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.
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:
Sometimes when you are running the line between local-staycationing, dating, and travel, you come across a day that is an odd mixture of all of the above – for Ryan and I, Wichita was the near-perfect example of this. On the most basic level, the day consisted of lunch, a bookstore date, and a more traditional date – a few hours in an entertainment center.
First up, The Redrock Canyon Grill. Ryan and I decided to try something food-wise that was more local (or at least the we had never tried) and when we did an area search, Redrock popped up near the top places to try. And after our time here, I understand why. The food and service was great. The atmosphere made us feel a little bit under-dressed in t-shirts and jeans but there were a few parties dressed similarly so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought the prices were a bit high at first but the portions are huge, so they are actually fitting for what you get.
Our server was amazing, very sweet and, since we weren’t there at a rush, stayed by the table for a while and talked to us about our trip as well as food recommendations while we were ordering. What I loved the most, however, was a small gesture I’d never thought to ask about: when she asked if Ryan wanted his leftovers packaged, we said that we were road-tripping so couldn’t take them. Instead, she brought us ice water in to-go cups because it was hot and she knew it was a long drive ahead of us.
Again, between the food, the service, and this kind gesture, I totally recommend the Redrock Canyon Grill.
The next stop was Barnes and Nobles – in no way a local hot spot. To start, Ryan and I are both big book nerds so whenever we get a chance to hit a bookstore, we will. And, as a book nerd, I love seeing the variations even in these big chain book stores. For me, this is a great line between travel and staycations – it’s not near home, however, it’s like home but different enough to want to run around and explore.
Finally, we wanted to do something very traditionally date-like but also new, so we looked for an open escape room that would be available early enough that we could still hit the road in time to get to Fort Riley before nightfall. This was impossible since these book up pretty far in advance, but we quickly discovered Glow Golf instead. Again, this isn’t an experience you can only get in Wichita – these kind of entertainment zones are popping up all over the country.
This particular location has a lot of choices, and while not expensive, each thing costs you a little and they add up. First off, everything is black light so if this messes with your eyes, you may want to skip out; if not, jump on it! We played golf (two games for the price of one), the laser maze (a thief-type game that we played over and over again), ping-pong, and cornhole with light-up bean bags. Dating with some fun competition thrown in? Yes, please! Especially to break up a long drive day.
Again, none of these activities really scream ‘exploring Wichita’ because they weren’t for that. Sometimes in travel, you need a slacking off day, and I loved our day slacking off in Wichita and wouldn’t take it back for all the explorations we could have done, especially on our time table. But more of that to come as we continue to explore Kansas.
Whether you are looking for things to do when you are home, when people are visiting you, or when you are visiting somewhere else but you are far from any real sites worth seeing, you have to figure out what you can do – after all, Netflix and chill only works for so long.
So, stuck in the suburbs (or middle of nowhere Kansas) and what do you do?
First, if you are creative enough, there is always something to do. There are parks to see, walks to take or hikes depending on the terrain and these seem much more common the more central you head. In Kansas, this ended up being Milford State Park and Kansas Landscape Arboretum. If a few walks in the park doesn’t fill your time, you can take any mundane thing and make it an adventure if you change a few details (anyone remember fancy dress bowling?). Get overdressed, make a scavenger hunt, make an event out of every small thing the town can offer.
Second, if you can get your hands on a vehicle – especially if you are in LA or the middle of nowhere – you options grow exponentially.
In LA, we recently discovered cooking nights. There are companies out in the warehouse areas – like West LA – that house classes from cooking to tastings to game nights and as long as you have a rough idea of what activities you may want to participate in you can usually find them. However, even in LA, it usually means taking quite a drive. This doesn’t mean that you won’t find these activities elsewhere. Even Kansas can boast it;s share of murder mystery dinners and zip lining activities – we actually found these when looking for fun activities to explore.
And finally, of course, if you have access to a car and time to move further away – say a few hours – you can usually hit another area (a bigger city, for example) and then, once again, your odds of finding things also expands. Take Kansas: from where I am staying, a two hour drive takes you to either Wichita or Kansas City. Personally, I’m looking at the latter. But that’s next week.
This weekend, there is a camping trip for the SCA and while I would love to get out of my life for a weekend (it’s getting addicting), I have way too much stuff on my plate to add in planning a long, busy weekend. What I can happily set out to do is give myself a day off and road-trip up and back to the campsite.
Remember, the whole point of a staycation, whether you get just beyond your own city or explore your city, is to get out of your own head and relax.
In this case, a friend and I are road-tripping about 2 hours (so barely a road trip – but again: staycation!) up to camp and, just like any road-trip, there are things to consider.
Money: Are you splitting costs such as gas, snacks, or anything else that comes along? Sometimes it’s worth it to divide these costs but other times when they are so small, it’s not worth splitting hairs. Best policy is to discuss before setting out.
Timing: When do you need to leave and when do people need to be home by? Where are you meeting up (important to know for your personal timing)? Never ever make the person who is driving wait for you! I have had to wait on people many times and there was nothing worse than starting a road trip ticked off by the people you are going to have to sit in a car with for hours on end.
Doing Your Part: This could mean picking up coffee for everyone, or volunteering to drive part of the way, or working as the DJ or navigator (taking into consideration everyone in the car with you!). Basically, stepping up so that no one is left doing everything themselves.
Now, just because a staycation doesn’t make you go as far (and in my case, for very little time), doesn’t mean you should skip out on the prep and planning. If you aren’t going far from home for a day or two, having to buy anything because you forgot supplies from batteries to sunglasses to power chords and chargers can put a real damper on your trip. In that case, so can getting lost if you don’t look up your directions beforehand.
So yes, go out and hike, to a campsite, to a beach, anywhere out of your element and center yourself.
This post marks number 108 over the course of three years and, without having any real new travel in the last few months, it is easy to admit that I’m getting more than a little stir crazy being back home – a feeling I know more travelers than not have felt more than once or twice (a year!).
So what can you do? After all, despite what a million pins say on Pintrest, 90%+ of us -especially with college loans – are never going to put enough away to quit our jobs and travel for years at a time.
Well, you can work on your staycation list – or start creating one!
As I’ve said before, most of us that have lived in one place our whole lives haven’t explored much of our local environment, so if you get together the kind of things you want to do or see in places that you don’t live, you’ll probably be able to find an a similar activity closer to home – with a few environmental exceptions of course.
Look at art, science, or history museums, local carnivals and Ren Faires – which are growing in number and theme! – or just different parts of surrounding towns or cities. Push this further by subscribing to your local event sights – they’ll cover everything from art events to fairs – this way you’ll be notified on events all year long!
The key is to just get out and away from the sights (and sometimes the people) you see everyday.
For example, this weekend, we took the metro down to union station for the Chinese Lantern Festival. While this felt a lot more like a local multi-cultural festival than anything else and only lasted a few hours (not quite enough to slake my travel thirst), it was a good way of getting out of my own house and head and explore part of my world I hadn’t seen in a while. It helped.
Another thing to remember is you should try to save what you can do locally for the long haul, and do shorter, far away trips. Maybe you won’t get a month – yet alone a year – exploring temples or forests or beaches in your dream destinations, but you can usually figure something short out. For an added bonus, try to plan for the off season and you’ll get more out of your money with fewer crowds to fight through.
The thing that many of us are guilty of – myself included – is to torture ourselves with images and pins of all the beautiful places in the world we hope to travel to instead of the office/jobs that we are – for lack of a better term – trapped in. For this reason, if you are really traveled starved, I do not recommend pinning travel ideas or images or even reading about others adventures if you aren’t actively working to get yourself on those adventures – be it saving money or staying local.
Whatever it is that you need to do to get over your travel-pining, do it without torturing yourself.
Since beginning this blog, this isn’t the first time I’ve written—and experienced—things just not going right in my travels. In fact, this seems to be a running theme and I’m not sure whether to blame my planning, time keeping skills, or just dumb luck, but all in all, it’s never something I regret. While this time, I was lucky enough not to be traveling very far—staying within half an hour of my London flat—but no matter if you’re planning a close staycation or a trip around the world, things not going to plan can completely kill your night, right?
Well, only if you let it.
To start, my best friend upon hearing most the details dubbed this worthy for a TV episode or romantic comedy—if I were romantically inclined—so, hopefully, you’ll be entertained, if nothing else.
Basically, the plan for last Saturday night was to have an end of exam celebration with fellow members of my master’s program (as well as a few related majors) which included a three and a half hour boat ride down the Thames with everyone “dressed to impress” to relax before we all fall into the hermit-hood which is dissertation writing.
Where things went wrong in my long day of dress hunting—not my dress!—and party prep, came down to communication and execution—or a lack of both.
A few days prior, I’d been talking to my friend (we’ll call him Cal) about the party and, since we live in the same building, I was going to join the group of people he was headed over with. Unfortunately, Cal and I couldn’t seem to get our phones to message each other over whatsapp or regular messaging (an issue that has since been sorted—it’s all about the country area codes!). Still, no worries, Cal had my flat number and would run up and get me before they left (Can you feel the foreboding? bum, bum, bum!).
It wasn’t until the day of that I realized we never talked about what time we were going to be leaving (issue two in the plan destined to go wrong!), so I got ready super early and waited…
And played guitar and waited….
And then I waited a little bit more…
And then I double checked the time and sprinted down the stairs—not an easy feet in my heels!—because I was very, very late.
What took place over the next fifteen-twentyish minutes I wish I had on film—CCTV across London is sure to have it and it must be priceless.
If you noticed the skirt I’m wearing in the picture, you don’t have to be a fashion expect to know that a slight breeze will give you an authentic Marilyn Monroe moment—Ladies, always wear shorts, please!
Now, imagine that, except I was literally sprinting through the tube station and across Westminster Bridge—Big Ben’s Clock Tower and Westminster creating a picturesque backdrop behind me—trying to keep my skirts down with my purse and high heels (I changed to flats on the tube) clutched in my hands as I dodged camera wielding tourists and fellow London commuters alike.
With five minutes to spare and frantically texting my other friend—we’ll call her Nat—who was stuck in traffic and nowhere close enough to make the boat, I tried to locate the correct pier which none of the local kiosk keepers seemed to be able to help me with, only to have the clock run out.
We missed the boat.
But soon enough, Nat met me down by the river and we started to plan the spontaneous fancy dress night to totally kick the butt of the missed boat party.
While we decided what to do, we walked along the Thames chatting and getting smiles from strange passerbys—seriously, how often do you see girls in storybook princess garb just strolling down the street?—before the idea of doing something totally mundane and yet totally epic because of our overdressed attire.
Apparently, fancy dress bowling was on both of our bucket lists!
In what would be a video montage if this were filmed, we ran from bowling alley to bowling alley—Londoners really love their bowling!—before we ended up at Bloomsbury Bowling (thanks to the lovely and very helpful ladies at All Star Lanes!) with a ten o’clock reservation and an hour long break to partake in some fabulous pumpkin pizza (a serious yes!) before getting our shoes and continuing our epic party.
With amazing speed bowling skills—three games in an hour—inter-played with videos, selfies and musical throwbacks which just had to be danced to—some serious Usher induced, middle school nostalgia—it’s hard to imagine a boat party making my night any better.
I ended the night meeting my other friends at a local club where the after party was being held and danced away the next few hours. This started off with a ‘Dirty Dancing-esque, big lift moment”—as one bystander dubbed it—which was actually me giving up on going around the crowd and walking across a bench to join said friends, in all my big tulle glory, and into the very helpful hand-down of Cal, who was extremely mollified that he’d forgotten to get me earlier.
I ended up feeling worse than he did though as I couldn’t contain my laughter as he, completely apologetic and puppy-eyed, tried to explain his crazy night and why her forgotten me. But I told him that everything turned out better for missing the actual event; no hard, no foul.
To sum up the point of this comedy of errors, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: sometimes things go wrong. When it does, you can either roll over and let it ruin your night/trip, or you can roll with it and make the night even more epic that it was meant to be.
For me, it’s all about the fancy dress bowling—plus if you’ve watched Gilmore Girls, Paris Geller has already highlighted the many frustrations and disasters which come from young people trapped on a boat with alcohol…. Enough said.