Tag Archives: adventure

Bike CANCO-Behind the Scenes

Who would have thought that an 18-day road trip down the U.S. Pacific Coast would have such a huge impact on my life?

I’m permanently changed.

On September 1, my husband Patrick and I boarded a plane headed northwest. We landed in Seattle, WA, and met up with Patrick’s friends Jesse and Jeff. The four of us took over the “Dragon Wagon…” a slightly smelly, oversized van that we’d learn to call home for the next month…

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*Cool fact: The “Dragon Wagon” was actually Imagine Dragons’ first tour van when they were just starting their band! We decided to recreate this picture they took in the van…I just need some brown, curly hair and a beard and this pic would be dead on. 😉

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So…some background for you. A few years ago, Jesse lost his younger brother Tyler to pediatric cancer. Since then, Jesse and his family, along with the help of the band Imagine Dragons, have created an incredible foundation called The Tyler Robinson Foundation. TRF helps families deal with the finical and emotional burdens of pediatric cancer. It really is an incredible foundation, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it for a month.

Ok, back to our journey…

We followed Jesse and Jeff on their bikes as they rode from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Coast Highway. 1,500 miles in 18 days! Any cyclist will tell you that’s an impressive feat. And the best part? Neither Jesse nor Jeff are cyclists. They learned to clip in the day before we left. What a hoot. Pat and I were the support crew and the film crew. We threw Gatorades and ProBars at the boys while they rode and put together a couple of videos documenting the trip.

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Along the way, we stopped at 10 different families who’re struggling with the horrendous costs of pediatric cancer, surprising them each with a $10,000 grant. Honestly, no words can adequately describe how humbling this experience was. To learn the stories of these sweet families, and then watch as they realize what we just handed them…

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To the parents, $10,000 isn’t just a sum of money. It’s freedom from their day jobs so they can actually spend time with their dying child. It’s the realization that they can now afford another round of chemo to try and save that child’s life. It’s relief and hope and a chance at survival. Watching those mom’s faces when we pulled out those giant checks was an incredibly humbling and emotional experience.

As I said, words really can’t do this justice. If you’d like to see for yourself, check out the video Pat and I put together of our experience…

Behind the Scenes:

It wasn’t all sweat and tears. We got to do a little sight seeing along the way too! We stopped in some amazing towns and saw some beautiful places…here are just a couple of the highlights:

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Getting to see MY BROTHER ON HIS MISSION! Oh my gosh I was so nervous and excited. I felt like I was going on a first date or something…I hadn’t seen him in over a year! This dinner made my life.

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Indulging in the “tasting platter” at Salt and Straw. It’s this incredible ice cream place in downtown Portland that serves crazy weird, but delicious flavors. I sampled garam masala with cinnamon cauliflower (which just seemed wrong to be eating Indian-spices in ice cream), blue cheese with pear and honey lavender. After a long debate and lots of sample spoons, we ended up choosing four scrumptious flavors… (Left to Right: Chocolate with potato chips and cupcake chunks, strawberry-balsamic with cracked pepper, salted caramel almond with chocolate ganache and carrot cake.)

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Devoured in seconds.

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Ordering a giant (organic of course) Falafel pita wrap from the food trucks in downtown Portland!

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Tillamook

It would be a crime to drive through Tillamook without stopping at the Cheese and Ice Cream Factory…those waffle cones though.

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The Redwoods

We camped for a night in the Redwoods. Being under those MAMMOTH trees really makes you feel small and insignificant. We got some beautiful shots while we were there and even snuck in a couple of short hikes!

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San Francisco

Of course we had to get some drone shots of the bridge. We also did a time-lapse, so we got to watch the sun fade behind the hill as the city lights slowly came to life.

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One of the families we surprised had a “Make a Wish” on the same day. The girl’s wish was to meet the 49ers, so we got to be there for that. We took a tour of their facility and ate in their INCREDIBLE cafeteria. Those boys are spoiled, let me tell you. Pat and I felt like we didn’t deserve to meet the 49ers, because let’s be honest here, we don’t care about football one eentsie teensie bit. But, it was still a cool experience and for a few hours we got to pretend like we care…

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Cute Coastal California Towns

This was the view from my morning run in an adorable coastal town we stayed at for a night.

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Filming water droplets in a puddle…we get some weird looks from people sometimes.

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Biking Big Sur

OK. If you’ve never driven Big Sur before, you HAVE to put it on your list. It was spectacular. I even put in a few miles on the bike! Gotta love that helmet. Not to mention the spandex…

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It wasn’t all fun and games though. Videography can be VERY stressful at times. You depend completely on your gear working properly, and sometimes it just doesn’t cooperate.

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But in the end, we made it to Mexico.

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Along the way, we made some unforgettable memories, met some inspiring people and had an epic adventure in the Dragon Wagon.

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I’m a better person because of this experience. I have a greater appreciation for my own health, life and belief in God. I will always hold on to this experience as one of the greatest 18 days of my life. Thank you Jesse and Jeff for letting us tag along on that incredible adventure. May the Dragon Wagon days live on…at least in memory if nothing else.

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How and why we travel

Over the past year or so, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel the world a bit. My husband Patrick and I went to a lot of incredible places and had some truly memorable experiences. To read more about our travels, see Peru part onePeru part twoThe PhilippinesMalaysiaThailand and Vietnam.

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Quite a few people have asked me how we’re able to do this. How do we have the money and time to travel? The answer: we won the lottery and now have an endless travel fund.

I wish.

The real answer is much more complicated than that….

Why we travel

Patrick and I both share a love for adventure. We’re not satisfied with the typical routine of “normal” LIFE, because that’s what everyone does. To us, life shouldn’t be based around the monotonous expectations of the classic “American life.” You know the drill: graduate college, get a good job, go to the office every day and work your butt off so you can earn money, go home to your nice home and spend the evening paying your bills so you can keep your nice home and nice car. The perfect “American dream” life fulfilled…right???

Pat and I decided that we value experiences more than that “perfect” life of security and routine… And we found that the most memorable and beautiful experiences can be found by traveling together. Taking ourselves out of our daily routine and comfortable lifestyle tends to put things into perspective, and provides us with a new understanding of what’s important in this life.

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So. That’s why we travel. Now, what you really want to know…how in the heck do we—newly graduated, self-employed youngsters like ourselves—afford to travel to Peru, Costa Rica and all over Southeast Asia in six months without breaking the bank???

How we travel on a budget

  1. We save up.

This is the obvious one. We put traveling as a priority and budget it into our finances so we can afford to travel. This also means sacrificing other things. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I went shopping. I mean, besides for those very attractive outfits I bought in Peru and the workout shirts to wear in 100-degree Asia… (Like, please check out the outfit I’m wearing here. I won’t be offended if you sign me up for what-not-to-wear). 🙂

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  1. Pick an affordable destination.

If we’d chosen to backpack through Europe for two months instead of South America or Southeast Asia, we would’ve spent a lot more money. If you’re traveling on a budget, pick your destination carefully. Pat and I spent an average of $50 a day in Asia, which included everything (transportation, lodging, activities, food, etc.). This wouldn’t have been the case if we’d chosen a more expensive place to travel.

  1. Travel light.

Invest in a lightweight backpack and only bring the necessities. This allows you more mobility and eliminates checked baggage costs. Pat and I both LOVE our 32- liter Mammut Creon Light backpacks.

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  1. Don’t pay for flights.

OK, this one is HUGE. Patrick and I rarely spend any money on flights because we use air mile points. In order to get enough points, we “churn” credit cards. This is somewhat complicated, and you have to be really, REALLY careful because if you’re not, you can completely destroy your credit score. But, if you can manage it carefully, it saves you thousands of dollars. If you’re interested in the details of credit card churning, check out this blog to learn more.

  1. Make a budget and stick with it.

For the two months we spent traveling through Southeast Asia, we set the budget of $5,000 per couple and stuck with it. We recorded every penny we spent, and were careful not to go over our daily budget.

  1. Decide what you want to splurge on.

Going along with #5…while we did have a daily budget and tried not to go over it, we also chose to splurge on a few things, which we planned into the budget from the beginning. For example, we spent $200 each (eeek!) for a scuba dive in Sipadan, which put us waaaayyy over our budget for that day. However, we’d planned to have some more expensive days and activities, so we were able to stay within our budget in the long run.

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  1. Be creative with activities.

Activities are the most expensive part of traveling because people know tourists will pay their ridiculous prices for the experience of riding on an elephant or playing with the tigers…But if you do a little research and use your creativity, you can come up with some incredible activities that don’t cost any money at all. (Like hiking around the rice terraces of Batad…)

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  1. Research transportation options.

After activities, the next biggest expense is transportation. For each country you visit, research the different transportation options there are. Sometimes it makes sense to rent a car, other times it’s cheaper to use the public transportation. Keep in mind that buses are generally much cheaper than taxis.

  1. Travel during the off-season.

If you’re willing to put up with some not-so-ideal typhoons in Thailand :), travel during the off-season. You won’t have to deal with the hoards of tourists that descend during peak season, and prices of everything are drastically cheaper. (For example, we paid $35 each for a kayak tour in Phuket that normally costs $120 each during the peak season).

  1. Don’t book in advance.

This one is more opinion than law. Many people like to plan everything out in advance and book hotels and activities beforehand. This is totally OK, and can work out great. However, we found that where we were, hotels and activities were much cheaper once we were actually there. Online prices are always higher, and you’re not able to negotiate prices like you can in person. We saved hundreds of dollars in Asia by simply negotiating for a cheaper price. Tourist companies purposely jack prices up because dumb tourists assume it’s the right price. Don’t be afraid to play hardball when it comes to prices. Often times you’ll win…unless you’re in Vietnam, which is another story for another time…

The exception to this is booking flights. If you plan to fly between or within countries, booking these flights in advance is much cheaper than waiting until a week or so before.

  1. Live like a backpacker.

Occasional splurges are fine, but we mostly live CHEAP. We stay in cheap (a.k.a. crappy) hotels, only occasionally order drinks at meals, take buses instead of taxis, and order cheap meals. Don’t let social media fool you. We post the highlights of the trip…what we don’t show are the moldy hostel showers, long hours of exhausting traveling and four outfits total that we wear for weeks on end…backpacking is hard, but that’s the sacrifice you make if you want to travel on a tight budget.

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  1. Don’t buy water.

You’ll spend an extra $5 (at least) a day if you buy bottled water. While it’s not necessarily convenient, we saved TONS of money by filtering water. We love our Sawyer Squeeze water filters from REI…It may seem sketchy that we we’re drinking the water from our hostel bathrooms, but none of us ever got sick. Long live the water filter.

  1. Travel in a group of four.

We found that traveling in a group of four was the perfect number. We could share a taxi, stay in a “family room” (sleeps 4-5 and is cheaper than a private room), and split meals. By ordering three dishes and eating family style, we not only saved money, but we got to try a variety of dishes at each meal, which was great.

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Traveling is expensive. But, if you’re willing to budget, research and put up with some squeaky hostel beds and dingy public buses, you can have some truly memorable experiences for a reasonable price.

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Southeast Asia: Vietnam

*To read about the first part of our two-month trip, see Southeast Asia: The Philippines, Southeast Asia: Malaysia, and Southeast Asia: Thailand.

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Oh Vietnam. You are cruel, unforgiving and absolutely beautiful.

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We spent the last 14 days of our two-month adventure in Vietnam. Things were a little rocky from the beginning. The airport staff wouldn’t let us on the plane to Vietnam because the embassy didn’t send us all of our VISA papers…a fact we learned as our plane was boarding. We missed the plane and ended up spending an extra $150 to get on another flight…

Everywhere else we’d traveled in Asia hadn’t been too difficult getting around. People spoke enough English for basic communication. But nope, not Vietnam. It was a constant game of charades everywhere we went… Ordering a meal? Oh hello stinky tuna soup, we actually meant to order spring rolls.

We started our adventure in Southern Vietnam in the Mekong River Delta. We stayed at a homestay for a few days with a cute man named Thai and his family. They were all so sweet, helpful and accommodating. We had fun just relaxing at their home and exploring the area.

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Thai’s wife was an excellent cook and made us feast after feast of seafood, fresh fruit (the Mekong Delta is famous for their fruit), fried spring rolls and noodles.

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While we were there, we took a river and bike tour with Thai’s friend Ho. He was the sweetest 82-year-old who took us all over to show us the sights. He pointed out fruit trees and bought us icy cold sugar cane juice.

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My favorite part of the river tour was when it got dark and the fireflies came out. The Mekong River Delta is famous for its fireflies, and it definitely upheld that reputation for us. I’m talking hundreds of fireflies lighting up the trees like it was Christmas time.

We also spent a full day on a scooter tour through the back roads of the Mekong Delta. We ended up at a floating market, where the boats advertise their products by tying them to the end of a stick on their roof.

Of course my personal favorite was the fruit boat…

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On the way home from the floating market we stopped at an animal market where they sell any and every type of meat you can imagine. Our guide (Eie) bought us two big snakes, and Thai’s wife cooked them up for dinner that night. Besides being a little bony, they tasted pretty dang good. Beth and I ate all of it while the boys watched in disgust…

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Our next stop after the Mekong Delta was the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were built during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese women, children and soldiers lived down in the tunnels for years…we got to crawl through them and experience the cramped, dirty tunnels first-hand. No wonder the Vietnamese don’t love us Americans…

Up until that point, we’d felt very welcomed by the Vietnamese people. This all changed at the tunnels. People were straight up rude to us. They wouldn’t let us buy a shuttle pass and everyone tried to cut in front of us in line.

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While we were there, we got to shoot a M60 machine gun, which was both a cool and terrifying experience.

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Our next stop was Hanoi, where we began the most thrilling, difficult and beautiful journey yet. We rented motor scooters to drive up to Sa Pa, which was a four or five day trip. What we didn’t account for was the blazing sun, uncomfortable scooter seats and maniac drivers.

Within 15 minutes of leaving Hanoi, a cop pulled us over, took us into a little building and had us sit in chairs while he waved his baton at us. He told us we weren’t allowed to drive scooters on the bridge we were on, while Vietnamese people cruised across the bridge on their scooters. He told us he would “punish” us with a fine. It was obviously a complete scam to try and take advantage of us ignorant American tourists. When we refused to pay him, he threatened to take our scooters. We told him to go ahead and take them…

Eventually he got bored and let us go, but that was just the beginning of our adventures on the scooters.

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The first day of driving was just plain MISERABLE. I’ve never felt so heat stroked and vulnerable. The truck drivers treat scooters like ants…little creatures in their way, easily disposed of by running them off the road or just blatantly running them over…

We were truly scared for our lives. Drivers don’t look before they pull out in front of you, they don’t bother to signal when they change lanes, they run through red lights like it’s no big deal, and they pass cars around blind corners. We saw multiple accidents along the road, but the toppled gas tanker was by far the worst…

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We learned the hard way that in a battle between a motor scooter and speeding Vietnamese truck, the truck always wins. Beth and Andrew were rounding a blind corner when a giant truck came hauling around the corner in their lane while it tried to pass another car. Andrew swerved out of its way, which threw off his balance, and down they went.

Hard.

The truck didn’t even bother stopping.

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It was so scary to watch them sprawling across asphalt, their scooter skidding along beside them. Luckily there were no broken bones or serious injuries…just some gnarly road rash.

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At this point, we had no choice but to continue up toward Sa Pa. We drove slowly and were very careful around corners. We stopped for a few days in Mu Cang Chai, which ended up being one of my favorite places in Vietnam. It’s a little town in the middle of nowhere. The people there are part of an indigenous tribe called the H’mong, so they look and dress a little differently than the typical Vietnamese.

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We were the only white people there, and not one person spoke a lick of English. The struggle of finding a hostel and ordering food was comical…

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We explored the gorgeous rice terraces of Mu Cang Chai for a day or two, and then headed up to Sa Pa. The drive was incredible. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places in my life, but I’ve got to say that Northern Vietnam is a tough competitor for number one.

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We spent a few days in Sa Pa, which was much more touristy than anywhere else in Vietnam, but had a fun atmosphere, good food and ENGLISH SPEAKERS! We explored more of the gorgeous terraces on our scooters, took some hikes and met some adorable people. The kids loved Pat playing magic tricks for them. Where do those rocks disappear to?!

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We decided to take the train back to Hanoi rather than braving the 10-hour scooter ride on deadly highways…

Once in Hanoi we headed to Tam Coc for more river tours, (the women steer the boats with their feet!), scooter rides, gorgeous scenery and hiking. Pat attempted the foot-steer method and ended up taking us in circles. Apparently it’s harder than it looks.

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On our way back from Tam Coc, the bus driver dropped the four of us off on the side of the freeway and told us to walk down the exit ramp. I guess they didn’t want to bother pulling off the freeway for four Americans…

For the finale of our two-month trip, we met up with our friends Shelby and Joey for a luxurious cruise through Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. We spent the next two days kayaking around gorgeous rock formations, eating gourmet five-course meals, attempting Tai Chi on the top deck at sunrise, jamming to Karaoke (Pat has a secret talent when it comes to Karaoke…) and enjoying late night card-game sessions.

Such a fun way to end our vacation…

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Vietnam was rough to say the least. But honestly, that’s what I loved about it. It’s an untouched, hidden gem that presents an exciting challenge for the English-speaking American backpacker. The ruggedness of its culture and landscape fascinated me, and I would highly recommend putting Vietnam at the top of your destination list. Just be prepared for a wild game of charades and a lot of horn honking…

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Coming Next: How to travel Asia on a budget.

Southeast Asia: Thailand

***To read about the first part of our two-month trip, see South East Asia: The Philippinesand South East Asia: Malaysia.

Thailand

Thailand didn’t disappoint.

My very generous “Grandma Beautiful” put us up in the Phuket Marriot for our first week in Thailand. After sleeping in moldy hostels with no shortage of mice and cockroaches, we felt like ROYALTY in our fluffy white beds and air-conditioned living room. We were there during typhoon season, so it rained the entire week, but that didn’t stop us from having fun.

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We took advantage of the free yoga classes the Marriott offered, which was a grand time except my baby toenail fell off during class so that was unfortunate. #humidityprobs.

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We took some bike rides, visited Railay Beach, hung out in the cute little towns, and got Thai massages, which was more of a stressful experience than a relaxing massage. Andrew got a “lady-man” as a masseuse, which scarred him for life I think…

At one point we met up with our friends Joey and Shelby, and the six of us took a kayaking tour to explore the rock formations sticking straight out of the water. Of course that was the day it rained the most.0

A definite highlight of Phuket was monkey hill. You drive up this steep hill, and all of a sudden, hundreds of monkeys are swarming the car. It’s completely unregulated and not very well known, so it was just us and the monkeys for most of it. We had some fun with those little guys, although it made me slightly nervous watching them rip their teeth into a whole pineapple like it was a juicy plum. Please don’t bite me.

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Looking back, I wouldn’t recommend spending a full week in Phuket. We only stayed the full week because we had a free Marriott to enjoy, but I think we could have seen what we wanted to see in three days or so. Phuket is very touristy and expensive compared to other parts of Thailand, so we didn’t love it.

However, we did love Northern Thailand. We spent about a week there, starting in this cute little backpacker’s town called Pai. It’s up in the mountains, so it’s relatively cool and absolutely beautiful.

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We rented motor scooters and cruised around…Pat made the mistake of trusting me to drive the scooter at one point. I was just starting to get used to that little hog when somehow I took us off the side of the road and we went down. Luckily there was minimal damage besides a few scrapes and bruises.

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We also swam in a waterfall, went fishing for Piranhas (we didn’t catch a thing) and enjoyed the delicious food sold at the night market. I loved Pai.

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The only bummer was that Pat and I had awful colds while we were there. *Note to self: NEVER take Ambien while on malaria pills, especially if you have a fever. Pat was hallucinating the entire night…he thought the Thai government had him strapped in a hospital bed and were using his body to smuggle objects out of Thailand. He kept waking up and asking me where the doctors and bad guys were. Rough night.

After Pai we headed to Chiang Mai, where we met up with Andrew’s buddy Wadda, who lives in Bangkok. He was a great tour guide…he took us to hang out with tigers and snuggle up with snakes. It’s crazy what people let you do outside of the U.S.

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(This is Wadda)

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My face. I’m not even nervous. 😉

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One of my favorite parts of Chiang Mai was the Thai cooking class we took. The food in Thailand was INCREDIBLE, so I was super excited to learn how to make some of the traditional Thai dishes. (Coconut soup, Panang curry, Tom Yum soup and mango sticky rice were just a few of my favs).

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Pad Thai

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The elephant refuge was another highlight of the trip for me. We got to ride them, bathe them and feed them bananas. Our cute elephant was named Mai Lan but Pat and I called her “The Black Mamba” because she was the biggest elephant there. She almost stepped on Pat’s toe while we were bathing her, which would have left him with only nine little stubbers…luckily his foot moved faster than Mai Lan’s, so we avoided that catastrophe.

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(Me falling off Mai Lan’s back…)

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We ended our Thailand trip with a couple of days in Bangkok. Honestly, I wasn’t the biggest fan. It was just another big, dirty city…but we did see some cool things.

Wadda gave us the ultimate tour of his hometown…We went to the Grand Palace, walked through lots of street markets and temples, watched a Thai Boxing match, met up with Joey and Shelby again and visited China Town. Wadda ordered dinner for us in China Town and didn’t tell us what it was till after we’d eaten it. Big mistake. We unknowingly ate shark fin soup, fish gas bladder, chicken heart, and the worst, bird nest vomit. The bird throws up its food to make a nest, then people (and ignorant tourists) eat it. Not OK.

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Thailand was amazing. If you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, put it on your must-visit list!

The last country we visited was Vietnam. If only we’d known what we were getting ourselves into…

Coming soon!

 

homeless in logan

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I think this fall has been my favorite one yet. Whoaaa. Bold claim, right? But, I really think it deserves that title. Maybe it’s the fact that Pat and I are kind of homeless, which has made the past month or so a constant adventure.

Do we live on the street wrapped in garbage bags? No. But yes, we’re technically homeless. I started school in August, while Pat was still in San Clemente finishing his summer job at Powder Magazine. For that loooong five weeks, I lived with one of my bestie westie friends, Sarah Nielson. We had some serious fun. FLASHBACK to freshman year woot woot! 1525649_10203724853056695_2215044886545220978_n

When Patrick did come back at the end of September, we had to find somewhere to live in Logan for the two months before I graduate from USU. No one will rent to you for two months. So, the logical solution of course, was to crash the newlywed’s apartment.

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Just look at this good-lookin couple. The Lunt family (Jeff and Kaela) welcomed us into their home with open arms… Well, after we begged them desperately to let us stay with them… 😉 We make a great little family of four.

So, we live with the Lunts Monday-Thursday, then we go play on the weekends. Here are a few highlights from the past couple of months:

Jeep camping up above Alta with my brother, sis-in-law and the Knight family. Great times.

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Backpacking to Lake Blanche and experiencing a torrential rainstorm in our tent. (That explains the lovely looking hair-doo that’s going on here. This pic was unfortunately taken on day two of our overnight excursion.)

*Note to self: (learned the hard way of course) When camping in rain and wind, don’t forget the tent stakes. Or the rain cover. Oops.

Regardless of our sogginess, it was so nice to get out and hike. The leaves were PRIME and I feel like we appreciate the mountains SO much more after living in Cali for the summer…

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Pat, my brother-in-law and I went to Red Bull Rampage! If you don’t know what this is, here’s a quick run-down. Basically, a bunch of people (the kind who haven’t showered in three weeks and have beard-growing competitions) head to Virgin, Utah, to watch pro mountain bikers do superhuman things. They ride down basically vertical terrain and throw backflips over 70-foot canyon gaps. C-R-A-Z-Y. I covered the event for KSL, so I got to interview some of the athletes. Here’s the article I wrote on it if you have nothing better to do with your time…I’m assuming if you’re still reading this post, then that’s the case. 🙂

red bull rampage

“The Squeeze” was one of the cooler hikes I’ve done in my 21 years. Basically it’s a giant slot that weaves its way down through a beautiful sandstone canyon. There were pools of (freezing cold) water that we jumped in and swam through. Some we rappelled into. It was a crazy, cold and very memorable adventure…especially because of that mustache. 😉

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Lake Powell with the crew. Nuff said.

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I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for this beautiful bride. Missy and Taylor’s wedding was soooo super darling. I got to film it too, so stay tuned for the vid. Love you Mrs. Groom!

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Aaaand, the Harry Potter party at my parent’s house. Epic. I wish I had photos that did this party justice. The decorations were out of this world (literally). Way to go Beth and Andrew.

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It’s been a fun few weeks, and it’s just begun! Next up: Tiny Home update. (coming soon! )