K8CanRelate's Guide For A Quick Trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs

A guide for a quick and affordable trip to Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, California

A guide for a quick and affordable trip to Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, California

Ah, the holidays! Such a busy yet magical time of the year. We had time off from work, but weren’t traveling home for the holidays, so we decided on a quick trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. We stayed one night in each place, although technically we stayed in 29 Palms and not in Joshua Tree itself. If you are planning to visit the dessert soon, this guide is for you!

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Glamping in Twnetynine Palms

Glamping in Twnetynine Palms

Where to Stay

I found this super cute Airbnb yurt-style bell tent located just outside of the park in Twentynine Palms. (If you have never created an Airbnb account, use this link and save on your first stay!) Growing up in West Virginia, we went camping A LOT. I had 2 camping trips that were awful, and hadn’t had interest in it but being married to an Eagle Scout, I thought I would give glamping a go. The tent had a bed and was spacious, there was a porta potty on property and propane for us to use for a fire but that is where the luxuries ended. If you want an actual campsite, you can reserve those here at a very affordable rate.

Taken off of the Skull Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Taken off of the Skull Rock Nature Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

What to See

  • Cholla Cactus Garden - Definitely hit up the cactus garden for a little stroll through the crazy cholla cacti. There are signs about how they might look like a regular prickly cactus, but in fact, they are much more painful if you brush up against them. Danny went to kick a branch of one off the path, and we found out why there are so many warning signs. Just from attempting to brush it with his hiking boot, it sunk deeply into his boot. Pretty wild, honestly, so be extra careful.

  • Skull Rock Nature Trail - You don’t have to walk the whole trail to see Skull Rock, but I would recommend it. I really enjoyed how there are informational placards all around the National Park, and you can learn a lot about geology and see various formations on this little trail. It’s fairly close to the road, but you still feel secluded.

  • Arch Rock Nature Trail - A natural arch is found in Joshua Tree, just a quick little walk from White Tank Campground, and surrounded by boulders to climb around on. This is a pretty magical little spot.

  • Wall Street Mill Trail - This trail leads to an old mining site, we didn’t get to it on this trip, but it’s on the list for next time!

  • Drive through - if you don’t have enough time or interest in getting out and exploring, the drive through the park is worth the views. Stunning, otherworldly, and worth putting on your bucket list.

PALM SPRINGS

Part of the lobby of The Saguaro Palm Springs

Part of the lobby of The Saguaro Palm Springs

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Saguaro hotel. I found a discounted rate on Groupon, and had been recommended this hotel by a friend. It’s known for being super colorful, trendy and fun and that it was. I wouldn’t really recommend staying here if you will only be there one night because they do charge a resort fee, if you aren’t going to be there long enough to use the amenities then it’s kind of a bummer. We were able to check in super early and lounge by the pool, have a few drinks etc. It’s a super cute spot and the view from the pool is great, we would definitely stay here again. We didn’t get a chance to take one of the bikes out for a ride, and we would definitely do that if we had more time. A plethora of Airbnb options exist in Palm Springs, but we waited a bit too late to book this trip to find any affordable options.

Part of Robolights, a crazy Christmas display located in a residential neighborhood of Palm Springs

Part of Robolights, a crazy Christmas display located in a residential neighborhood of Palm Springs

What to See

  • Palm Springs Art Museum - We didn’t have time to explore the art museum, but it is on the list for next time. It’s centrally located to downtown so you can explore the shops before or after perusing the art.

  • Downtown - We were there at Christmas, so it was nice to wander the main downtown strip area and go in and out of shops. We stopped at a cigar and wine bar and enjoyed a glass on the patio while people watching. There are a few fun art galleries along this strip as well that are worth popping into. I especially enjoyed perusing the crystal shops.

  • Moorten Botanical Garden - If you are on Instagram, you have probably seen photos from Moorten’s. I feel like everyone that goes to Coachella also stops into Moorten’s and it was on my list for a long time. It costs $5 to walk through, so unless you really love cacti and botanical gardens, I would skip this one. We won’t ever go back, but it was worth doing once.

  • Robolights - This is for my fellow quirky art lovers. The craziest Christmas display I will ever see. It is the largest residential Christmas lights display in the United States with upwards of 8 billion lights or something like that. Everything is built from trash and other scrap materials. Rumor has it that this was the last year to view the display at its current location, and that it will be moving to a gallery of some sort in the future. It’s hard to explain this into words, it’s a bizarre yet very fun art installation in someone’s yard. A must see, in my opinion.

  • Aerial Tramway - It costs to get into the tramway parking area, and costs even more still to ride the tram itself. However, you can park at the bottom and walk up if you want some exercise. We just drove up until the pay gate, and then drove back down. The view alone is worth it even if you do just turn around like we did!

Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods Cafe

Where to Eat

  • Chef Tanya’s Kitchen - We loved this little spot. It’s kind of in an odd location, but they have plenty of parking and it’s very quaint and nice inside. You order at the counter and they also have a cooler of takeaway items. I had the Caesar salad with avocado and seitan chicken added on, Danny had the El Cubano with a side of pozole and key lime pudding for dessert. Yum! We really loved the food and will definitely be back. Bring your own water cup, or plan on drinking from very tiny paper cups and my dressing came in a single use plastic container.

  • Palm Greens Cafe - We went here for breakfast and were pleased with the number of vegan options on the menu.. They had juices and smoothies as well, and I had a turmeric ginger shot which wasn’t quite gingery enough for me, but still good. We shared the biscuits and gravy and the breakfast bowl. They were both yummy, and we would go back to try some of their lunch options. Again, with the single-use plastic here in the form of water cups so try to bring your own.

  • Native Foods Cafe - This is both a grocery store and a cafe. They also have a takeaway cooler for grab and go items. I had the tofu egg salad sandwich and a side salad with balsamic dressing and Danny had the special which was a Beyond Sausage and a side of potato salad. Their coffee they sell here is also on point (Joshua Tree Roasters or something like that?…), and we got a bag of it to bring home with us. Out of everything that we ate, I enjoyed this the most. Again, with the single use plastic. What gives, Palm Springs??

  • Peppers Thai - We didn’t get a chance to dine here on this stay, but it was recommended by a friend and the menu looks delicious. Next time!


Have you been to Joshua Tree or Palm Springs? What are your recommendations for when we go back?

K8CanRelate's Vegan Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

What to eat, ride and experience within Universal Studios Hollywood

What to eat, ride and experience within Universal Studios Hollywood

Did you know that I am obsessed with Harry Potter? Did you also know that I love amusement parks? Now you do. I did a lot of research prior to our first trip to Universal Hollywood, trying to determine if there would be any vegan food for us to eat. Most of the articles are outdated, but it seemed like they would at least have a few options. There are also a ton of little hidden gems and secrets throughout the park, so I wanted to put all of those together for you here in this post. Hope this helps you plan your next visit!

TICKETS AND PARKING

Let’s make this quick because it’s boring. Look for tickets and special offers on Universal’s website. If you live or are staying near a metro, it literally has a stop in Universal. That’s how we got there the first time, and it was super easy and seamless (and cheap as hell). The second time, however, we drove, because I don’t LOVE riding the metro after dark. Parking is $25, disgusting. But this allows you to pack lunches, changes of clothes, all of that stuff. We will probably be getting season passes to avoid the parking cost for the future.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK (VEGAN)

Theme park food doesn’t exactly get me excited, but Universal has some nice options. We found a quinoa super-food style salad at the French Bistro’s cooler, super easy grab and go style. There are various locations around the park that carry a vegan patty, and we had one at Krusty Burger with fries. Beware, either the burger or the fries upset our stomachs, and I think it was probably the oil from the fries. The buns at Universal weren’t vegan until recently, but we asked multiple staff members and they all advised that yes, the buns are now vegan. If you would prefer, you can ask for lettuce to wrap the burger in.

The Three Broomsticks has a rotating menu, so you can’t always count on them having exactly what you plan for, but we gave it a shot. This is going to sound biased because of my love of all things HP, but honestly this was such a lovely meal. The asparagus plate is “accidentally” vegan, but be sure to mention that you would like it veganized with no butter. The corn on the cob can be ordered without butter as well, and the potatoes are A-Ok. There are lots of fresh fruit options around Wizarding World which was really nice, and there are plenty of candy options at Honeyduke’s, just read the label!

Universal’s City Walk is just outside of the park and where you can probably find the most vegan-friendly sit down options. We haven’t yet eaten here, but I know there are a few places that at least have the Impossible Burger on their menu. City Walk also has a Ben & Jerry’s if you’re feeling like some ice cream and a VooDoo Donut shop with vegan options as well.

As for drinking, we enjoyed Moe’s Tavern and Hog’s Head! Butterbeer is sadly not vegan friendly so steer clear, opt for a Pumpkin Fizz instead.

The Forbidden Journey ride is housed inside of Hogwarts

The Forbidden Journey ride is housed inside of Hogwarts

WHAT TO RIDE

It’s probably important to note that Danny and I both LOVE roller-coasters. There isn’t a ride we won’t try at least once, and we love the thrill of going upside down/dropping one million feet straight down/ you get the idea. Universal is NOT THAT TYPE OF AMUSEMENT PARK. Do not expect thrilling roller-coasters, that is not what they are trying to do here. This park is about movie magic and the rides are true to that as well. It’s more about visuals and effects than speed and loops. With that being said, we still really enjoyed the rides for what they were. We will just have to get our thrills elsewhere. I have always been a fan of set and costume design, and that is something that I geeked out over for sure. Just waiting in line, there are so many things to look at that are done so exquisitely well. There are no mistakes at this park, every design decision was made purposefully, so take notice!

My favorite, for obvious reasons that we will get to in the next section, was the Forbidden Journey ride. Get in line early for this one, fam. Danny said he felt really sick afterwards, and never wants to ride it again (lol), so if you get motion sickness of any kind, take heed before boarding. Danny’s favorite ride was the Simpson’s ride. It has an added layer of comedy that makes the ride so much fun! I 100% recommend the studio tour, there are ‘rides’ along the way and if you are a movie buff, you will love it even more! We both really loved The Mummy, it is the most “thrilling” and got a genuine scream from me.

Get there early and you might just feel like you have the place to yourself!

Get there early and you might just feel like you have the place to yourself!

WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Upon entering the Wizarding World, you will see the Hogwarts Express and a conductor. You can’t board the train as it is stationary, but you can take photos with the conductor and visit the 9 3/4 shop next door. As you pass the train, you will find yourself in Hogsmeade. From Honeyduke’s to Ollivander’s to the Owl Post, you will not be disappointed. Things were not put here on accident; every window display, every storefront, all of it were chosen and executed with a true fan in mind. The little show at Ollivander’s is cute, and worth a wait of 25 minutes or less. Any more than that and I wouldn’t really bother. There are both interactive and non-interactive wands. You can choose a character wand or your own wand. This is quite an authentic experience and felt very magical!

Walking through the various shops was truly a treat, there is so much to see! We went at Christmas which is another recommendation of mine. The lights, the garland, all of the Christmas merchandise for sale, the snow at night, not to mention the Christmas light show that is projected onto Hogwarts after dark! This was so special and such a wonderful time of year to visit. Albeit a bit busier, it wasn’t unbearable in early December.

Be sure to use the bathroom while in Hogsmeade and do so quietly, you might just get a visit from Moaning Myrtle.

I really loved the details of the Owl Post. You can buy postcards, stamps and pens and the employees will take care to stamp each postcard with the Hogsmeade postal stamp. They literally wiped the stamp after each one so that it wouldn’t smear. You can then fill out your postcards and drop them just outside of the Owl Post to be sent to friends, family or yourself! After you drop the cards into the box, be sure to look up. I didn’t realize until the second visit that there are owls all up inside the rafters, and there is even owl poop.

Hogwarts will take your breath away. Or maybe it won’t, but if you are a fan of Harry Potter, expect a few tears, squeals of delight, and breathlessness. As I stated earlier, this ride isn’t for everyone, but please know that you can request a castle tour! Just because you aren’t a fan of rides doesn’t mean you can’t experience the magic of Hogwarts. Don’t feel pressured to move with the line, enjoy each detail. There are props from the movie inside, and it is a lot to take in! We spent 5-10 minutes watching the portraits move and talk.

At the exit of the ride there is a shop called Filch’s Emporium, which I found to be my favorite. They have a good selection of merchandise, and the shop itself has many decorations and pieces that are fun to see. If you ask the employees nicely, there may or may not be a Sorting Hat that you can put on your head to be sorted.

The Flight of the Hippogriff ride is very quick and kinda meh, but it’s worth walking through the line and the view of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from the top of the ride is stunning. You will find Hadrid’s hut, motorbike and even see Buckbeak in and around the line for the ride! It really is the details of the set and props that makes it so special. We really enjoyed peaking at Hagrid’s hut and wondering if we could perhaps knock to see if he might be home.


Have you been to Universal Hollywood? I really want to visit Universal Orlando next year! What’s your favorite ride? Let me know in the comments!

Honeymooning in Mexico | How I Found Out My Travel Type

What is your travel type?

What is your travel type?

When I think of honeymooning, I always think of Sandals or some kind of typical all-inclusive beach resort with thousands of other newlyweds. For Danny and I, this isn’t exactly our type of travel. When we were planning our honeymoon, we originally thought that we wanted to visit Spain and train around the country. We quickly realized, however, that we wanted a respite from the busy-ness of life and a simple week spent together. Ultimately, we ended up finding a small, adults-only resort in the heart of the Oaxaca region of Mexico via a Reddit post that Danny stumbled upon during his scrolling. We purposefully chose our flights to include layovers for us to explore Mexico City (you can read all about that here!) I hope you enjoy reading about our week in Mexico. If you’re familiar with traveling in Mexico, please drop your favorite places in the comments as I already want to go back!

Check out this view of the Oaxacan coast!

Check out this view of the Oaxacan coast!

GETTING THERE

We flew Interjet from Mexico City to Huatulco airport in the Oaxaca region. This is a great budget airline if you plan to travel to Mexico, they even provide free snacks and drinks. Remember when airlines did that in the US? I digress, the Huatulco airport is small but very clean and surprisingly trendy. There were multiple angel wing murals on various walls, many food options to choose from, and the airport even has traditional thatched roofs. We had arranged a taxi to take us from this airport to the resort, and this was arranged through the resort itself. There seemed to be plenty of transportation options at the airport, but definitely do your research prior to traveling for safety and cost.

Danny hanging out under the palapa

Danny hanging out under the palapa

THE RESORT

Tucked away in a remote corner of one of the poorest regions of Mexico was our honeymoon destination. Complete with only 4 villas, a palapa, a few hammocks, a pool, and private beach access we had reached our destination. We had selected the honeymoon package (duh) which basically meant that we would receive 2 drinks per day and an excursion of our choice included in the booking price. Mexico is a very affordable country because the dollar is so strong against the peso. Danny had never traveled to a developing country prior to this trip, and he could NOT get over how cheap things were. For a honeymoon experience, this resort was a steal. After living in LA County, we were amazed at the pure and complete quiet all around us. I kept saying, “shh, listen.” It was a sublime experience, just that.

Pool vibes!

Pool vibes!

When I say this was in a remote location, it was more so in the “country”. The power went out 3 or 4 times during our stay in the evenings. We ate our dinner in the mostly dark, and swayed in the hammock. They had the telescope pulled out one evening, and after the power went out, the owner’s got busy making calls, and Danny dialed in the telescope so that I could view the almost-full moon. It is moments like that, that make me feel such immense gratitude that tears well up in my eyes.

We essentially had the beach to ourselves day after day, we rarely saw anyone else besides a few divers looking for oysters. We climbed rocks, found tide pools and acquainted ourselves with all the local crabs. There was nothing to do besides explore the beach, walk 15 minutes down the beach to the little fishing village for a snack and a beer, read by the pool or nap in the hammock. This was wonderful, but it is for a very specific travel type.

The freshness of the food and drink…unbelievable

The freshness of the food and drink…unbelievable

THE FOOD

We had already sent our dietary preferences ahead of our arrival, and without a doubt, the highlight of our time here was the food. Honestly, we could go on and on about it. As a vegan, you just come to appreciate things that mainstream meat-eaters take for granted. All-inclusive experiences are one of them. Vegans typically get shafted in these scenarios, very often there will be a few token vegan meals available but very rarely are they anything to write home about. Not so, at this place. Every meal is cooked by one of the owners, and she very clearly puts her soul into her food. Each morning, we were greeted with delicious local coffee (when I say local coffee, I don’t mean it was brewed locally, I mean the straight up beans are grown organically and nearby) along with a fresh plate of fruits. There were Asian, Mexican and even American inspired dishes throughout the week. One night, for dinner, we were served the most amazing sushi I have ever had in my life, bar none. And after? Warm almond cookies with hot Oaxacan chocolate. Okay, I will stop here as I’m sure you get the point. THE FOOD WAS GREAT. And if you want to see more of the food, you can watch this quick little video that I put together about eating while traveling.

REALIZING OUR TRAVEL TYPE

We chose to go on a whale and dolphin tour for our excursion, and we made a day of it. The owners took us into the town of Puerto Escondido. The town is very well known among surfers. The boat tour itself was wonderful, we saw more sea turtles than I can remember and ended up finding a pod of spotted dolphin. (Please spend your money to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Please do not spend money to view animals in captivity.) After the tour, we went to a local coffee shop and tried their homemade jams and nut butters, and of course their coffee. Danny and I stopped into Hotel Sante Fe for lunch, which was a little on the pricey side (for Mexico) but was very delicious and had plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. This part of the city along the beach felt very touristy, but still somehow very quaint and charming.

When we returned back to the resort, we were lounging by the pool discussing what our favorite part of the trip so far had been. While we were loving taking things slow, disconnecting and unwinding, we realized that we were getting a little restless by this point of the week. Our travel type is definitely adventurous. We are explorers. I am sure we will have laid back vacations in the future, but expect our next few to be a bit more on the daring side.

In today’s world, it can be pretty invaluable to be offered an opportunity to fully disconnect from the hustle and bustle and just be where you are. We are so glad that we chose this as our honeymoon; our minds, bodies and souls felt so rejuvenated and reconnected to one another.


Do you know your travel type? Are you more of an explorer or do you prefer to have a totally chilled out trip? Let me know!

K8CanRelate's Guide on How to Spend a Layover in Mexico City

K8CANRELATE's Guide on How to Spend a Layover in.png

When planning for our honeymoon in Mexico, we purposefully chose our flights to include long layovers for us to explore Mexico City. I hope you find this guide helpful when planning your time in Mexico City. If you’re familiar with traveling in Mexico City, please drop your favorite places in the comments as I already want to go back!


GETTING THERE

Flying from LAX into Mexico City via Volaris was a breeze, not to mention very affordable. Danny decided to rent a car from Enterprise to get from the airport to our hotel, which was more centrally located than the airport. The car rental itself was easy, a van transported us from the airport to their office and soon enough, we had our vehicle. Honestly, if you aren’t super confident in your driving, I wouldn’t recommend this. It wasn’t a big deal but I was holding my breath (and death gripping the door handle) the entire time. The roads were pretty crazy, and we had not prepared at all prior to the decision by doing research online. If we did it over, we would have just used Uber the entire time. We did end up using Uber on the last leg of our trip in Mexico City, and it was the same experience that we have in the US. If you aren’t staying overnight in Mexico City, you can store your bags in the luggage lockers outside baggage claim at the airport so you don’t have to drag them around all day. The main part of the city is about 20 minutes away without traffic (but traffic gets cRaZy so check Google Maps), so it’s an easy drive to get there.

This view though!

This view though!

WHERE TO STAY

This might come as a shock to you, but we actually stayed in a h o t e l the first night of our honeymoon. I know, honestly so out of character. We cashed in some airline points and got a junior suite at the Hilton Reforma. It was SO lovely and the best part? The views overlooking the city. That sunrise will be etched into my memory for years to come.

We also stayed in this super cute (and affordable) Airbnb on our last night of the trip. There is a security guard on duty at all times, which is a nice perk if you are a weary travel or traveling solo!

The Centro Historico District is where our hotel and our Airbnb were located and where many museums and other attractions are, so it’s the perfect place to hang out if you don’t have much time. It was a really fun area to wander around.

This waffle sandwich at Vegamo was as delicious as it looks

This waffle sandwich at Vegamo was as delicious as it looks

WHERE TO EAT

We had less than 24 hours to spend in Mexico City for the first leg of our trip, and we took to the streets almost immediately. From our hotel, we walked to Vegamo for dinner. Danny ordered the Chewbacca waffle sandwich with horchata to drink and I got the protein bowl with a golden mylk latte. That golden milk latte was pure magic, and so was Danny’s meal. The protein bowl was very filling, Danny ended up finishing it for me. We loved the ambiance, food and location of this place so much that we actually went back for brunch the next day. I got the chilaquiles with mole and Danny got the omelette. Does anyone else get pissed off when their partner always orders the better thing? That omelette was pure magic, ya’ll. If you are ever in Mexico City, we definitely recommend this place.

If you are a vegan traveling to Mexico City, check out these recommendations from Happy Cow. We perused this list a few times, and can’t wait to go back and try more!

Part of the courtyard at the National Palace

Part of the courtyard at the National Palace

WHAT TO DO

I was in Mexico City on a mission: to find Frida and Diego. I am a huge fan of Frida Kahlo’s work and a fan of her as a person. I also love Rivera’s mural work, and wanted to see at least something by them. With this in mind, we took to Avenida Juárez which runs straight through the historic heart of Mexico City. We wandered through Parque Alameda (which had many vendors set up at night, and in daylight is a great place to people watch and look at various sculptures and statues) Oh, and the park also has free wi-fi. As we strolled on, we awed at the beauty of Palacio de Bellas Artes but didn’t go inside, peaked our heads into a few cathedrals on our way. The courtyard area of Museo Nacional de las Culturas is breathtaking, and reminded me so much of my time in Spain.

One of Diego Rivera’s murals in the National Palace depicting Frida

One of Diego Rivera’s murals in the National Palace depicting Frida

Zócalo is the true heart of Mexico City, and where you will find the Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor Museum and many other historical buildings. We had time to briefly visit all of these. When you enter the queue for the Palacio Nacional, expect that they will ask for your passport or some kind of identification. Entry is free, and this is where you can find many of Diego Rivera’s murals. I could have spend hours just sitting and looking over the detail in his work. I won’t make this an art history exposé, but everything about the National Palace is exquisite. If you have any time at all in Mexico City, this would be my top recommendation.

After our stay at the resort near Puerto Escondido, which you can read more about here, we flew back into Mexico City. Our flight back home the next morning was super early, and we just kind of felt like having a lazy night in. Our Airbnb might have had something to do with that, because it was cozy as hell! Something that we will do every so often is order delivery or take-out and eat it all in bed while watching a movie. We wanted to end our honeymoon as the indulgent royalty that we are, so we ordered delivery from a vegan taco place. Honestly, it was kind of a shit show. The way that things were packaged for delivery was super strange, and the tacos weren’t super great. We thought we were ordering chips and vegan queso but in reality we got the queso and straight up tortillas (LOL). Not a big deal, as it was definitely something to remember.


We wish we would have had more time to spend exploring Mexico City, but we are grateful to have experienced what we did. Have you been to Mexico City? Where did you eat, what did you see, what should we experience when we go back?

9 Ways to Spend Your Time That Don't Cost a Dime

Pin this image to save this post to read for later!

Pin this image to save this post to read for later!

Okay maybe that title is a little click baity because you will need to spend money on things like gas or food for a couple of these. But, for the most part, they are FREE. So, hopefully you will forgive me and keep reading. Our culture continually tells us that we must spend money in order to have fun, treat ourselves or see new things. I am here to call bullshit and to offer some (mostly) free suggestions on ways to spend your time without spending your money.

  1. Be a tourist in your own town - I have been guilty before of whining about wanting to go or do something new. When I started pushing myself to try new activities, restaurants, and see places I hadn’t before I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I didn’t need to spend money on travel to scratch that itch. Imagine seeing your town through the eyes of a tourist, what things would you do and how would you do them?

  2. Explore Nature - The best thing about Nature is that it’s always changing. You can visit the same park throughout the year and it will look different depending on the season and the weather. Take a hike, literally. Go to the beach. Borrow a hammock and tie it between the trees and read your book, draw, color. Take your workout outdoors. The options are endless!

  3. Pleasure yourself (or be pleasured by your partner) - This is one of humanity’s favorite pastimes. Get reacquainted with your body, your pleasure or that of your partner. It seems that we often forget that sex and pleasure doesn’t have to be quick, take your time, stay a while.

  4. Travel to a new country (without leaving your home) - This is something that Danny and I really enjoy for date night in. We choose a country and then we select a recipe, music, movie and a drink that are a part of their culture. It’s a fun way to to learn about a new place and experience parts of it without the cost of actually going.

  5. Take a cooking class - Speaking of cooking at home, there are lots of cooking demos on YouTube! Choose a type of food and do a quick search, run to the store for what you need and get cooking! There may also be cooking classes offered by a local culinary school or senior center. Check your local news or search Facebook events.

  6. Constellations - Download an app, visit an observatory. Or just go outside with a blanket and look up. No prior knowledge needed, all you need is a clear night and some time.

  7. Create: write, draw, sing or dance - Ah, the joy of creating. When was the last time you made time to create? There are so many cheap options. You can draw with a pencil or pen on paper (even napkins or scrap paper). You can get a cheap paint-by-number from your local art supply store. Coloring books are still a thing. Singing is free, and fun, especially in the car. Dance alone or with a friend. Choreograph your favorite song. You don’t need to be perfect or a professional to make something. Stop opting out of doing things you enjoy just because there is someone, somewhere that might do it better than you.

  8. Movie night - YouTube binging, something new on Netflix.. feeling really fancy? Project your flick onto the wall or a projector screen. You can theme your movie nights or just select at random. We live in a time where entertainment is literally at our fingertips. Depending upon where you live and the time of year, check around to see if there are any free movies playing. Lots of times there will be free movies playing in the park or at the beach.

  9. Free exercise class - You can easily find free yoga classes on YouTube without having to leave home. This is a great option if you want to try something new but don’t have the budget, or maybe you like to try things out privately before trying in front of a group. There are often free classes being offered around your city; this is a great way to try new things and meet new people.

K8CanRelate's Guide to Moving Across the Country

Not sponsored by Uhaul.

Not sponsored by Uhaul.

Considering a road trip across the country? Or perhaps you are playing around with the idea of making the move from east to west. I moved from West Virginia to Southern California in 3 nights with 2 vehicles and a U haul trailer. This is a guide that includes how we packed, the route we took, the food we ate, the stops we made and how I did my best to stay healthy.

HOW IT HAPPENED

I visited Los Angeles the first week of July for a long weekend. It was my very first time “out West”. People have been telling me for years that I belong in California. I usually dismissed their opinions because I heard that California was expensive and housing was outrageous, and I assumed that I would never be able to afford it. During my visit, I ate amazing vegan food, I visited with friends that I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet in person before, I watched Austin Powers in a cemetery, I drove through Topanga Canyon. I didn’t really do “touristy” things, and I think it is because of this that I became transfixed. I spent more time among Angelenos than with visitors and a thought started to bubble to the surface of my mind: I really do belong here. I mentioned to my friends that I would love to live here, and I guess the rest is history. It was just a few short weeks later that Danny and I were interviewing for jobs and looking at apartments. Do not be surprised at how quickly the Universe moves once you are ready.

WHAT WE PACKED

As many of my longtime readers know, I have been dabbling into minimalism here and there. Danny and I seriously considered tiny home life and do still intend to own a renovated Airstream at some point. Since we both already were preparing for a minimalist lifestyle, it wasn’t as difficult for us to get rid of our stuff. We had a yard sale and sold what we could, donated what we couldn’t. I gave away 6 trash bags filled with clothes and shoes. It disgusted me that I owned that many clothing items, most of which I rarely, if ever, wore. We have a Casper mattress, which comes shipped in a small box when you purchase it. Danny found a YouTube video that showed how to suck the air back out of it for easy transportation. It actually did work really well which was huge for us to be able to fit everything in the size of U Haul trailer that we could tow with Danny’s Jeep. We didn’t pack any furniture besides the bed, bed frame and a wooden chest that I had (which I ended up getting rid of upon arriving in California).

The route we took, with the towns we stayed in marked!

The route we took, with the towns we stayed in marked!

WHAT ROUTE WE TOOK

We took the Southern route, as it is known, because it is less mountainous. The route through Colorado and Utah is beautiful, I have heard, but since we were towing a U Haul we didn’t want to take that route. We started in West Virginia and made our way through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before arriving in California. All of these states were new for me, except for Kentucky! It was mid-September when we were traveling and the weather was absolutely perfect. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. My only real complaint and headache was the Oklahoma Turnpike. If you take this route, remember to bring cash (and coins!). There is a little calculator here to compute exact totals. I came prepared with the cash, but wasn’t anticipating how steep the cost of traveling this stretch of road would be. At one point, it requires exact change, which I didn’t compute as coins. I ended up having to drive right through, oops. Other than that minor hiccup, everything was perfect.

Kombucha tasting at the Confluence in St. Louis, Missouri

Kombucha tasting at the Confluence in St. Louis, Missouri

WHAT WE SAW

We weren’t doing this trip for the sightseeing, which was kind of a bummer. We were just trying to make good time so that we could get settled into our new apartment. There were so many cool things along the way that we wish we could have made time for, but we knew that we would be making weekend trips to do those things soon. That being said, we did stay in some pretty cool cities and made a few pit stops as well. We always utilize Happy Cow to scope out vegan options in whatever city or town we are traveling to. We made a stop in St. Louis at Confluence Kombucha to try their kombuchas on tap as well as to grab a little snack. Very fun flavors and cooking techniques and the staff was great! I saw the Gateway Arch from the interstate, even though I kept mentally calling it the Golden Arches (it is definitely not a McDonald’s).

Annapurna's Cafe in Albuquerque features Ayurvedic Indian cooking

Annapurna's Cafe in Albuquerque features Ayurvedic Indian cooking

The next night, we stayed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Because the time change was working in our favor, we had some daylight left to explore the city. We went downtown and parked and wandered around looking at some murals, stopping in to El Guapo’s for a Corona and lime on the rooftop. On our way through Texas, I couldn’t stop marveling at the windmills. Texas is the largest purveyor of wind energy in the country! I had seen windmills before in Maryland, but never this many. We made it a point to stop at the Cadillac Ranch which is just off the highway in Amarillo. We went on from there to stay the night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We went to Annapurna's Cafe for dinner, which was absolutely delicious. We shared the South Indian Sampler and Mediterranean Plate, both pictured above. After dinner, we walked from our hotel over to Green Jeans Farmery. It’s like a shipping container plaza complete with a brewery, food vendors and more. The hot air balloons against the mountains in Albuquerque are so dreamy, I definitely want to go back. Driving through New Mexico and Arizona were my absolute favorite views. There is something that feels otherworldly and magical about the American Southwest. The trains snaking through the hills made me want to pull over and paint it all, photograph it all, savor each and every drop. I was so inspired.

Danny’s cousin lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and we made it a point to stop in and grab lunch with her. We ate at a little vegan place called WHYld Ass. Their food was amazing. This would have been the perfect opportunity to skip over to the Grand Canyon, and I would recommend it if you have a couple of hours to spare. We made the choice to drive through to Long Beach, and it was a long 15 hour drive day for us. For a while, there seems to be nothing and then you come over this hill and there are lights everywhere, cars everywhere. We had made it.

HOW I STAYED HEALTHY + SAVED MONEY

As I was packing the kitchen, I realized I had a lot of dry beans in my pantry. I made a quick and easy chili in the Instant Pot, because I also had a couple of chili seasoning packets laying around. I packed it in large Tupperware along with utensils for us to eat for lunches while road tripping. I measured out the last of the quick-cook oatmeal that I had, turmeric and the last of my protein powder. I added water to this and zapped it in the hotel microwave. At the last hotel, there was no microwave, so I used the hot water from the coffee pot to make it work. I also packed some apples, GoMacro bars and some peanut butter in the car. I brought along 2 reusable water bottles that I kept filled with cold water from the fountain at various gas stations. There is almost always a microwave that you can use to heat up food at gas stations, so you aren’t bound by cold-only foods while traveling! By using up some of these pantry items, it allowed me to save money, stay healthy and also not have to pack that stuff up. Additionally, we made it a point to book hotels that had a gym. We chose not to stay at Airbnb’s along the way because we weren’t sure which towns we would be staying in each night and didn’t want to be disruptive to the host/hostess with our late arrivals. With as much sitting as we were doing, it was really important to me to start the day with some activity. By no means will you become “unhealthy” or “unfit” if you take time off from your fitness or meal prep while traveling, but for me, it was more about mental health and easability than anything!

Hopefully this helps you plan your next road trip or inspires you to travel to new places and see new things. If you are a routine traveler, share some of your favorite travel or packing tips with me below!

Staying Healthy While Traveling: K8CanRelate's Healthy Travel Tips

My healthy travel tips

My healthy travel tips

No surprise to all of you, I love to travel. Day trips, weekend getaways, international travel -- I love it all! However, traveling can be detrimental to our health especially when you are traveling frequently and always on the go. So how can you stay healthy while traveling? 

Enter my insider intel, all my best tips for everything you need to do to stay healthy, no matter where your wanderlust may lead. 

Numbero uno most important tip that I can give you: determine what kind of healthy you mean. For some, they want a physically healthy trip and for others they need to take a vacation for mental health. This post is more for physical health and well-being and less about indulgent trips. However, I am aware of how crucial it is to let go and indulge yourself every now and again (especially while on a vacation!) 

Plan ahead - pre-trip | Research the options before you go. What are some healthy restaurants in the area, is there a free gym, does the Airbnb have a full kitchen, is the city walkable etc. I am a planner by nature, so this is one of my favorite parts of traveling, the pre-trip is just as fun for me as the trip itself!

Sleep | Catch those Z's like a pro. If you have trouble sleeping in unfamiliar places, I recommend trying Lush's sleepy lotion or a bedtime tea. Our bodies are already prone to sickness in new environments, don't put yourself at a higher risk by getting little to no sleep. 

Walk everywhere | If possible, opt for strolling around town to sight-see rather than hailing a Lyft. I get in more steps when I travel than I ever do at home. I usually don't visit the gym while traveling, so walking is my primary means of exercise. 

Utilize the free gym or try out a local studio | I love checking out local studios while traveling! I usually opt for yoga or cycle. This is a great way to feel out the vibe of a city as well as check out an area of town that you otherwise might not have. I just utilize Google to find websites for studios and then decide based on their location, schedules and overall vibe. If you are staying at a hotel that offers a free gym, go! 

Reusable water bottle | Don't forget to hydrate! It is much easier to become dehydrated while traveling, especially if you are flying or going to a warmer climate than what you're used to. Bring an empty reusable water bottle through airport security and fill it up once you are through TSA. If you are driving, you can bring more than one water bottle so that you always have a full one on hand. 

Cook your own meals | The easiest way for me to stay healthy while traveling is to book accommodations with a kitchen. This way, I can control what fruits and veggies that I am getting as well as how much sodium I am taking in. We definitely still like to go out to eat while we travel and it is often one of our favorite parts of traveling. However, it is more cost effective to cook your own meals and it is just healthier overall. Usually I will cook breakfasts, lunches and pack snacks and then go out to eat for dinner. I would suggest packing a few to-go containers for leftovers as well as reusable utensils. 

Be mindful of your immune system | Load up on good-for-you foods like fresh fruits and veggies. Go to your local health foods store and get some elderberry lozenges to pack in your bag. Wash your hands often while traveling, especially through airports and other crowded tourist spots. 

Limit your alcohol | By now, we know that alcohol takes its toll on our bodies. Limit your alcohol consumption while traveling. Ask yourself if it is really worth the headaches, hangovers and dehydration that will surely follow. 

Let go | Ultimately, worrying about staying healthy can cause you to be more unhealthy than just going with the flow would. Plan ahead as much as you can, but also be open to letting things flow naturally.

Don't worry, be happy, travel often. 

Winter is Coming: Tips for Traveling Iceland in the Winter

Interested in traveling to Iceland in the low season? Use this to guide your planning!

Interested in traveling to Iceland in the low season? Use this to guide your planning!

Itinerary Suggestions

After doing my research prior to our winter trip to Iceland, I had narrowed down the areas of Iceland that are still easy to reach during the winter. I'm sure there are other areas of the country that you could find tours to, but this is based off of our 5 day trip in order to maximize what we were able to see and do. 

  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula - Steep mountains, endless beaches, moss covered lava fields, impressive craters and bizarre coastal cliffs. . . no I am not listing the set for a sci-fi movie, this is all present on the Peninsula. Our Troll guide, Maggie, told us many of the tales and legends of the Peninsula as well. If you know me, you know that I love folklore, so this was one of the attractions for me to come to this part of Iceland. It really did have a magical feeling and the strolls along the cliffs and beaches were breathtaking, to say the least. One of the most popular photographs you will see of all of Iceland is of the majestic volcano Snæfellsjökull which was immortalized in the book “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne.
  • Golden Circle - We actually didn't do this "touristy" route on our first trip to Iceland. We decided that it was a must-see this time around. The route features near the top of almost every list of things to do in the country and is listed as a sightseeing tour on nearly every tour provider's website. We opted for self-driving because it is such a popular route, the road conditions are usually well-kept. The Golden Circle consists of three equally stunning locations in southwest Iceland: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. The Golden Circle is not a far drive away from Reykjavik, and while it was still busy, I am sure it is overwhelmingly busy in the high season, so I would recommend this for your winter itinerary. We also made a pit stop at the geothermal area of Fludir to enjoy the Secret Lagoon, definitely would recommend! 
  • Reykjavik - Obviously spending time in the northernmost capital of the world while you are in Iceland is a must, any time of year. Here you will find a detailed guide on what I recommend for you to see, do and eat during your time in the city! 
  • South Coast - We started off from Reykjavik early in the morning, using Saga Travel as our tour company. They have a western South Coast tour that drops you off at glacier walking or you can opt to continue on to the popular black sand beach, Reynisfjara. This is also something that you could pretty easily self-drive as long as you are a confident winter weather driver and the weather forecast is looking good for the day. Skógafoss  is everything that you want in a waterfall; tall and wide, with straight lines and even flow of water, it looks like it was taken from the pages of a book. It’s surrounded by cliffs, covered in soft moss that’s often covered in icicles. I must say that I prefer this waterfall in the winter! 
  • Glacier Walking and Ice Climbing - This is obviously something very popular in the wintertime in Iceland. You can really only do ice caving in the winter season! This is something that you will need to budget for, as you cannot do it on your own and will need the proper guides and the proper equipment. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to walk on (and eat) a glacier, but it will be something that I remember for a lifetime. We climbed Sólheimajökull which is one of the more accessible glaciers. 
Iceland in winter is truly magical and otherworldly, and totally different from how it is in the warmer months. 

Iceland in winter is truly magical and otherworldly, and totally different from how it is in the warmer months. 

To Drive or Not to Drive? 

Should you rent a car and drive yourself around Iceland in winter? Should you opt to book with tour companies that pick you up and drive you around? Should you do a little of both? 

While we were in Iceland during winter, we opted to do a little of both. We rented a car for the well-maintained city streets and the Golden Circle Route (after we checked the weather and road cameras) and opted for booking tours for the things we wanted to do and see that were further away from Reykjavik. We used Troll Expeditions for Snaefellsnes and we used Saga Travel for the South Coast Glacier Walk

  • Renting a Car
    • Pros - With renting a car, you are totally in control of your itinerary and how long you stay at each spot along your route. It is also nice to have a car if you are not staying in downtown Reykjavik. You can park downtown with ease and not have to worry about relying on public transportation. Renting a car is also critical if you plan on traveling the entire Ring Road, which I would not recommend in winter. I would recommend renting a car while you are in Iceland if you (or someone you are traveling with) are a confident driver and will be in the country for more than a couple of days. You can price compare, but this is potentially your cheaper and more budget friendly option if you are traveling outside of winter.
    • Cons - During winter, Iceland's weather is more unpredictable than ever. If you are not used to driving in these conditions, it can get very dangerous very quickly. We saw small rentals stranded on the side of the road multiple times. If you are not a confident driver, do not rent a car in a foreign country. They have different traffic patterns and road signs than what you may be used to so either do your research or just trust an Icelander to drive you around! If you are driving, you don't get to enjoy the scenery quite as much. I found that using the tour companies was much less stressful and more enjoyable for Danny (who otherwise would have been driving). In winter, you really need a 4x4 vehicle with winter tires. 
  • Booking Tours
    • Pros - You have the ability to do high adventure activities that you wouldn't otherwise get to do, like climbing a glacier or ice caving! Transportation from Reykjavik is usually included, so you don't have to worry about renting a car, buying gas, finding food stops etc. You can also find multi-day tours which could be an option for you. These tours are usually operated by an Icelander, so you are able to hear more about the history and culture of the country. 
    • Cons - You are on their time and their schedule. If there was something you wanted to see that was not on the itinerary, you can ask, but odds are, you will have to miss it. Tours can be pricey so if you are on a budget, compare the tours you want to book with renting a car and self-driving to the locations you want to see. 
The majesty of Snaefellsnes beaches. 

The majesty of Snaefellsnes beaches. 

What to Pack? 

I go super in-depth about what to pack for your trip to Iceland here on my blog.

If you are traveling from October to March, you are basically traveling in the Icelandic winter. The Gulf Stream keeps temperatures pretty mild so while the wind chill can be below freezing, it is not as frigid as you might be imagining. It was above freezing during the day the whole time we were there. Layering is so majorly important, so pack base layers such as quick dry tops and bottoms, thermal or long johns, fleece jackets, sweaters, and of course the critical waterproof outer layer such as rain pants and a warm waterproof coat. Staying dry is one of the most important things about traveling in Iceland. I plan on packing some of those heat packs to put inside of my gloves and shoes to keep my extremities extra warm and toasty. I would suggest that you consider buying and bringing Crampons to fit onto your hiking boots so that you won't be sliding all over the ice, especially if you plan on self-driving. Don't forget your swimsuit! 

Snæfellsjökull was immortalized in the book “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne

Snæfellsjökull was immortalized in the book “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne

K8CanRelate's Guide to Reykjavík, Iceland

All of the best things to do and see in Reykjavik, Iceland

All of the best things to do and see in Reykjavik, Iceland

As many of you may know, Iceland has quickly become one of my favorite travel destinations. There is something truly magical about Iceland. Its remoteness, its incredible landscapes, its culture, the people, and its food all make this small but fascinating country one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. For a good reason. I have now been to Iceland on two separate trips.

Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world but has surprisingly mild weather thanks to the Gulf Stream. Below you will find my recommendations for things to see, eat and do. This guide is great both if you have lots of time or limited time in the city. You will find that Reykjavik is relatively small and easy to navigate. Happy trails!


What to See

Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja church - Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. This is a pretty hard one to miss, honestly. It is the tallest structure in the city and one of the best-known landmarks in Iceland. Leif Eriksson is situated outside of the church. You can go up to the top to overlook the city which I have yet to do. You can go inside for free which I would recommend as the architecture is quite different from traditional churches; the organ is quite impressive in and of itself. 

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

Harpa Concert Hall - Harpa is quite beautiful to look at from both the outside and the inside. The geometric framework is stunning. You can walk around inside as there are gift shops and cafes but I would suggest going in just to see the windows. You can also check the schedule and see if the orchestra is playing while you are in town. 

The Sun Voyager sculpture

The Sun Voyager sculpture

Solfar (The Sun Voyager) sculpture - Solfar is situated on the waterfront just down from Harpa. This waterfront is one of my favorite views in the city. The artist intended this sculpture to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.

One of many street art installations in Reykjavik

One of many street art installations in Reykjavik

Graffiti Art - As visitors to Iceland are sure to have noticed, several large and elaborate murals adorn the walls of buildings in and around Reykjavík’s center. These pieces are intricate, beautiful and well worth taking the time to see. There are murals on every street, some small and some elaborate. Most of the street art you will see is commissioned art but there are also tags and bubble graffiti around as well. You could spend an entire day just strolling the city looking for street art! 


What to Eat

If you are a vegan that will be traveling Iceland soon, read my blog post about all of our favorite restaurants and tips to save money. It includes restaurants that we found while traveling Ring Road. 

The only 100% vegan restaurant in Iceland. They spin vinyl on the weekends!

The only 100% vegan restaurant in Iceland. They spin vinyl on the weekends!

Kaffi Vínyl - We had their sandwiches last time we were in town which were amazing! This time, we opted for the soup of the day (sweet potato) as well as the nachos and the breads & spreads appetizer. I have to admit I was kind of disappointed in the nachos. They were good, but not great. The breads & spreads were pretty amazing though! As was the soup. I would also highly recommend their house kefir (kind of like kombucha). 

Gló - We visited this restaurant twice on our last trip to Iceland. It is a great choice for vegan options. They have at least two locations, one is centrally located downtown and the other is on the outskirts of the city. They have a great lunch special where you can get an option with 3 of their salad sides. The lasagna is amazing!

Passion Reykjavik - I don't have any photos from the inside of Passion, but take my word for it that it is worth stopping by if you have a sweet tooth. They have a small selection of vegan pastries but I would highly suggest that you stop in to sample one of each. It was quite busy with locals stopping in for their morning pastry and coffee, but the wait time was not bad. It is decorated quite elegantly and the pastries speak for themselves.  

Quite possibly the best vegan cheese bread in the world. Yeah, I said it.

Quite possibly the best vegan cheese bread in the world. Yeah, I said it.

Íslenska Flatbakan - I dreamed of these cheesy bread sticks since the last time that I was in Iceland. This is a small chain pizza restaurant that serve up craft pizzas and beer. Danny and I both would absolutely recommend you stop in, especially if you are a pizza lover. They have a handful of vegan options to choose from, as well as the vegan cheese sticks. This last time I also got the spicy vegan pizza and unless you absolutely LOVE spicy things, avoid this one! My mouth was dying and I could barely taste the pizza itself. They have a pretty decent selection of Icelandic beer as well. 

Reykjavik Roasters is a great centrally located coffee shop!

Reykjavik Roasters is a great centrally located coffee shop!

Reykjavik Roasters - This is a well-known coffee spot very centrally located in downtown Reykjavik. It seems that there are equal parts locals and tourists every time I have stopped in. All of Reykjavik has a very hipster vibe and Reykjavik Roasters is no exception. It feels more like a large living room than an establishment. It is quite cozy, eclectic and the staff are always warm and friendly. 


What to Do

Erró, is without a doubt the best known contemporary artist of Iceland. His work is currently on exhibition at Reykjavik Art Musem

Erró, is without a doubt the best known contemporary artist of Iceland. His work is currently on exhibition at Reykjavik Art Musem

Visit Reykjavik's Museums - There are many museums throughout the city! Admittedly, I have spent more time wandering around searching for street art and setting out into the countryside than I have in the museums. Just another excuse to go back, right? This past trip we visited Reykjavik Art Museum. The cost of admission actually gets your entrance into two other art museums in the city, but we didn't have enough time to make it to those. If you do plan to visit museums while you are in the city, consider getting the City Card to save yourself some money. From Maritime museums, art museums to Icelandic history, you are sure to find at least one museum that suits your fancy. There is even a phallological museum, yep that means penis. Next on my list is the Reykjavik Museum of Photography

One of the many murals in Reykjavik!

One of the many murals in Reykjavik!

Self-Guided Walking Tour - Truthfully, Reykjavík is a city that is best enjoyed by foot. You could pay someone to take you on a walking tour, or you could save yourself the money and and do it yourself. The parking for Reykjavik is split into 3 levels. P1 is the most centrally located parking and will cost you the most and is followed by P2 and P3 parking. Find a spot to park and start walking! You can't really get lost in this city and you are sure to find cultural and historically significant locations at every turn. 

Kirkjufell mountain in west Iceland

Kirkjufell mountain in west Iceland

Opt for a Day Tour - There are many, many tour companies to choose from in Iceland. Most of these offer free pickup in Reykjavik. If you will be spending more than a day or two in the city, you might want to consider booking a day tour! We used Tröll Expeditions for a day tour to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. One of the stops is at Kirkjufell mountain which was the site of a couple of Game of Thrones episodes as well as the inspiration for Journey to the Center of the Earth. Troll picked us up near our Airbnb and we spent a full day exploring this beautiful western part of the country. We had Maggie as our tour guide and I could sing her praises all day. The Peninsula is not as "touristy" or as well-known as the Golden Circle or the South Coast of Iceland. Tröll has day tours to see those areas as well, and their South Coast tour is very well reviewed on Trip Advisor. I can't tell you which I would choose if I could only choose to see one. Iceland's landscapes are so different and vast that honestly you need to see them all. This is (one of the reasons) why I keep going back. 

The Unknown Bureaucrat statue found near Tjornin Pond

The Unknown Bureaucrat statue found near Tjornin Pond

Relax by Tjörnin Pond - Tjörnin Pond is a tranquil area right near the City Hall. The lake is alive with swans, ducks and a variety of other birds and is great for people watching. This past time, we enjoyed watching teenagers try to make it across the ice to the little island in the middle of the pond. 

Enjoy the Nightlife - What makes partying in Iceland different to anywhere else in the world? I can't exactly tell you, but I can tell you that the nightlife in Reykjavik is not to be missed. The nightlife is all centered in one place, all within easy walking distance from another, and rarely require an entrance fee. You will want to leave your hiking boots at the hotel and opt instead for a nicer outfit. You will find that there isn't much of a dress code but Reykjavik is a metropolitan city and they dress as such. I have never felt scared or threatened while in Iceland so no worries about safety! There are many bars and events and I could probably do an entire blog post just about our favorite spots. (If you would be interested in that, drop a comment!) I would recommend checking Gaukurinn's page for events while you are in town, having a specialty cocktail at Slipbarinn and grabbing a flight or two of Icelandic beer at Micro Bar

K8CanRelate's Guide to Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Museum of Art: Wonder Room Gallery

Columbus Museum of Art: Wonder Room Gallery

As the capital of the state of Ohio, you can imagine there is plenty to do in the city of Columbus. Danny and I chose Columbus as our Christmas destination 2017. We made this decision because of its close proximity to where we are living and all of the fun things that seemed to be going on! Keep in mind, this Christmas season was unseasonably chilly, so we didn’t get to do a lot of the outdoor things that were happening around town. It says a lot that we were still able to fill our time with fun things to do so don’t count Columbus out for your next road trip or adventure.

Below you will find photos from our time there and my reviews of the things we did, ate and experienced.

We stayed in an Airbnb with Danny’s parents in the Brewery District of Columbus. You might think that this means there are breweries on every corner, but you will be disappointed. There are pubs in the area, but no real breweries. We were kind of sad about that, but it was a very central location while also being quiet. We really enjoyed the space and the yard was fenced in which was great for our dogs.

The Book Loft of German Village

 If you know me at all, you know I love to read. We had to check out this book store that is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country! When I say this place is huge, I really mean it. There are 30+ rooms filled with books. The rooms are kind of cramped and its pretty easy to get lost. Apparently they also have dining and drink options, but I guess we didn’t wander that far! I appreciated that they had the rooms sorted by genre and topic. The outside of the building is very fun, and German Village seems to be a very hip and historic part of town. I would recommend checking it out if you like quirky things!

Easton Town Center

Easton is a huge shopping complex just outside of downtown Columbus. They have an indoor mall as well as an outdoor center. There are lots of restaurants and shops. We only visited to go see Star Wars at their movie theater which has dine-in options. The entire plaza was lit up with Christmas lights and it was snowing. The theater was very large. This was the first time I had been to a dine-in theater so I had a great time sipping my beer while watching the movie. If you enjoy shopping, put Easton at the top of your list.

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

This festival is held at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. The festival starts in November, is open both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day from 5 until 10 PM and it extends into the New Year as well. This is definitely a must see! You can walk the grounds and tour all of the lanterns at your own pace. They are so intricate and beautiful! There are a couple of show times throughout the evening that you will want to be sure to watch.  They have spiked apple cider available as well, which I would highly recommend.

 

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

Balanced Yoga

Danny and I dropped into a fundamentals yoga course at Balanced Yoga's new location in the German Village. The space is beautiful and well worth a visit. They have yoga mats for rent or you can bring your own. They have a locker area to place your belongings into. The staff is super friendly. I wish I could remember the name of the instructor that we had, but she was awesome and really took the time to make sure we were moving our bodies in a safe way. I always love having instructors that help you find your form. 

North Market

We explored the North Market the day after Christmas, and since these are small business owners, most of them took the day off to enjoy time with their families. Thankfully for us, Destination Donuts was open. They carry two trays of vegan donut options daily. Honestly these are some of the best, most fluffy donuts I have ever had the pleasure of eating. We got the vanilla, chocolate sprinkle and their version of the cinnamon roll. My personal favorite was the vanilla followed closely by the cinnamon roll. You really cannot go wrong, though.

Destination Donuts is worth the stop!

Destination Donuts is worth the stop!

The Center for Creativity

The Center for Creativity

Columbus Museum of Art

Quite possibly one of the best museums I have ever been to. They have a newer building that they have named The Center for Creativity which is a huge space for galleries and more hands-on activities. While we were there, they had a huge LEGO display which Danny really enjoyed. Each step of the museum was an opportunity to stop and write, draw, explore, create. You don’t come here just to stare at a painting. Even in their classic galleries, they have tables with puzzles and options to connect on a deeper level with the art. Whoever has curated this museum has done a beautiful job. I feel like I could spend an entire day here, and would really recommend that you check it out at least for a few hours. They have student and teacher discounts available as well as free entry on Sundays.  

Vegan version of the Parma, Italy at Melt

Vegan version of the Parma, Italy at Melt

Melt Bar and Grilled

Did someone say gourmet grilled cheese? I have been to the Melt in Columbus once before and have also visited their location in Cleveland. They have a multitude of vegan options from different cheese to different meat substitutes. I got the Parma, Italy with the tofu. All of their vegan-friendly options are clearly marked. They have vegan soup and salad options as well, and you can opt for a half serving of any sandwich as well. The staff is very accommodating if you have any questions or concerns on preparation! Delicious and fun.

16-Bit Bar+Arcade

This may be my favorite bar find of all time. The walls are lined with old school arcade games. The best part? As long as you are drinking you can play for FREE. Yep, that’s right. They have pinball in the back corner that is a little extra. They have drink specials every night. We were there on a Tuesday and it wasn’t too full but was definitely busy.