Stop and Smell the Roses

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It felt so good to leave Phoenix behind. Sacramento was the city I was praying to go to, in large part because of my dear friend Madalyn and her wife Jacklin live in the city.

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Maddie and I, ecstatic to be reunited during my short visit to the city in June.

Having not lived near each other since High School, it was exciting to me to know we’d get to spend some time together. And just look at how cute she and her wife are!! I can’t stand it ❤

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MadJackal, powercouple, on our hike out at Donner Pass

So, while I’d gladly spend all my time hanging with Chaz and my friends, most people have jobs and school to go to. Which meant I needed to do some exploring of the city all on my own. I took a day to visit Crocker Art Museum and walk through Old Sacramento. On the walk from I was able to get some awesome shots of the gorgeous Tower Bridge. With cloudy grey skies and the morning sun shining brightly, the towering angles of the bridge were ignited in sunlight.

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Tower Bridge is a Vertical Lift Bridge, though I was calling it a drawbridge before a quick wikipedia research taught me otherwise. It was built around 1934 and crosses the Sacramento River.

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Also, it is painted shiny gold, which isn’t totally captured in my pictures. I just love the architecture of intricate bridges like this!

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And the timing of my visit couldn’t have been better, as this ship was sailing down the river. While this ship was pretty cool to see on it’s own, the best thing about it was that it would need to pass through the bridge.

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Where my perfectly timed visit to Tower Bridge allowed me to watch the vertical lift in action. Which was insanely cool! And check out the Ziggurat building in the background. Made to resemble Mesopotamian style pyramids, the awesome looking Ziggurat is actually an office building. Talk about extra!

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After that I headed for the Crocker Art Museum, where my favorite picture from the day was of the light reflecting through these gorgeous rainbow glass installations in a stairwell.

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The art museum’s main area is actually the former mansion of the Crocker family, who had built a huge gallery next to their home to house their extensive art collection. It was later converted fully into an art museum. The mansion part was gorgeous!! With curving shiny wood staircases and intricate tile floors like the one pictured below.

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Another cool area in the city is Old Sacramento. The buildings have a look very similar to the French Quarter in New Orleans, with a sort of wooden boardwalk as the sidewalk and cobblestone streets. The street is lined with all kinds of tourist trap sort of shops. The coolest of which was the Costume Mansion, which had an old hearse parked outside.

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Fun fact: I’ve photographed 2 hearses and they were both in California.

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A Rolls Royce hearse at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, for when you die but you still gotta be fancy. Taken in May 2017.

Another thing that I’ve truly enjoyed about this city has been going with Madalyn and Jacklin to the Sunday farmer’s market. Sacramento is known as the farm to fork capitol, and when surrounded with such a cornucopia of fresh local food it was easy to see why.

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I loved the energy of this market. A rainbow of humanity, all races and styles of dress. People carrying bouquets of fresh cut flowers, or sporting a bag full to bursting with luscious greens. How about seeing brussel sprouts on the stem! I bought myself a bouquet of Sunflowers who brightened our little room for about a week.

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I couldn’t help but have a huge grin on my face while walking around the market. With smells of basil and fresh lavender to fill my nostrils, the sounds of the sellers marketing their foods and sights like this:

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Another thing I was able to do with the ladies was to visit the International Peace Rose Garden at the state capitol building.

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Madalyn, enjoying a kiss from a  rose

Does it get much better than literally stopping to smell the roses?

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And every color and breed of rose had it’s own unique aroma. If only I could smell these smells all the time.

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And the garden is intended as a shrine to international peace, being decorated with children and teens poetry about peace.

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One poem, BY 11th grader Cheryl Petzold read as follows:
WORLD PEACE
NO FIGHTING
NO TEARS
NO PAIN
NO FEAR
NO GUNS
NO HATE
NO WAR
JUST SMILES
JUST JOY
JUST HUGS
JUST LOVE
JUST HOPE
JUST HAPPINESS
JUST NIRVANA
JUST PEACE

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The rose, such a beautiful symbol of love. And I felt at peace in this place.

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California is awesome. Sacramento has been a great place to live for a while. We probably won’t be here much longer, and should be leaving any day now. But I am going to miss this place.

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Thank you for reading!

XOXO

Stomp-Softly

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Dragonfly reveals itself at the rose garden

Arizona Days

Those of you that are my Facebook friends (likely everyone reading this) have probably seen that after only 2 weeks we have already departed from Phoenix, Arizona. It came as sort of a shock, I was in fact in the middle of a mountain hike when Chaz called me with the news, “We’re leaving ASAP!” Whew… So after a whirlwind of a couple days I am writing this to you from the comfort of my room in Sacramento, California! Very excited to be here. If there was one location I was praying to go to, it was here.

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Chaz and I, our true forms revealed

Anyway, since my time in Arizona has ended I thought I would re-cap the top moments from my residence there: a mountaintop drum circle, and a day trip to spiritual Sedona.

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The sun sets during a mountain hike above Phoenix

Last Thursday, October 5th, was the Harvest Moon. I am a moon child myself, and I’ve always followed and exalted in the changing phases of the moon. I saw via Reddit that there was a hike being planned, with the intent of ending the hike with a drum circle and moon prayer circle. Some 200 people had RSVP’d to the event. Since I didn’t know anyone in the area, I thought it would be nice to spend a little time with some like-minded strangers.

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When I reached the summit, sage was wafting through the air, mixing with drum beats and the laughter of around 100 people. Everyone was friendly, with bright eyes and open smiles. In times like these, when negativity and violence is being pushed on us from all sides, it is so important to seek out the company of gentle, compassionate souls. This was an event to help us remember the potential we all share for love. Together we watched the moon slowly, majestically rise over the mountainous horizon. I only wish I could have photographed it for you, because it was breathtaking. During the drumming I thanked the universe for this incredible opportunity both for Chaz to make some money, and for me to travel. And especially for the opportunity for the two of us to do this together.

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The sides of the overpasses on the way in and out of Phoenix had neat rock designs. Photographed here is a lizard, they also had snakes and geometric designs.

Then on Sunday Chaz and I took a day trip to the absolutely dreamy town of Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is known as America’s New Age Capitol, and it was easy to see why. The scenery of the area is striking. We spent a great deal of time in traffic as we attempted to enter the town, and not a moment of it was spent unhappily. With views of red rocks from our car, like the one below, it was hard to be upset about having more time to ogle.

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Another thing that makes Sedona special are its vortexes. A vortex is a place of great spiritual significance, believed to be a spot where energy enters and escapes the earth. There are vortexes at sacred sites throughout the world. (The Great Pyramid, Machu Pichu, and Stonehenge to name a few.)

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Crow at Oak Creek Canyon

It is said that the energy of the earth is felt more strongly near a vortex, and that the energy can aid in spiritual healing and development. I will say that once we arrived in Sedona our moods were markedly changed and improved. Who can say what caused the shift?

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We decided to hike the West Fork Trail, which took us along Oak Creek Canyon. There was green grass and apple trees which filled the air with such a sweet scent. What very much caught me off guard was how comforting the sound of wind through the leaves was. We take those little things for granted in West Michigan. But, having spent time in the desert, the green rustle of leaves was like mana from heaven. As was the sound and feel of fresh running water.

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Dreamy Stream Man

Our first order of business on the hike was a stream crossing with an incredibly tempting rocky hill. Which, of course, Chaz couldn’t resist.

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And I wasn’t about to let Chaz have all the fun, so of course I made the ascent, too.

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The climb offered us some up close views of the incredible geometry of the canyon.

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The real trick, of course, was the getting down part. But we made, scratch free.

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The trees here were starting to change, a sight I was very much missing from home. Seeing the discarded red and yellow leaves made me feel less homesick. In the picture below I actually found the leaves this way, though I suspect an earlier hiker may have made the arrangement.

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Altogether the trip was peaceful and rejuvenating. I would recommend to anyone, should they be in the area, to visit Sedona and check out what it has to offer. I definitely want to go back some day.

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Promontory of rocks in the evening light

I’ll close with a poem I wrote while in Sedona:

 What is it about canyons and crows?
An avian voice that echoes all the things that it knows
Cawing to me their familiar call
Amidst the withering trees of fall
I spy his feathered silhouette against the fading sun
He’ll reveal that better days will come

There are briars here which lure you in and won’t let you out
The vortex voices whisper their strange symphonies of sound
Entrancing you with fragrance of fresh apples on the ground

My eyes alight,
to the north the setting sun ignites
a distant promontory of rocks in the evening light.

And then at night, as away we drive,
from behind the mountain’s dark arrives
the waning, bashful moon who plays a game peek-a-boo

Now we’ve returned to mesas in the desert azure haze,
where we’ll spend our Arizona days
dreaming of the time tarried by Sedona’s sacred streams.

 

 

I love you all, thank you for reading.

XOXO
Stomp-Softly

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Canyon Crow, Grand Canyon May 2017

 

Desert Hiking

I have never agreed with the sentiment of preferring the cold because “You can always put more on, but you can’t take more off.” Until now. I have discovered that trying to go for a hike in Phoenix, Arizona in late summer absolutely sucks. Unlike in the throes of winter, I can’t just gear up until I’m comfortable. And, unfortunately, hiking in the nude is frowned upon. (Plus, what happens if you trip and fall on a cactus?)

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Photo of a cactus taken on my Grateful Dead road trip while in Nevada.

So yeah, hiking here sucks. The heat, typically reaching the high nineties by 11am, is crippling.  Now, I’ve lived in hot climates before, having spent 3 years in Florida. But, at that time I hadn’t yet discovered my passion for hiking. I was perfectly content to jump from one pocket of air conditioning to another and I spent as little time outside as possible.  (In hindsight, that could have been a major factor in why my depression was so bad back then.) But now I just don’t feel right if I can’t go for regular hikes. Which is what makes this heat such a bummer.

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It’s difficult to adapt to searing sunlight, and 98 degree air. While I’m more than happy to skip the annual vitamin D deficiency of winter, I find myself missing the easy adaptability of going for a hike on a winter day. Having finally acquired all the necessary winter gear I truly enjoyed hiking even in below freezing weather. I even tried my hand at winter camping, as evidenced below. (Which, by the way, I don’t recommend.. Imagine squatting over the snow, bare butt at the mercy of the freezing midnight air. Not fun.)

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(Pictured: Me, bundled up as all heck, at Estivant Pines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That tree I’m next to is a roughly 150 feet tall, possibly 300 year old pine tree. I hugged it.)

There isn’t really an amount of gear that can make a desert hike comfortable. (Though if there are tricks that I’m just woefully ignorant of, please let me know!) The only real option that I know of is to get out at the butt crack of dawn or go out well after dark. Those that know me and have had the horrible misfortune of encountering me in the early morning know that I am basically Godzilla when I wake up. If you try to get me to do something, I will eat you and possibly destroy the entire town while I’m at it. Point being: I may have the best of intentions when planning my hike the night before, but when morning comes around leaving my bed and air conditioned room is in fact a form of torture.

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I did however get out for one morning hike last week. Are you proud of me? Because I’m proud of me.

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As I ascend the trail at Estrella Mountain Park, just south of the city, I look down at Phoenix sprawled out before me. Framed in the silhouettes of hazy mountains, it seems quite dreamy. That is, until I recognize that the haze in the air is of a brown hue. Smog. I am reminded of why I escape to nature in the first place, and my feeling of awe at this city is replaced with disgust. The city is like a stain against the majestic natural beauty of the valley. However, I know I won’t think this way later when I’m drinking an ice cold soda in the oasis of my air conditioned apartment.

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It’s only 10 am and the sun is already starting it’s relentless scorching of the earth. I huddle and catch breaks in the occasional shade of the scraggly bushes which line the trail. Little lizards bask in the light here and there.

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And tiny birds chitter away as they fly between the desert’s most majestic tenants: the Saguaro Cacti.

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Now these things are cool. I absolutely geek out at seeing a cactus growing all on it’s own in nature. They are like formidable, yet absolutely foreign trees creating a sparse forest in the sand.

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They can grow up to 40 feet tall and can live well beyond 150 years.

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These babies look out at the unforgiving landscape, and yell “F*** you!” at the sun, all while eternally flipping the bird. They are cool and I love them.

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Seriously though, these guys are the best. I photographed every one I could get close to. They are gnarly, sharp and the heavy metal music of plants.

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Photographing the desert is fun, because everything is so foreign. I’m not going to give up on trying to make desert hikes happen. I gotta take more saguaro pics. Also I’d really like to see some more freaky desert wildlife. So hopefully I’ll have more of that soon.

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Until next time!

XOXO
Stomp-Softly

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P.S. One thing I’ve been doing in my free time is making jewelry, so I thought I’d share some of my latest creations. All pieces and more available at my Etsy for $25 each. Made with wood and semi precious stones, all with their own unique magical properties. Check out the items in store for more info. Thanks for looking ❤

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Pink Opalite Mala
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You’ve Got To Start Somewhere

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(photo: Pentwater pier at sunset © July 2017)

Several months ago Chaz applied for a job that would take us on the road. It spoke of being on location from 6 weeks to 6 months. It promised no control over which cities would become our temporary home. (I personally love that where we go from here on out is up to fate, in a way.)

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Then 2 1/2 weeks ago he finally gets the call that tells us he’s hired and we’re heading to Monee, IL… After months of hearing about possibly going Nashville, Phoenix, and Sacramento I was pretty disappointed about only driving a mere 5 hours away. But then, just 3 days before we were supposed to leave the big news came: we were going to Phoenix! We get to go on an adventure together 😀

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Pictured above is Chaz’s van, Consuela. He’s been driving her for years and I find it strangely fitting that our first ‘home’ together would be her. We got to work on tearing out all the back seats and did a deep clean (she was once affectionately known as the Trash Palace.) Then we purchased a full size mattress, which just happens to fit perfectly in the back, leaving just enough space for a cooler and a plastic tote between the mattress and the front seats. There is not a lot of space, but we welcomed the challenge to live small. An optimist would call it cozy.

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There’s something about waking up in the morning, to a parking lot sunrise, and knowing that you have with you everything you need. There’s something cleansing about packing and knowing you only get 3 plastic totes in which to store your entire life’s worth of possessions. To learn to not be as possessed by our things, to learn to let go. It’s a challenge I would pose to anyone, what would you hold on to if you could only keep what fit in your car?

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Nothing will make you fall in love with this country like a road trip. I was reminded of this on the first day as we watched the Illinois corn fields and barns give way to Missouri’s scraggly trees and swamps. My heart was filled with love for the diversity of this land. If you keep moving there is always something new, fresh and different to see.

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Our second day of driving brought us to a parking lot in Oklahoma. A parking lot which proved that even a Walmart can be a beautiful camping spot, as evidenced below.

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We were given 4 days to drive 2,000 miles. 500 miles a day, folks. That meant days had to start early and that we had to push hard to get the miles in.

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It meant we covered a lot of ground, usually going to multiple states in one day. It also meant we didn’t get to play tourist very much, but it was still fun to watch the landscape change. The third day of driving brought us out of Missouri and into Oklahoma. Then we had to drive through Texas. Not miles and miles of Texas, luckily, our route took us through the top bit, through Amarillo.

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I know we’ve made it to New Mexico when I start to sneeze. The winds and dry earth kicks up dust that just blows and blows. So I don my bandana, and turn myself into the Allergy Bandit.

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New Mexico is where the land really starts to change. I love this state with it’s strange topography. Compared to the forests and lakes of Michigan, New Mexico is like another planet.

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Another thing I love about New Mexico is all the Native American art. Everywhere you look there are advertisements for authentic native art. I picked up this dream catcher, from a Laguna tribe owned gas station.

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Chaz and I are constantly exclaiming and pointing things out to each other. Look at that rock! Check out that grass! Bird! Take a picture!!!

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We watched the colors change into night, after another long and successful day of driving.

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***

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Day four brings us into our destination state: Arizona. We’ve made excellent time, so we decide to take a pit stop at one of my favorite places in the country:

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Two Guns Ghost Town!! A town murdered by the interstate. A perfect place for graffiti and general lawlessness.

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We made sure to take our obligatory tourist photos.

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I will never stop laughing at the “Smoke Meth, Hail Satan” ice cream cone. That’s a promise.

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I was here in May, so it was very cool to be able to share this place with Chaz. And there was a bunch of new graffiti, like this day of the dead mermaid, swimming in the empty swimming pool.

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I was also really excited to find that my addition to the landscape had survived!!!

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After spending a little time in Two Guns, which is near Flagstaff, we changed our direction to south and made our way through the last leg of the journey to Phoenix.

We arrived in town sometime around 5pm. First impressions: Phoenix is the first city I’ve seen without a discernible skyline. No towering sky scrapers. And it sprawls out over the vast desert land in a way I haven’t seen before. I guess when you have the space to grow outwards, there’s no reason to grow upwards.

Another weird thing about Phoenix, there are farms. Like in the city, there are big fields of what I think are soybeans. I’ve never seen a city change so quickly from urban to seemingly rural farm land.

I have no idea how long we’ll be in this strange place but I look forward to exploring. If anyone has any recommendations of what not to miss in Phoenix, please leave me a comment.

XOXO

Stomp-Softly

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So It Begins: An Introduction

428(Photo: Me at The Grand Canyon while following The Grateful Dead (Dead and Company) Tour © 2017)

Hello my friend, and welcome to my travel blog! This is my first time venturing beyond Facebook posts to share the stories of my travels. I’m very nervous about this because my writing skills are a bit rusty. I consider myself more of a travel photographer than a travel writer, but I’m up to the challenge. So bear with me, please! 🙂 Also, this website will change how it looks over time as I work on improving and customizing the layout/theme.

IMG_2364(Photo: Rearview mirror, while camped at Two Guns Ghost Town in Arizona, while following The Dead © 2017)

Anyway, a little over a year ago I discovered that what I really wanted to do with my life was travel. There is something about exploring a new place that fills my soul with such life! So, whatever it was that could bring me closer to the goal of seeing new places, I was going to pursue it. I’ve sought every opportunity to drop everything and fly off to a new location. I’ve traveled with lovers, friends, and near-strangers. I’ve lived in hotels, forests, deserts and Walmart parking lots. I’ve traveled in a VW bus, a Chevy Blazer, a Chevy Astro Van, MegaBus, Greyhound Bus and even a plane once. I’ve been incredibly #blessed in the past year that even on my limited income I’ve been able to travel to 31 different states.

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(Photo:My friend Eric’s Chevy Blazer and my tent, camped in the Salt Flats in Utah while following The Dead © 2017)

A message to any aspiring traveler: It is a lie that traveling is expensive. There is free camping all over the country, cheap food at every grocery store, inexpensive bus tickets, and an unlimited resource of friends you haven’t met yet. If you’re willing to sacrifice high luxury, any destination is possible. I’ve traveled constantly this past year on a $100 a week income. You can do it too! If you’ve been wanting to go somewhere find the time, align your intentions with the universe, remain open to opportunity and you will be amazed at what comes your way. And as always, feel free to contact me if you need advice or help with planning your next trip!

IMG_3554(photo: My friend Mike’s 1967 VW Bus, at our campsite in Ohio while following The Dead © 2017)

Some rescources:
Mega Bus – Tickets starting at $1

(* note on above: Try to book your tickets as early as possible. Prices go up as seats fill. I once went from Orlando Florida to Chicago for $5. I have rarely had to even sit next to someone on the bus if I didn’t want to. Wifi doesn’t usually work. But I have always found my journeys on MegaBus to be quite pleasant)

Free Camping

(Note: This is a database of free camping all over the United States. I’ve found the spots to be some of the most beautiful camping I’ve been to. Be sure to always read the reviews and check dates of reviews to see if spot is still available and accessible. )

Walmart Locations by State

(Note: Almost every Walmart location offers free overnight parking. Always check to see if there are semis or RVs parked in the lot. They tend to park in the back, where there is the least amount of traffic. If there are no RVs or Semis parked, go inside and ask an associate if they allow overnight parking. I recommend also making sure the Walmart is a 24hr one, in case you need to pee in the middle of the night. Bring an eye mask and ear plugs if you are car/van camping.)

Couch Surfing – Free places to crash for the night

(Note: I have never personally used this website, but I’ve met many people who have and swear by it. Again, read the reviews of the host to make sure you know what you’re getting into. But you’re likely to meet some really cool people.)

Rev Transcriptions: A way to make money on the move

(Note: You will need to apply and be ‘hired’ in order to access the database. The work is simple, if you have headphones, an internet connection, a Paypal account and a fairly quick wpm typing ability then you’ll do well. )

But in general, when traveling, don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with people. If you see others who are in RVs, clearly car camping, or have license plates from other states they can become an exceptional resource of help and information. Also don’t be afraid to approach a local. Locals can give you some tips on the best, but not as popular, places to explore in the area. It’s amazing what can happen if you are just friendly to people. But always, trust your gut. If someone or somewhere seems sketchy, get out and move on.

IMG_3618(photo: View of Chicago at night from Wrigley Field, during Dead and Company show © 2017)

Check back very soon for a write-up and photos of my most recent trip from Michigan to Arizona!

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(Photo: My boyfriend, and current travel partner, and I at Ludington’s first Gay Pride rally. © 2017)

Also, if you’ve stuck it through and read this whole thing: Thank you so much for reading!! It’s great to be able to share these experiences with the people in my life, and maybe strangers too. Please leave a comment below to let me know you’ve been reading.

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(Photo: Me, perfectly matching some graffiti at Donner Pass, in California © 2017)

XOXO,

Stomp-Softly
September 27th 2017

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(Photo: Dragonfly at the Ludington State Park Dunes, during a period at home. © 2017)