Travel Confessions of an LA Girl

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Driving Los Angeles. Los  Angeles, California. 2016.

In case I haven’t made it obvious before, I am a Los Angeles native. While I am a valley girl, I have always lived a quick drive from the city and some of my favorite spots are such because of the cityscape I get to see from them. I love walking through downtown whether searching for murals to take pictures of; checking out architecture; exploring the markets, parks and museums; going to Marches; or visiting the fabric districts for the best deals – there is so much to see and do in the city that makes living near it amazing.

However, despite my 26 years living near cities – LA, San Francisco, and London – and a solid 10 years as a fully licenced driver, I absolutely hate driving in the city.

Give me crazy freeway Los Angeles drivers, flying at speeds that scare folks from the central, fly-over states; The lines of motorcyclists who weave in and out of traffic; the never-ending construction zones that make the freeways expand and contract at dizzying intervals – I will take it all over driving into the city on surface streets.

I will gladly be chauffeured into the city by family or friends for group things or I will take the metro, but driving in the city drives me absolutely bonkers! I had to do this for my senior thesis in high school. Part of the paper required going down to the LA Public Library after school and meeting with your teacher so they can talk to you about the topic as well as give you suggestions on how to find sources as well as how to use resources like libraries.

I loved the library – I hated driving there. I had a terrible GPS that kept crashing or loosing signal between the buildings and when I tried redirecting myself, I ended up going up a one-way street in the wrong direction! While It was fine and I had plenty of time and space to turn it around, as a seventeen year old, it left an impression and even thinking about driving in LA makes me cringe.

So if you are traveling into a big city – especially Los Angeles (I find San Francisco so much easier to navigate!) – I will always recommend considering all your transportation options before automatically going for a rental. I love driving in LA but we have a very specific driving rhythm which feels like mayhem if you are not used to it – in fact, if you mess up the rhythm, often times, you will be making the roads less safe than the normal ‘crazy’ LA-based driver.

But it is true: I love my city, but if there is a choice of driving into the city myself or staying in the valley – purely for my driving sanity – I will usually opt for the latter.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Travel Confessions of an LA Girl

Travel Dating: Embrace Every Moment.

The weird thing about dating for me has been the fact that the majority of the time I have been able to spend with my boyfriend has been while traveling and one-fifth of that time was in a car.

For some, traveling with a significant other can break a relationship – it can quickly point all your partners flaws or quirks that tick you off as well as highlight all the ways your personalities don’t fit. On the other hand, traveling together can strengthen your relationship as you have to figure out how to work together to overcome all those obstacles that traveling can put in your way.

For me, as a traveler, I don’t mind playing it by ears up to a point – let’s be honest I plan what I can with a little room to switch up activities where need be – but Ryan had little bits planned and everything else was played completely by ear, seizing every opportunity.

As I have outlined before now in my other posts about Kansas, we made everything into a date or into a game and embraced every activity we could come up with, even if it meant that we didn’t do all the traditional travel things I normally would.

Whether you are trying to embrace every moment – like me! – because you are trying to get all the time with your significant other that you can, or if you are trying to get everything out of a vacation that happens to be with your significant other, keeping communication with them and balancing what you want to do is key.

This gets crazier for me because I am aware that this is is going to be my life for the next three years when Ryan is living in Germany and any trip out here or there is going to involve a mix of traveling and dating – so yes, this is a motto I will be absolutely living by.

Therefore, to end this post: if you have any advice on how to make this work and keep embracing every moment, feel free to sound off below!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel Dating: Embrace Every Moment.

Knowing your Airports.

As someone who has flown a lot over the course of her life, I have always paid very close attention to specific rules that get published – a major one of these rules are when you have to get to the airport and checked in before your flight.

At LAX domestic this can be as little as 90 minutes while interaction can be two or three hours. Burbank tends to run between 60 to 90 minutes. In fact, most airports that I have visited give you about that standard arrival time – 90 minutes before your plane is due to depart.

Flying out of Wichita Airport was completely different. This has to be the smallest airport  I have ever been too! It took 10 minutes to park and 5 minutes to get through security – this means that I was at the airport 90 minutes early and waiting by myself for 45 minutes of it. No one else showed up for another 20 minutes!

This, however, doesn’t just have to do with factors like arrival time. It can also have to do with traffic to and out of the terminals, which terminals might be closed, where you go through security and how long that takes, and how long it takes to get from security to your gate. All of this you can look up by searching the airport online and, trust me, you really will want to.

For me, this was not a huge deal – did I loose time I could have been doing other things? yes. However, if this had been another way – say, you are used to these tiny airports and then move up to one of the larger ones? – you could very easily miss a flight! And all because we all stick to patterns based on our normal travel experiences.

So, as I have said, again and again. Do your research on all parts of your trip and you really will save yourself a lot of headaches.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Knowing your Airports.

Surviving long drives.

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And another one for Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

I know… road trips again? and yep. This trip was so driving heavy that I found myself having to find new ways to make it bearable, because even with my amazing partner and our endless conversations and stops, being consistently stuck in a hot car with your butt falling asleep is always going to be a pain – so much fun, but also a pain.

I’ve talked about games to play, budget points to discuss, responsibilities to dole out, and the importance of knowing the people you are traveling with – emphasis on the driver – again, I know I have covered this stuff extensively (1, 2). But despite my years of experience with many different groups, at many different ages, under many different circumstances, I was surprised at the things that I had never thought about before to help you pass the time or make your travel more fun or comfortable.

First, most of my road trips – at least in the last few years – have really been all about the destination instead of the actual trip. But because we were having a lot of fun – and disasters – along the way, I realized how much better it is when you aren’t all about getting there. After all, that is exactly what makes it a road trip!

So, beyond all the rules and bits of advice I’ve mentioned elsewhere, here are a few more tid-bits that are more important of you don’t mind throwing the path to get to your destination a little bit out the window.

First, don’t be afraid to stop beyond what you have planned. As a kid I remember driving out of Colorado – our final destination – in a detour to see one last monument. While I didn’t appreciate it then (it was a really long trip!), I understand and appreciate deviating from the path now. In Kansas, We pulled over at one stop just because the outlook was just too pretty to pass up. These stops can make your drive longer but also breaks them up and lets you see things you otherwise never would have noticed.

Second, don’t marry yourself to anyone place, but feel free to make it all up as you go. This really paid off in Wichita – if you have been following along – and finding an easier hotel. Sometimes when you travel, your plans will change just because your timeline just doesn’t line up at the end of the day. Again, setting definite points are great, but being free to explore is even better.

Third and final (for now), tell absolutely everyone that you are road tripping. I never thought this was important until the one waitress offered us water for the road. Sometimes people surprise you with kindness when they know you are going to be on the road a lot. Whether this is an extra cup of water or suggestions of things to do or see, getting something from a local source can do wonders for your trip. I don’t care if it’s advice for one more stop you’d never think to visit, or a cold glass of water, you loose nothing by talking to other people.

Again, this is all for now but this trip only inspired my love for travel and road trips more and more, so I am sure that down the road, I’ll think of many more points to share.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you Soar.

Surviving long drives.

Visiting An Army Base: a few things to know.

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Fort Riley, Kansas. July 2017.

In case I hadn’t made it clear by now, my boyfriend is in the military and, while we knew we were going to be running around the state, we knew we also planned on staying on base. Honestly, this is something you have to plan – you can’t just walk onto a military base whenever you want; there are very specific protocols.

This isn’t the first time I have stayed on a military base. My uncle was in the military and we stayed with his family when we visited them in Japan; I was a pre-teen then, however, so I don’t remember all the procedures because mom and dad took care of all that planning.

So that we could both stay on base – as well as save some money – Ryan made reservations at the on-base hotel, making sure that both of our names were listed as part of the reservation – I don’t know how many times Ryan called the hotel to check this and plenty of other details the days leading up to our stay, both when we were stopped and while driving.

Now, you can choose to do some of the security clearances before you get there if the person you are visiting had all your details, however, you need to be present to get a pass onto the base; they need to copy your identification and take a current picture as well as have you fill out multiple forms to double check your identification to grant you proper clearance. Because of this, we felt it was easiest to get in early enough to drop into the welcome center and get it all finished right away without more coordinating. He, of course, learned all this by going and talking to the people at the welcome center a few weeks before I flew out.

Unfortunately, the one thing we forgot to check was the Sunday hours for the welcome center – it closes early on Sundays. Because of this, we had to get a temporary pass – available because of the reservation – and then got up early on Monday morning to get my longer term pass. This definitely involved me with my greasy hair up in a high bun, sleep shirt, big jeans, and glasses, sleepily filling out my packet of paperwork while practically falling asleep on the hard bench seat, but it all worked out. In the end, getting the pass worked out mostly due to the fact that we were staying on base, not just visiting each day.

Then there are some obvious things you have to get used to. You have to know when you are allowed or not allowed to take pictures – again these are pretty obvious and many areas have signs posted. It’s also remembering to keep your pass with you – we kept mine in Ryan’s car since I wan’t going out around base without him and we didn’t want to accidentally leave it in the room. The last big thing was behavioral – Ryan and I have always been affectionate but, in uniform, there are rules about behavior. This wasn’t much of a problem because he was only in uniform on his one work day.

Again, base life is much different than just visiting a friend anywhere else and there are a lot of things to remember because you really don’t want to get in trouble here – seriously, don’t speed on base. Still, with all the waiting at check points and the disadvantages of being in the middle of nowhere, this was an amazing place to stay and the staff at the hotel was amazing.

I am probably not staying at Fort Riley again – Ryan isn’t going to be living there much longer – but if other bases are anything like this, I definitely won’t mind staying on another one again. But for now:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

Visiting An Army Base: a few things to know.

Getting Comfortable with your Travel Companions…

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Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 5 July 2017.

In case I haven’t made it clear before, through our travels around Kansas and just into Missouri, we were in the car an unbelievable amount of time and, for nearly the 5  whole days I was there (with the exception of a few hours Ryan was at work), we were always together – living in each others’ pockets, as it were. This can either be amazing (we thought so) or can drive you nuts, but either way, the key to this kind of travel is knowing your partner and being as comfortable with them as you possibly can.

When it comes to Ryan and I, we had only been together (as a couple, at least) for a month – all of which was long distance – but we have been friends (best friends) for almost 12 years. Still, being with someone for 24 hours a day for 5 days is intense, no matter how long or how well you think you know them.

First and foremost, you really have to get over the fact that you and your companion(s) are human so human things are going to happen. Bodily functions, habits, and whatever else are always going to happen so the key is to laugh when things get a little awkward and move forward. As the book says, everyone poops. Add to that, dating and there is a whole other level of getting used to someone else being in close quarters. I’m telling you, we have discussed bathroom patterns and have excused ourselves when need be to deal with those kind of personal issues.

Second, follow the road trip rules (1, 2) and we have discussed before and make a plan. This pre-planning will save you so much time and headaches and let you just enjoy your time together. Read those old posts and you’ll get a lot more information!

Third, when being together becomes too much, know when to spend your time apart. This somehow didn’t happen in Kansas – Ryan and I apparently could be marooned somewhere together and be fine, at least during this honeymoon period – however, being able to take time for yourself is really important, short- or long-term.


Again, the whole point is to get comfortable with this person who you are going to be spending an outrageous amount of time and close quarters with so even if my parameters are broad, it’s all about doing what you need to do to make that work: speak up, clear the air, laugh, make jokes, or do whatever you need to do and enjoy yourself.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Getting Comfortable with your Travel Companions…

Palling Around Wichita

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Between here and there, Kansas. July 2017.

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.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Palling Around Wichita