Honest truths we need to admit

I have been thinking recently about why we travel and, after some consideration – a lot of consideration – have decided to put my two cents in on this debate.

To give this arguments some legs, I feel that I need to explain some of my current situation: I am getting married and my husband will be living in Germany for almost three years without me. If you know me (or have read any of this blog) you should know that this is hard for me, if only because I would love the chance to live in Germany and travel ALL THE TIME! Still, I am stay in SoCal because I am applying to schools here to get my teaching credential – California credentials are accepted more places and as my future involves moving every few years, having papers that easily transfer with me is key.

I have had a few critics of this choice; critics who keep telling me that I can teach English out there and get a teaching credential later. While I know these individuals are being supportive in their own way, I can’t explain how irritating it is to want to be able to do this but also knowing that my future really rides on me NOT taking this advice (there is more to this choice but I do not want to go into all the details here as they are personal but -trust me – very valid).

Still, all of this got me thinking about how people are able to travel all around the world and some of these situations we need to really think about before praising the options.

Just to kick up the drama: let’s face it…. I could never actually live in a hut.

A teacher asked this question when I was in college and looking back, I can’t believe how naive I was even thinking I could! I am not necessarily a consumerist, but I do acknowledge that I do not have the skill to add to this kind of community. No matter what I can add as a teacher or service person to these kinds of rural communities (and I am a very smart and resourceful person), any kind of travel aimed at really ‘helping’ these communities benefits me and my need to travel more than these communities.

This is different if you are in a field such as medicine, where your skills can really be put to use, but I am much more skeptical of my Comms friends who keep going out on ‘service travel.’ Most of the time, you stay in a place for a while, make connections, teach a little, but also party, take pictures for Facebook, and then you leave the community so a new group can come in and start the project all over again.

I am not – and will never claim – that these have no far-reaching effect on the communities supported by these efforts. There are always benefits, however, I am not sure they measure up as they could if we didn’t advertise these trips as post-grads excuse to travel the world with a little service thrown in.

We put a mask on these situations – a fantasy of what the world looks like so that we can come home to start our ‘real lives’ feeling more grateful for what we have. Again, I am not saying this is a bad thing, except that I have watched people come home and quickly fall back into the patterns of spending money on parties and going out and escaping their lives in a new way, rather than keeping the appreciation for the ‘simple’ life they seem to come home raving about.

So, to the critics, yes, I can go and travel and teach and do it all right now, but I can also do this down the line, because Germany isn’t going anywhere and sometimes, adulting does trumps running away from the hard choices.

But, again, this is just my opinion!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Honest truths we need to admit

What do you need from your travel housing?

Housing is something I have covered before at length, but today we’ll be looking at things a little bit differently. In the past, I’ve been looking at the hotels, hostels, apartments, ect. as a place where you move in and out – sometimes a home-away-from-home but most of the time a place to store your bags until you move to your next destination.

What I’m looking for in terms of my next adventures is a little difference and this is why I want to talk about looking at your priorities to figure out what you should consider and balance (budget verses utilities) to find your best fit.

So my next adventure: My week and a half honeymoon here in sunny Los Angeles.

In terms of housing, we are jumping around a little like I had talked about before, however, we are also looking to find a place (for a little while) to call home. We have our first night together in a local hotel before running down to The Majestic Garden Hotel (we’ve talked about this in the past) to spend some fun times at Disneyland! After a few days at this, we want the last week of our time together to be easy.

We decided that a big part of making that happen is having as many amenities as we can manage without breaking the bank –  enter AirBnB!

I have talked about my past experiences here as well as hostels so I can’t explain enough how important it is to look at pictures but also read everything, including as many reviews as you can stomach! Remember to read these with a grain of salt – some people are less seasoned travelers or pickier than you may be which will make for worse reviews than you may end up feeling they deserve. Another great clue is looking at how the owners respond to the reviews they get – are they aggressive? are they apologetic? do they try to fix what happened? These all dictate what you can expect during your time here.

When you move past the fine print and the reviews, it’s deciding what you need and what you don’t. For me, at least in most of my travels, having a washer and dryer is nice but not necessary, WiFi is a must, parking can be here or there; you get the picture.

Now, I would love much homier details. I’m not looking to be out all the time so things like washer and driers, privacy, not having to worry about parking, stores at walking distances, and cozy enough to just hang out and be with my husband. Again, this is my honeymoon – every vacation is different so knowing what you need and the requirements of the people you are with matter before delving in!

I love AirBnB because it is more than just a place to book a place to stay; there are suggestions for things to go see or experience, from local lookouts, to cooking classes, to hikes. This is really user generated so don’t forget to review these experiences as well as where you stay!

What is the best part of this whole finding a place to stay experience for me? Ryan has done it all! Gotta love distributing tasks and teamwork.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

What do you need from your travel housing?

2018: looking ahead and looking back.

While Ryan snagged the first week of the year – and thank goodness because last week was a little crazy – I figure that looking back and then ahead as we start out the new year isn’t a bad way to start.

First off, looking back:

Well, last year was a whirlwind of crazy. I am sure it is pretty clear that Ryan was a big part of my year, including most of my travels. I got to travel to Kansas for the first time, run around LA with new experiences in old, familiar places, camping trips and road trips and all kinds of shenanigans. It is seriously crazy how much life can change in less than 12 months, isn’t it.

Now looking forward:

I get married in 3 months which means a lot more trip planning and some local travel running around with friends and then my husband until i send him back on his plane home to Germany. If I am very, very lucky, I may snag a trip out there but it looks more like more small trips until a year from April – when we’ll be flying out to North Carolina for another wedding.

Still, I have decided for 2018 that  – while managing my budget to not completely destroy my possible travels later! – I will be pushing myself. I will see more and do more and I will be telling you all about it.

Until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

2018: looking ahead and looking back.

Germany’s Christmas Markets

German Christmas Market. December, 2017.

Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen! We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, right? so not to late for all of this! Also I am extremely excited to announce another guest blogger – whose work I will probably have a lot of fun commentating – My Fiance, Ryan, who I have been discussing a whole lot lately…. which he now is very aware of as I just gave him access to this site….. Yep. Hi, babe!

Anyway, he’ll be going into more details on his life and I hope you guys enjoy and get to hear from him a bit more – partners are fun!

As the aforementioned fiancé living abroad in Germany, I am finally joining Taylor here on Leave-on-the-Wind as a guest blogger. Seeing as I will be spending 3 years as a Soldier in a foreign country, I figured it would be fun to support my fiancé’s blog with some OCONUS (Outside Contiguous United States) views. I get to experience Germany and Europe as a whole for the first time; while I have lived in a couple states and deployed twice to the Middle East, I haven’t spent much time in foreign countries that are not war zones.

I arrived in Germany a little over a month ago, disappointed to have missed Oktoberfest (The real one since we did manage the LA equivalent!), but excited for the next big holiday group event: The Christmas Markets.

Most major cities in Germany have their own Christmas Markets as well as some of the smaller towns but they are proportionally smaller versions. My first taste of the markets was in my local town of Ansbach, where a small market took place in a walking shopping district.

My friends told me it was a tragedy to attend any Christmas Market and not have some festive glühwein, a traditional Christmas beverage most commonly made from a boiled red wine mixed with various spices. I gladly purchased a glass, which instantly started warming me up on that windy, cold day that I have come to recognize as the common daily weather.

It’s taste was compelling, to say the least.

I have never fancied wines much – always feeling forced to enjoy them when offered a glass – but something about the glühwein really resonated with me. Whether that was because of the added spices, or the warmth it provided, I cannot say, but I know I went back for quite a few more cups of it.

Throughout this drinking process, I also discovered an interesting sales mechanism that seemed particular to the markets. Every glühwein seller will charge extra for the mug they provide the drink in, but if you later return the mug, you receive a deposit back or you may forego the deposit and keep the glass. Naturally I kept my first one as a souvenir of my first market. (Check out the pictures below!)

We wandered the market, making small purchases and enjoying the time with friends, as I practiced my meager German. I had come to think of this small, lightly crowded market with just a couple dozen stalls as being the standard of a Christmas Market.

Boy, was I wrong.

The next weekend, I had the opportunity to travel about an hour away to Nuremburg with a coworker, her husband, and their 9-year-old son.

Making our way into the market, I was floored by how many people I was seeing already – this market must be huge: it was. It had hundreds of stalls and thousands of people were milling around.

Most of the time, the market was a crushing crowd, as people pushed left and right to get through – certainly not for those who don’t do well in crowds, but if you can brave the ruckus, you are rewarded with stalls selling all kinds of goods; from handmade candles, to Christmas ornaments, to pastries, pretzels, and sweets. The smells of all the foods cooking was overwhelming, and I wanted a little bit of everything. I stand by my decision to start of with a pretzel and a glühwein and slowly try random pastries and other foods picked at random.

As we walked, we started in on a maze of stalls that seemed organized to lead you in a line from stall to stall as if in a brightly colored labyrinth. My group lost me more than once as I would get distracted by a beautiful bauble, a delicious smelling bag of tea, or the plethora of hanging Christmas tree ornaments. Finding them again, we would start back down the path again, seemingly wanting to buy everything they had to sell. (I talked about this way back when I was living in London; pace yourself and set a budget!)

In the end, not counting food and drinks consumed as we roamed, I managed to buy two ornaments for me and Taylor, a big bag of caramel apple black tea (which smells as sweet as its namesake), and a bag of fruit flavored sweets for my friend’s son. After hours of walking around, we spent some time listening to the band that was on a little stage in front of what looked to be a cathedral, and then called it a night.

Honestly, this introduction to a little bit of German culture and a wonderful evening out was just what I needed to help integrate me better into the place I plan to live, and I was glad to have the chance at some (very poor) German interactions as I butchered their otherwise beautiful language.

Thank God for Google Translate.

I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did and, again, welcome, Ry (as both a reader and writer)! So until next time around,

This is Ryan, writing for Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Germany’s Christmas Markets


A Stop in the Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

Things are going to be getting pretty interesting here on Leave on the Wind, because while I may be talking some planning over on the other blog, my life is going to involve thinking about and planning a few other people’s travel rather than my own. Why?

Well, I am getting married.

…. in about 3 months; less than 100 days in fact.

… and the groom currently lives in Germany.

… and the best man and maid of honor both live in different parts of North Carolina.

…. and they all have different schedules and needs for getting out here.

In other words, while I am excited to be getting married and everything else that is to come, I also have a whole lot of stuff I will be working to stay on top of.

Luckily, we are keeping things small and cheap so those three are really the only people who have to travel. But then there are the local (almost staycation-like) factors that include road-tripping to get registered as a military spouse, getting a hotel or an apartment for the 15 days Ry will be here, and the time we want to stay down near Disneyland.

So yea, it’s going to be a hectic few months and then some European/German trips where I can’t wait to explore and show my (soon-to-be) husband the parts of the world he hasn’t had the opportunities to explore.

All this and so much more to come, but until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.


The Majestic Garden Hotel.

Last week, I talked about my big trip to Disneyland with Ryan – our crazy, nerdy adventure and I didn’t even remember to mention our adventure in pin trading (another big part of our adventure that slowed our pace through the park even more).

But instead of going on more and more about Disneyland, which I could because I truly enjoy it so much, I will be looking and talking more about the amazing experience we had at the hotel shaped like a castle a street or two down from the park: The Majestic Garden Hotel.

First and foremost, this is not an official Disneyland Park Hotel – staying here may bring you closer to the park so you can get in earlier or sleep in depending on your preferences, however, it doesn’t give you perks like early entry to the parks (called the Extra Magic Hour which changes by day from one park to the other) and the ability to send bought items back to the hotels so you don’t have to carry them away and don’t have to turn around and scavenge for your prizes at the end, busy shopping part of your day. While there are other perks (like access to the pools at any of the resorts), there aren’t any kind of deals on tickets or the merchandise at either park.

When weighing these perks against astronomical prices I have found at these resorts, I have been pretty permanently turned off of them. I remember walking through the Grand California when I was younger to meet mom who was rooming there for a business conference and the entire place smelled amazing – this is a smell that finds me every single time I walk by the hotel. I haven’t been inside since but that is how strong a response this place leaves with me.

Again, despite all of this, I can’t even explain how much I love The Majestic Garden Hotel.

The hotel is absolutely amazing in terms of all the things it offers, it’s tiny fairy tale details, the price, the access to the parks, it’s views and (at least for us) it’s discounts. Unfortunately, I had a phone debacle after our trip so the majority of our hotel pictures are gone as well – meaning one more reason to come back and recreate some garden photos! – but I will still talk about everything else.

Basically, you are staying in a castle with fairy tales woven throughout it – there are different parts of a tale about a princess and a castle covering the walls and floors as you wander through the hotel – so seriously, feel free to wander. This is the story of Princess Corinne who you can meet or write to during your stay here. This is a lot of fun for little ones who love princesses!

There are pools and gardens and the hotel restaurant is amazing – I am a picky breakfast eater but their buffet was amazing and so was the grilled cheese and tomato soup we had for lunch (they even gave us the kids grilled cheese price alongside the soup). We didn’t spend a ton of time here, however, I was so taken aback by all of these amazing features.

Before you look at the room here, you should check out all of the deals that they cycle through throughout the year. We used the Military discount that got us a double queen room for $90 a night, plus free parking (usually $16 a day), and free transport to and from the park with some of the nicest shuttle drivers I have ever met!

Again, we were here as a couple, but there were many families who were having a blast as well. I am very hopeful that I will be returning here soon enough, but until then, do some research and chase your own magic adventures!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Majestic Garden Hotel.

Going all in on a Disneyland weekend

Disneybound. Disneyland, California. November 2017.

Having grown up in LA and with a mom who worked for Disney during that time, Disneyland has always felt like an extension of my backyard. This has shaped the way I look at the park as well as how I tackle the challenges from ride closures to long lines.

However, my normal pattern was thrown off completely the last time I visited the park with Ryan. As an active member of the military, Ryan was able to get me a three day pass (which let us finish his last two days) for less than a regular park hopper. This meant we didn’t feel all the time constraints that come with the high price tag associated with a family trip to these one of a kind parks.

We don’t live too far from the park – about a 45 minute trip through LA – but because we were going to go two days in a row, we decided to look at hotels near the park. Now, I for one have not researched Disney hotels recently but, my goodness, unless you are willing to sell body parts, I don’t suggest these despite all the perks that can come with these packages.

Instead, we stayed at the Majestic, a hotel shaped like a castle a tiny jump away from the park. With the military discount, we got a deal for a double queen sized room, with free parking and a free shuttle to and from the parks, all for $90, but even without them, this place is beautiful and a steal! I am in love with this hotel and will be going into that more next week because there is so much to talk about.

A small insider tip and a huge trend at Disney that I have been playing with, but is so much fun with someone to dress up with, is Disneybound. The big trouble I have with this is that some people go too far – they end up more in the costume realm than the impression of a character. We did Flynn and Rapunzel one day and Peter and Wendy the next. This involved analyzing shapes and colors and then matching up details so that when you stand together, people can tell based on your joint appearance. Ryan got the best reaction to his detail – a thimble necklace – because cast members loved the attention to classic story details.

The other newer experience I had was taking my time – something I only recommend if you can spend multiple days here. We explored the newly opened Pirates’ Island – old Tom Sawyers Island with a face lift – and had the best time. I’d love to get a group in Peter Pan and the Lost Boys Disneybound to play sardines all over the island – again, the kind of things you can do when you aren’t worried about hitting every ride in the park.

Disneyland is changing all the time whether in big renovations or by the season and while the price tag is steep, there is something special as wither a visitor or local, walking though the gates.

But back to one of those tips: if you are worried about crowds and long lines but feel like you need to do more than just prioritize, consider how you feel about face characters. The busier the park is, the more characters you will see wandering the park and watching them is it’s own kind of fun.

I have other news that and connections to this park, but that’ll be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Going all in on a Disneyland weekend