Jon had a long weekend off of work, so we trekked out to Joshua Tree National Park for a camping trip. The wildlife out in the desert is so beautiful! We had an amazing time minus not being able to sleep. It sort of cured all our annoyances (yes, we'd been getting on each others' nerves for the past few days). The wilderness is really great like that.
^^ Cactus Garden!
^^ Just some boulder tricks. I was maybe really proud of myself ;)
^^ Kickin' back with some Cometbus & a tent full a goodies. Cheers and goodnight!
TIP 4: PASS ON HOTELS
Hotels are pretty pricey- especially in big cities. Instead, hostels are an obvious (and great) alternative, but there are other options too. Try booking accommodations through Airbnb, a site where you can rent someone else's home or a room in their home. Options include renting the entire house/apartment/treehouse/camper/etc, a private room, or a shared room. So you can really cater the experience to your needs and save even more money. It can also be a great way to see your destination city and experience it like the locals do. Many hosts offer amazing tips and advice and lead you to places you might otherwise not know about. CouchSurfing is a similar site, but In my opinion, Airbnb more closely resembles a hotel stay, and it's also a little more user friendly for first-timers.
If you're cool with not having anyone pick up after you promptly at noon everyday, then this is the site for you! Honestly, housekeeping makes me feel a little awkward and a lot spoiled anyway. You'll probably have benefits that you wouldn't get from a regular hotel, like a kitchen and possibly laundry machines. It will save you a lot of money if you can cook your own food every now and then, and having access to laundry facilities makes it so much easier to pack light. (Hotels charge an embarrassing amount for laundry services.)
We actually haven't tried out Airbnb abroad yet, but are really excited to try it out on our next trip. We've used the site throughout our stay in LA though, and we've loved it.
And to further prove my point and also make you feel bad about wherever you are right now, I present you with photos. I mean...
TRAVEL TIP 3: BUNDLE YOUR TRIP
I found these lovely maps on Lisa Barbero's etsy shop. The images do not belong to me. You can find them here.
Once we decided to take a trip and had money in our travel fund, i spent lots of time checking groupon for upcoming deals. While the trips were cheap, they had a few major drawbacks. 1. They were short. If I'm dishing out a lot of money, I want my trip to last more than a few days. 2. They went to some interesting cities, but others that I didn't care about. I wanted to get a good deal, but i also wanted more control over the trip. "Wouldn't it be great if we could pick out the exact cities we want to see, for the price of a Groupon?" I asked Jon as I was scoping out vacation packages. As luck would have it, you can! And that's just what we did.
We booked our trip through this site. They have a lot of package deals similar to Groupon, but they also give you the option to totally customize your trip. Oh my gosh, it was so fun to play around on that site! At first, I entered in all our dream cities "just for fun..." But then when I saw the price (and did like five double takes), I realized that we could actually go to all our dream cities!
They key to finding a great price through that site is to play around with the different options. Warning: this takes a lot of time and patience! Here are some things to play around with:
Our final itinerary looked like this:
Athens (4 nights) --> Santorini (2 nights) --> Palermo (3 nights) --> Positano (3 nights) --> Barcelona (2 nights).
And now, I'm planning imaginary trips as I type. I might have a problem.
As the temperature approached 90 degrees around here, Jon and I planned a day trip to Leo Carrillo State Beach. We almost didn't end up going because I really messed up my shoulder the day before (still not sure what's wrong with it, but I can't move my arm, so that can't be good.) But Jon insisted, as he does, so we went anyway, despite my complaining. I'm so glad we did, because we had the most perfect day. Really. I am in love with that day. (These first few photos were from earlier in the week, when I ate some steak tacos (gasp!) and when we stumbled into a farmer's market on our Saturday afternoon bike ride.) And oh yeah, I was awakened by an earthquake this morning!!!
It's an understatement to say I'm obsessed with sea urchins. They're like sea succulents! Adorable, right?
Big news! I completed my Pilates teaching certification process. So that means I can now officially teach what I love! It feels amazing, and I am pretty darn proud of myself. (Darn is an odd choice of words, is it not? I feel like it just slipped out. I credit that word to my religious upbringing, btw, but it's apparently stuck with me. Perhaps I should've listened to my mom's advice; as she always said, "damn is a very classy word." I don't know about that, but hey, it's better than darn. And then the more I type it and say it in my head, the weirder it gets. Anyway... Back to the story!)
I went into the process knowing that I was pulling myself totally out of my comfort zone. Sure, I know Pilates well. But I have a long history of struggles with confidence, body image, and self worth. While I've come a long- like thousands of miles long- way on these issues in the past few years, I sometimes feel them creeping back in. And that's normal, I suppose. Anyway, I was very nervous about this training program. First of all, I don't really consider myself the fitnessy type; like, for example, I don't even own a pair of tennis shoes. Also, I am painfully anxious about public speaking, and to be a teacher of any sort, well, you kind of have to speak to people.
But I signed up anyway. I intentionally threw myself into this thing that I was so nervous about. Why? Because I owe it to myself to believe in my own strength. Pilates makes me feel strong, and that's what I love about it. During the months last winter when I was incredibly sick and could feel my body deteriorating, Pilates was the one thing that made me feel strong. I don't know what it was exactly, but something about it just pulled that strength to the surface.
So I geared myself up for the long weekend of intensive training, and tried to act brave. It can be difficult to feel brave though in a room full of super fit and confident fitness instructors. Of course, everyone else was nervous too and it really wasn't that bad. The test-out still loomed over me though, and when the instructor asked if anyone wanted to test out early, I raised my hand before I could have the chance to second guess myself.
Fast forward to test out day. As I was waiting for the instructor to show up, I blurted out a quick plea for advice and asked if anyone could give me tips on how not to sound like a pubescent boy as I taught. Everyone sort of gave me a standard answer like "just breathe" and yada yada yada. But one kind, kind classmate really talked me through it and gave me some pretty great advice. He told me to practice "power poses" while I was waiting, and he explained how that signals to your body that you're powerful and strong, even if you don't necessarily believe it. Well, it couldn't hurt to puff out my chest and put my hands on my hips for a few minutes, I thought. So I did. And, it kind of actually worked! I got through my routine sans shaky voice and rapid heartbeat, and that was enough for me.
As it turned out, the only points I missed on the exam were for "confidence." As in, I didn't have enough of it. But whatever! Because I did wayyyyy better than I was expecting. And probably if the teacher would have seen me during my 8th grade social studies presentation where I was literally on the verge of tears and vomiting, she would've known how well I did.
Then, as if everything was coming full circle, the last question on the written part of the exam was this: "What do you want people to leave your class saying?" I thought about it for a minute. That was a great class, I thought about writing. Or What an amazing workout. But after I really thought about, I wrote I am strong! And it felt so good. It felt good to write it, it felt good to believe it, and it felt good to think that I could inspire others to feel it too. I will feel successful as a teacher if I can help people want to be strong. Not skinnier, not prettier, not anything like that. I want to empower people (especially women) to embrace their strength. So, there you go.
The first month we were in LA, we didn't have any visitors. Not a one. And then randomly, it was like every person we knew decided to come to LA for the weekend. I swear they planned it or something. It made for a super busy, but super fun weekend.
We started the weekend off with some friends from Salt Lake, who were traveling through on tour. We met up with them on Saturday evening, so see Nick's show. He was dressed as a beetle, and he was great. Then we had a night full of drive-thru shenanigans and catching up. On Sunday, we all went to the Getty, and then on and I got to seem him play for the second night in a row! I even got my hair cut on a street corner after the show!
On Monday, I was able to visit with a dear friend from Maryland, who helped guide me through my years of teenage angst. Props to her! Later that night I met up with the family I used to nanny for, and we had a lovely dinner at disneyland! I sure do miss those kids...
Then to top it off, I went to visit my mom and aunts and grandma who were girls trippin it up in Newport Beach. We had tons of fun doing pilates on the beach, chatting, and shopping.
Isn't my grandma the cutest?
And thennnnn, Jon and I moved into a new apartment in Los Feliz (which, let me tell you, is pronounced los fee-liss, though I refuse to say it like that). Our move out day rolled around and of course it was a torrential downpour. So yay! We got to move out of one 2nd story place in the rain and into another 2nd story place in the rain. But wait, it gets better. Because as Jon was going to pull the car up, and I was inside packing, I got a phone call. "I have some bad news," Jon said, the bad news pertaining to our car being broken into. No worries that we had a backseat full of glass and a portal into our car, that was seeming to say "Hey rain! Come on in, and soak all our stuff." This was followed by a million hours of hectic running around. We needed to vacuum the glass out of the car before we could load all our stuff into it, but we didn't have time to vacuum because we had a meeting scheduled for 2:00 with the housekeeper to get the keys to our new place, so we got the keys and headed to the car vacuum place, but then as luck would have it, we got a call from our old roommates letting us know that someone was moving into our room any minute, so we had to rush back to the old place and get all of our stuff out of the room, but we needed to get to the window fixing place before it closed for the weekend, so we just dumped our stuff in the living room and drove back to exactly where we just were, got the window fixed, vacuumed out the glass, and then drove back to exactly where we just were before, got our stuff out of the living room and loaded it into our car (in the pouring rain), and then drove again back to exactly where we just were to unload the stuff into our new place (again, in the pouring rain).
Luckily, the next day was so much better. I mean, in comparison, anything was really better. And luckily, nothing was stolen from our car (despite the fact that we had a VALET KEY in there, and they could've stolen the car itself). As far as thieves go, this one was pretty considerate I guess. Didn't take the car. Didn't take anything out of the car. Broke the smallest window possible. And most importantly, didn't take Jon's rocks. Phew.
Here's our new place!
Sweet building, no?
I think everyone could use a good denim raincoat, really. Though let's be clear, it most certainly does not do its job. In fact, It retains water probably better than anything else I own.
feminist. linguist. traveller. foodie. crafter.
All photos are the property of Elizabeth Cheney and may not be used without permission.