Top Three Dream Locals…

… ie. all my (I hope) future travel stops.

All of these are single countries that I haven’t hit yet, but pretty desperately want to. I usually do longer list but I feel like have small grouping of three concrete locations – rather than regions – lets you really take a closer at what you want to do and see in your travels (unfortunately, I think this list changes weekly!).

So without further ado:

1. Spain:

I’ve had a love for Spanish architecture since studying the cultural chapters during my high school Spanish class days. Add in the tomato festival (ie the biggest tomato fight in the world) and its closeness to international friends, and I am pretty much ready to sign on. My biggest goal before setting out, however, is wanting to review and increase my language skills before making the trip. For me, I know just enough to be annoyed when I can’t communicate or navigate with local signage.

2. Greece:

As I think I have mentioned before, Greece is where my family has set as a goal for when all four of us kids are gainfully and stably employed (pretty tough considering some of our career paths!). As a photographer, everything I have seen in Greece is pretty picturesque. While I know there are many reasons why people are skeptical or worried about heading into this area, I just want to go so badly! A summer off by the beach or rock-faced cliffs – I feel like I could balance out some relaxation and active activities and enjoy myself to no end.

3. Greenland:

This last local is definitely SCA inspired. My persona is Viking-esque, which is also true for a great number of my friends. Said friends have been linking pictures of Greenland as well as the other Nordic countries all over my social media. While I definitely need to hit this whole region, Greenland has easily made the top of the list. Every picture is beautiful and the country is diverse in terms of what you can do, making this a very easy choice.

So, that’s my list (for now!), but I would love to hear yours. Remember, keep it small and specific and challenge yourself away from places you have already been – no matter how they may pull at your heartstrings!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Top Three Dream Locals…

My favorite travel photos.

Conwy Castle, Wales. Summer 2013.

One of my friends is going to be taking his family on a trip through the UK soon and told me last night that they decided to add Conwy, Wales to the itinerary. I was over the moon. Conwy was one of the amazing days I spent on my UK trip in 2013 (How was that already three and a half years ago?) and it got me thinking about some of the photographs I have been able to take over my past trips.

Bex and I atop Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. Summer 2013.

I’m not usually a fan of posed pictures but I couldn’t not add one of us. This trip is probably the highlight of my entire traveling career. We both did so much and pushed so many of our personal boundaries. It was our first big trip that we planned out ourselves and it couldn’t have gone better! Plus, it inspired this whole blog.

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy. June 2015.

I have so much love for Mont Saint-Michel. It’s not really a castle but it inspired Disney’s Tangled animators and I was just as inspired. I need to head back when it’s night and the tide comes in – the full Tangled experience!

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany. June 2015.

The whole day we took this tour was amazing – castles, castles, castles! This castle inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, but here, I couldn’t help thinking of Beauty and the Beast. I love the look of the clouds, the forest, the castle – it’s just lovely.

Statue Garden, York House Garden, Twickenham. December 2015.

This park was a bit of a hike and a long day, but a day off of work was well worth the effort. The whole Twickenham area was picturesque. I love the individual statues personalities in this fountain and could have spent hours running around here but I never would have had I not been living here and created my London parks tour.

Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park. May 2016.

Visiting Sonoma was one of the last real trips I took and I fell in love with the city all over again. I attended this school for three and a half years but it wasn’t until I revisited and looked at the school through my new camera lens that I truly began to miss living in this beautiful town.

I am looking for more and more chances for travel, but for now, I’m enjoying looking back at my pictures and simply reminiscing.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My favorite travel photos.

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

Great Western War, Bakersfield, CA. October 2016.

I know I have written briefly about the SCA and the huge camping trips that come along with all the other crazy adventures before, but now I am back from round two – Great Western War. This camping trip was an hour and a half car ride away and we stayed from Thursday through Monday. I spent the day and a half prior double checking and gathering all our gear (including shopping for food and all my other usual chores) and about an hour packing up the car before sprinting out to camp.

What I learned this time around is that the second time is a whole lot easier.

Before our first war, my sister and I had an official camping list that I worked through to gather gear but I ended up over packing anyway. This time, I couldn’t find that list so I made my own based on the stuff I knew would work and what wouldn’t.

Currently, my sister and I sleep in a small pop-up tent inside of an easy up canopy (it’s become quite the little joke but also something cute that’s garnered just a hint of admiration: our tent within a tent set up).

We end up putting up 6 side panels to create overlapping doorways and better coverage of corners – we get dressed in the main area and aren’t looking to give anyone a show.  We steak everything down with gutter steaks and wide washers, keeping all but the front flaps down with little to trip over. I improved the set up ten-fold this time by securing the back flaps with extra steaks and creating a secure but movable front flap/door using smaller tent hooks.

As we develop our war gear, we are hoping to create canvas walls and top to put around our pop-up frame to keep the ease of set up but with a better aesthetic (with or without the small inner tent).

I was able to improve our lighting – we have 8 sets of solar powered bulbs from Orchard Hardware – by not just circling our tent but winding the lights up the center bars. One of our sets was unlit the whole time, but the central placement of the lights kept the whole tent bright enough to move around in, no matter how dark it was outside. Even with our placement near a tree, taping the solar batteries to the top of the canopy kept everything lit. I also suggest the small fake candles which can be set out on tables, in tents, or really anywhere that needs lights that you can’t actually light with a flame. You will need movable light as well (porter-potties are no joke in the dark!).

We also cut about a third of the stuff we packed last time simply by reducing clutter. I made sure we had essentials and some luxuries – I ended up being the hair person of my household so a variety of hairbands and bobby-pins in pretty glass jars were amazing to have on hand. Other necessities were the few portable chargers to keep our phones and fitbits charged enough to keep in contact and time. I still need to cut a little of the dead weigh,t but I’ve seen that we are learning what we need as we go.

I absolutely fell in love with this campsite in Bakersfield. It was absolutely beautiful with great views of the water but everything was in walking distance. I wish I had remembered to carry around my camera more – these trips are the most magical photo shoots – yet, walking around without my lens was an adventure in and of itself. However, I did take my camera to one ‘Holy Grail’ themed event which was so much fun.

What I absolutely love about these trips is being (mostly) unplugged and out of the normal world, and getting to have late night conversations around camp fires and under the stars. You get to wear strange outfits from all over the world – I ran around for two days in baggy pants and a tiny top I’d never think to throw on (since I’m usually in skinny jeans, baggy/over-sized tops and some kind of pull over/accent piece) and it was so much fun! – and just let yourself go. I’ve made amazing friends and laughed myself silly. I have volunteered my time and am slowly starting to take on more camp and court duties. I’ve lived a fantasy and I won’t lie, it has been hard to come down from this trip.

So as I recover and reminisce and (shockingly!) miss my hard, dirt packed bed:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

To Run and to Travel.

As I’ve said in multiple posts, I am both knackered and uncommonly busy at the moment as life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball with many swings and quite a few misses. This leads me to introduce my great friend and someone I admire a great deal: Libby.

I’ve known Libby for about seven years (since our freshman year of college! How has time flown this quickly?) and, after our last get together and seeing all she has done since graduation – hearing all her stories – I couldn’t wait to see if I could get her to come and tell some of these stories to all of you. To start us off, she’s written a runner’s bio which explains why and how she’s ended up on this site and, reading this piece, I found that the way she’s written about her runner’s journey is how I always feel about travel and (more recently) running. 

So without further ado, this is Libby and her amazing story!

I wanted to start off this article by saying how long I’ve been a runner, but then I realized I don’t have an answer to that question. The more I thought about it the more I realized: “At what point can you call yourself a runner?” What defines a runner? Is it the moment I signed up for my first race? Is it the first time I decided to leave my room and attempt to go for a run? Is it after I would run more than once a week? Is it after I finished my first 5K? My first half marathon? My first marathon? I don’t have the answer to this question, but I’m going to go with my gut here and say I started calling myself a runner soon after one of my best friends of 18 years passed away in July 2013.

I was stricken with so many emotions after her death: anger, sadness, confusion, hurt, emptiness, nostalgia, and so much more. It was difficult saying goodbye to somebody I grew up with. Especially with somebody that stayed friends with me throughout Kindergarten to College (and not to mention all the drama that ensued in 7th and 8th grade). I just couldn’t comprehend how my life could go on without her. I was so inundated with all these feelings I didn’t know what to do with them. I was worried that I would sink into a depression and spiral back into self-harm (an issue I had dealt with for about 10 years). But thankfully I had just enough fight in me to not allow that to happen.

So instead, I went for a run.

My cousin and I before the 5K

I remember that run pretty well. It was the first time I had seriously attempted a run since joining my high school’s cross country team five years prior. I had hoped that my muscle memory would magically kick in and that I would be able to run at least three miles to help get my mind off of the grief. But alas, that is not what happened. Instead, I only ran for about five minutes. But for those five minutes I was able to take my mind off of things, which felt amazing. When I got back to my apartment that day, I decided to sign up for a 5K because I figured that would be a great incentive for me to get on a consistent running routine.

After a couple weeks of training, I ran my first 5K in 27 minutes. I was so thrilled with my time because that was faster than any of my times back when I ran cross country. I felt a real sense of accomplishment and pride. I could feel my self-confidence boosting and my grief dissipating. I knew after that first 5K that I had found the perfect outlet for my grief.

A few hours after the race, I found myself craving that feeling I had at the finish line again. But next time, I thought, I want to push myself even further. I want to feel even more accomplished. I want to squash my self-doubt and grief even harder. So, a few days after the 5K I signed up for my first half and full marathon.

Crossing the finish line at my first marathon in Oakland, CA

I spent the next six months of my life running three to five times a week training for those races. I could feel myself becoming stronger and more confident. I could feel all those negative emotions going away: the sadness, the anger, the emptiness. Running started becoming meditative to me. It was defining my life. I started calling myself a “long-distance runner.” All of this was making me so incredibly happy. This is why I am still a runner to this day and I am proud to say I’ve accomplished an astounding number of races so far; one 5K, three 10Ks, one 12K, 19 half marathons and nine marathons.

Not only has running been beneficial for me in terms of dealing with my self-esteem and emotions, it has helped me fulfill my desire to travel. So far, here is a list of all the places I’ve gotten to travel to/visit (or will travel to in the next year): Napa, CA; Oakland, CA; San Francisco, CA; Utah (Wasatch Back Region); Chicago, IL; New York City (three times); Santa Cruz, CA; Hawaii (The Big Island); and Big Sur, CA.

In my next post, I will be writing all about my experience getting to travel to New York City to run the marathon there in October/November 2015. The New York City Marathon has been my favorite race so far and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Until next time, stay awesome everybody.

That’s all for this week, but we would love to hear from anyone who has traveled for running or anyone who wants to (I know I do!). Until then,

This is Leave on the Wind (and the amazing Libby), helping you soar.

To Run and to Travel.