch on some slaggy, rural road. 

Instead, I arrived at the cottage I rented via AirBnB (https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/152256), in Western Ireland, County Clare, safe and sound.  Even as I'm typing this I still can't believe it!  On the drive from the airport to the cottage I saw road signs for all these places I researched for months.  And now it was real. Steph built me a fire and got me settled.  And trust me, the cottage is every bit as adorable as the photos I had been pouring over.  I am hopeful I can post a short video tour here in a minute.  We made arrangements to go back in to Tulla (the nearest small village) later in the afternoon around 4pm for supplies.  I wasn't sure I could sleep, but I set my alarm for 3pm, climbed the ladder to the loft and crawled into bed.  I woke to the sound of my alarm at 3pm, and could have easily slept more. 

Druid Cottage Video Tour: http://youtu.be/bwIYB1qtJE8