The Adventurers Guide to Big Sky Montana

Big Sky is a community within the Rocky Mountains of southern Montana. Located halfway between Yellowstone & the city of Bozeman. Big Sky has no local government (which is why it is considered a “community” not a town- neat, right?), so the community is primarily supported by locals and tourism.

Big Sky is home to epic ski resorts, a historic dude ranch, and incredible outdoor adventures. All bringing plenty of excitement to this friendly community year round.

This winter I set out to explore the community and its surrounding area with some girlfriends. We spent the perfect winter weekend exploring the high summits and beautiful surrounding nature. Here’s my adventurers guide to Big Sky, Montana! 

Getting There

The nearest airport to Big Sky is Bozeman Yellowstone International airport (BZN). The quaint airport is warm and welcoming with beautiful stone fireplaces and wood accents throughout the halls.

Get Cozy

Another AirBnb for the win for Big Sky. Our condo was super cozy with a warm stone fireplace in the group gathering area. The condo was in an alpine valley surrounded by rivers and panoramic mountain views named the “Meadow” area of Big Sky.

Get Adventurous

Snowboard Big Sky!

Snowshoe to Frozen Ousel Falls

Snowshoe ANYWHERE really…
Even up the ski runs…
It’s really fun, I swear…
Hike to Frozen Palisade Falls
If you run out of water, just eat icicles like Lenka.

Explore Callatin National Forest

Take a Horse Sleigh Ride 

Go Sledding

Have you been to Big Sky? What other adventures did I miss?

6 Must See Cenotes Near Tulum

Tulum is a Mexican town on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula. We spent 4 days in this gorgeous area known for its beaches, well-preserved ancient Mayan ruins, and CENOTES!

There are over 3,000 unique cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. A cenote is a freshwater filled Mexican sinkhole. The word Cenote is of Mayan decent originally called dzonot or ts’onot, meaning well. The cenotes played a crucial role in the development of the Mayan civilization as the main freshwater source inland. The cenotes are mostly found in the crater area that formed from the meteorite impact (the same meteorite responsible for the dinosaur extinction in this area). 

The cenotes are great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and spotting wildlife! The extensive underground river systems, make this area of Mexico the best place to experience cave diving, snorkeling or other water activities! 

Important Know Before You Go:

  • Keep in mind that most cenotes are swim at your own risk. If you are not a strong swimmer, it is recommended that you rent a life vest if available.
  • Mexican dive laws don’t necessarily align with other countries laws. Some cenote dives can be dangerous for inexperienced divers- dive your experience level, and if you feel you can’t dive, opt for snorkeling or swimming instead, like I did!
  • Do not wear sunscreen or insect repellant in the cenotes; the chemicals are damaging to aquatic life.
  • Bring cash to cover the entrance fees
  • Most cenotes are remotely located and can be difficult to get to. When you arrive, some may have limited or no concessions for food/drink so plan accordingly

Instagram Worthy Caleta Tankah

Caleta Tankah or the “secret cenote” was magical. The colors of the cenote are absolutely breathtaking. Maybe I’m a bit biased this being my first cenote encounter and all… but Caleta Tankah was my favorite cenote we visited.

For more info check out my post on this Hidden Gem With The Secret Cenote! 

Best Diving Dos ojos

Of the 6 travelers in our group four of them were certified while myself and one other were not. While the divers explored the cenotes below the 500 meters below the surface, I snorkeled around the surface! There wasn’t a ton of fish to see, but the rock formations above and below the surface were incredible.

Kayak at Casa Cenote

As with most cenotes, Casa Cenote offered scuba diving and snorkeling. But what the others didn’t have, this cenote did! This time as the diving crew submerged below the water, I kayaked! It was great, because the water is crystal clear and following them was easy. Until they would disappear under a mangrove. Keep an eye out for the local that lives at Casa Cenote, he’s adorable.

Family Friendly Gran Cenote

Located a short drive from Tulumthis popular cenote will amaze you. Contrary to it’s name, the Gran cenote is actually several cenotes connected by wooden walkways. The water is crystal clear and colorful! To keep it that way, they require everyone to rinse off in an outdoor shower before entering the cenote. This is a great family spot, as there are lots of green space and picnic areas.

Zip Line at Xunaan-Ha Cenote

 For $100 pesos you can zipline yourself into this adventurous cenote until your hearts content. Xunaan-Ha cenote is located down a long bumpy dirt road in the small town of Chemuyil, just a short drive from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen. This cenote is not as crowded as the more popular surrounding cenotes such as the Gran. 

High Dive at Car wash 

The last and final dive the travel crew did was in the car wash cenote. We asked where the name came from… and it is exactly as it sounds. Due to its close proximity to the roadway- this cenote used to be used to wash the locals cars!

What cenotes did you explore on your Yucatan adventure?! 

Check out my Adventurers Guide to 7 Days in Quintana Roo!

19 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2019

Visiting every National Park in America has been a huge bucket list item of mine for years. Each National Park provides a great opportunity to learn the history and culture of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) works to preserve important historic sites around the country for the enjoyment of future generations to come. Be sure to practice ‘Leave No Trace Principles’ when visiting our beautiful historic parks. Help ensure the protection and preservation of the precious lands and environment within these parks entrusted to us as visitors.

Here are 19 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2019!

Boston National Historic Park

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Click here for more on Michigan’s west coast!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Click here to explore more of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Badlands National Park

Click here for more on Badlands!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Click here for more on Rocky Mountain!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Grand Canyon National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Yosemite National Park

Death Valley National Park

Click here for my weekend in Death Valley itinerary!

Channel Islands National Park


Joshua Tree National Park

Click here to read more on Joshua Tree!

Olympic National Lakeshore

Click here to read more on the Olympic Peninsula!

Mount Rainier National Park

What National Parks are on your bucket list this year? Comment below!

Click here for 10 Perfect Spring Travel Destinations!

Adventurers Guide to One Week in Quintana Roo

Cancun, Mexico

Quintana Roo is a Mexican state within the Yucatán Peninsula. The state and the country Mexico in general typically get a bad rap from the American media stations. In fact, just days before my departure from Detroit to Cancun, there was a media story covering several brutal murders on the Cancun beach. My facebook feed BLEW UP with this story… friends warning me not to go to Mexico and to cancel my trip because of the danger.

very dangerous iguana in Mexico (this is sarcasm)

It’s hard to ignore travel warnings your country is publishing, especially when most of your family and friends are encouraging you to stay home. But is home any safer? 7 days after our trip to Mexico, my friend landed home in Chicago. Home- during a stabbing incident at the Chicago airport that day. Despite the danger being very real and very near- Facebook stayed quiet. 

My travels over the years have taught me that there are always multiple viewpoints to the story. I’m a firm believer in “not judging a book by its cover”, and applying that concept to life situations. Was I nervous for my first adventure to Mexico? Hell yes! I could feel that scratchy feeling of uneasiness you get when you’re about to step out of your comfort zone. Experience has taught me- the uneasiness will go away, replaced by the wonder and awe that is travel.

Adventure with me to the Caribbean coastal towns of Mexico as I spend 7 Days in Quintana Roo! 

Spend 2 Days in Cancun

What To Do:Head to the north side of the hotel zone and spend the day beach hopping down to the Caribbean side. There are 11 public beaches within the hotel zone, each unique, but all offering warm turquoise colored water along white sand. 

Go Paddle Boarding!

We spent one full day in Cancun at the end of our trip with nothing planned. We enjoyed wandering the markets and exploring, but wish we would have done a water activity. Next time we come back we plan to rent jet skis, or paddleboards to explore the area further.  

Go Parasailing!

Transportation:We flew in and out of the Cancun Airport, giving us a full day to explore the Caribbean version of Las Vegas. Renting a car in Mexico can get tricky with insurance, some rental centers require high deposits up to $2,500 usd. Do your homework on how insurance works in Mexico prior to arrival. My recommendation if you’re traveling in the off season as we were- wait until you’re at the airport to book your rental car. The rental companies at the airport will have more competitive pricing opportunities then you will find online and will negotiate with you. Have them explain the two different insurance options to you before you agree to rent with them.

Where To Eat: Quieres un, café?Brunch at the delicious Café Huayacán. This was a great first stop for coffee and food after leaving the airport before heading into the hotel zone. The adorable coffee shop had a huge menu of pasteles, and traditional Mexican dishes ranging from sweet crepes to savory huevos ranchero. We had a tough time choosing, so we ordered both (plus a chilaquiles verdes con pollo). 

I took this while sitting on our AirBnb balcony sipping a cerveza, SALUD!

Where To Stay:Our last night in Mexico we spent at an AirBnb listed as “Breathtaking Caribbean Sea View”. Well, the view was just that, putting us right in the center of the Hotel Zone. We stayed in the Hotel Zone to be close to the beach but not too far from the airport for our early flight. 

Sunset view of Cancun Airbnb balcony

Notice the “red tide” or mounds of decaying algae in my Cancun beach photos…Scientists have warned that the algae are a grave new threat to the Caribbean, not just Cancun. In the open ocean the algae support birds and other sea life. But when washed ashore, as they start to decay they become an environmental nightmare. The decaying algae, emit hydrogen sulfide fumes that kills fish, coral and sea grass. Still don’t care?

The black “sand” you see along the beach shore is the old decaying algae. In the water you can see the giant clumps of seaweed being washed ashore.

It also causes headaches and nausea in people- especially those that must clean it each morning before the tourists arrive. When not cleared, the algae becomes piled high blocking endangered sea turtles from reaching the shore to lay their eggs. Oh, and if the ugly, decaying man caused algae wasn’t bad enough- it also prevent the baby sea turtles from migrating to the ocean once hatched. This issue was seen across the region, as we journeyed south. East-facing beaches were the hardest hit, due to ocean currents. Each city we explored during the week as well as Cozumel and Playa del Carmen has been flooded with the red tide. Climate change and human pollution near the shores around the globe has made this red tide outbreak the worst in history.

Day Trip to Akumal 

Akumal is a small carribean community known for its sea turtles! Spend a day swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumal. The town is just a short drive from Playa del Carmen or Tulum making for an easy day trip. You can see the sea turtles on your own or take a guided tour. We decided to try our luck and to explore on our own. Vendors will try and tell you that you MUST join a tour/wear a life vest to see the turtles- this is not true. There are roped off buoyed areas protecting major turtle feeding areas; if you stay inside the designated swim areas you can explore on your own as we did. 

My recommendation would be to arrive at the beach early, the visibility in the water goes down as people swim throughout the day and stir up the sand. I would recommend not going through a guided tour and arrive to the beaches early for your best chances to see some turtles.

Make sure each person has their own mask/snorkel if you choose to search for turtles on your own. Our group had two snorkels/masks for 6 people to share, and only a few of us were able to spot some turtles. There are plenty of vendors along the town center that sell masks and snorkels for your convenience. 

Spend 4 Days in Tulum 

Along the Caribbean coast, the town of Tulum offers seaside Mayan ruins to explore, sandy beaches for relaxing and undersea caves for diving. September is the birth month of my two favorite traveling partners. My best friend Grace, and my boyfriend Logan both celebrate birthdays, just two days apart. This year was a big one for Grace as she turned the big 3-0. Logan would like for me not to mention his new age (it’s old people 😊). 

What To Do:  Explore the many cenotes! A cenote is a freshwater filled Mexican sinkhole. The word Cenote is of Mayan decent originally called dzonot or ts’onot, meaning well. The cenotes played a crucial role in the development of the Mayan civilization. There are over 3,000 unique cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The cenotes are mostly found in the crater area that formed from the meteorite impact (the same meteorite responsible for the dinosaur extinction in this area). The cenotes are great for swimming, diving, snorkeling and more! The extensive underground river systems, make this area of Mexico the best place to experience cave diving.

Go Scuba Diving in a Cenote

Logan received his PADI certification just weeks before our Mexico departure! Dos Ojos was unanimously the favorite dive of the group. Noted as “The World’s BestCavern Dives.” The name Dos Ojos translates to “two eyes” and refers to two nearby cenotes that connect by a massive underwater cave system that is shared between the two. The two caverns start and end in the same place but are two very different dives. The first dive is 500 meters (1,600 feet) along The Barbie Line and leads divers along the opening of the second eye with plenty of daylight to see the stalactites. The second dive is along The Batcave Line and is a much darker route with little to no daylight entering the cave system during the dive. Divers will ascend up the cave to an open air pocket filled with bats flying everywhere!

 *They also dove in casa cenote and the car wash cenote. Check out my post on 6 Must See Cenotes Here!

Kayak at Casa Cenote

Explore Ancient Ruins

Hangin out in a treehouse at Kin Toh

Where To Eat: 

Budget Friendly: Antojitos La Chiapaneca: Mexican 

Best Tacos: Las Antorcha Food Truck; location varies

Instagram WorthyKin Toh; Mayan-Mexican cuisine in a tree house venue offering guests an experience they’re sure to remember. From the time you enter the restaurant until the time you leave, every one of your senses will be interacted with. Make reservations in advance, $$$$$

Best Ocean ViewMezzanine; Authentic Thai and casual beach menu includes a legendary Happy Hour if you’re looking for a boozey brunch on the beach.

Where To Stay:We spent four nights in a jungle paradise we discovered on AirBnb.The three bed three bath penthouse came with a private rooftop pool. 

Check out AirBnb for other amazing places to stay, and enjoy jungle views! New to AirBnB? Click here for $40 usd towards your first trip!

8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road

8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road

on a budget

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Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer.

Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning with such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was nooo way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*

Here’s my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland itinerary on a budget!

One Night in Reykjavik

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Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight. We flew direct into Iceland on the budget airline WOW.

Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). The bus had WIFI, and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance to our AirBnB and the city’s attractions. Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot!

Hallgrímskirkja

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Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing at 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!

Sun Voyager

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The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.

Taste the local cuisine …

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 Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice-cream however, I could eat in gallons.

 

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Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. we ordered as most Icelanders do and were served a hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.

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SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.

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Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food. We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus.

Two Nights: The Golden Circle

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We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next AirBnB was. The road trip had officially begun!  Make sure to check the road conditions (here) during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind blown frost.

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**Side Note** GUYS. If you haven’t yet used AirBnB to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. AirBnB and Skyscanner are my two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out. dsc_0917

We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabin’s in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!

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Gullfoss Waterfall

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Sejaladsfoss

 

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Lake Kerid

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Geysir

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Bruarfoss

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Two Nights: South Iceland
Day 1
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Katla Ice Cave Tour

We left the cabin after breakfast and drove two hours south to meet the rest of the tour group at the “Ice Cave Café” in Vik. Our tour was with Arctic Adventures called “The Ice Cave Under The Volcano”.

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 We had an awesome (slightly crazy driver) guide take us to the volcano Katla. Once there, we were given helmets and crampons to put on before we adventured into the ice caves.

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img_97532After the tour we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out…

 

 

Skogafoss

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There were a couple attempts to go behind the waterfall…dsc_11701

 

After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.

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Seljalandsfoss

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Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.

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This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.

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Day 2

Laufskálavarða

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The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.

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Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!

Secret Glacier Lagoon

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 As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.

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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

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We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wild life.

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We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water.

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After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.

Diamond Beach

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The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.

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When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.

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Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)

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Two Nights: Northern Iceland

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We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered.  It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.

Goðafoss

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Skútustaðagígar

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Dimmuborgir

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Hofdi
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Hverfjall

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Krafla Vita Crater

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Last Day: Blue Lagoon

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It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.

 

Trip Pricing Totals: (Based Per Person for 5 People)

Transportation Accommodations Food Entertainment
Flight $473 Night 1         $48 $400 Ice Cave under Volcano $201
Car Rental $126 Night 2&3    $85 Blue Lagoon $ 102
Gas $ 100 Night 4         $33
Luggage Fees $ 86 Night 5         $90
Night 6&7    $90
Total $ 785

Total $ 346

Total $ 400 Total $ 303
Grand Total:                                   $ 1834 usd

 

 

2017 Year Review

✨2017 Was an Incredible Year for me ✨

I traveled on 3 international trips with AMAZING people (Thailand, Alberta Canada, and Peru), I camped in 5 new national parks, and I put thousandssss of Michigan road trip miles on the car. 🚙

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Macchu Picchu, Peru, November 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park, Septemer 2017- Couple Trip

 

California Mother Daughter Trip, November 2017

 

Brimley State Park, October 2017- Couple Trip

 

Yosemite National Park, California, September 2017

 

 

Port Crescent State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Wilderness State Park, Michigan, Summer 2017

 

Emerald Lake- Yoho National Park, July 2017

 

Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada, July 2017

 

Thailand Group Pic

 

Thailand, February 2017

 

 

I’ve worn glasses or contacts since I was in middle school. Every year my eye sight would get worse and worse- I made the decision I would get lasik surgery and ditch the contacts & glasses- and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. This year my body was challenged in so many ways. From eye surgery to zero gravity flying to hiking into the highest altitude I’ve ever experienced- 2017 had it all. ⛰

 

Rainbow Mountain Peru, Altitude around 16,000 ft

Zero Gravity Flying

 

In 2017 I knocked some big stuff off the bucket list including white water rafting, rock climbing, and starting a travel blog. 💻

I have so many wonderful amazing things to be thankful for this year. But these two amazing beings here are what I am most grateful for. They came into my life a year ago and I am so excited I get to start 2018 with them– Happy New Year everyone!

 

Rainbow Mountain Peru Trek

 

Rainbows and mountains are both beautiful. And I’m obsessed with anything colorful/shiny/that sparkles. So when I heard you could hike to a RAINBOW MOUNTAIN (rainbows + mountains = Chelsea’s favorite things) in Peru, I knew I had to go.

Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain) is in the Willkanuta Mountain Range, located in the greater Andes Mountains, the mountain is around 3 hours away from Cusco. The altitude STARTS at 4,326 m / 14,189 ft. with the peak of the mountain sitting at 5,200m / 17,060 ft …that is HIGH. And just so happens to be the highest altitude I’ve ever hiked in.

I was nervous for the ascent up rainbow mountain- Instead of acclimating like most people I had been sick for a good majority of the trip from the altitude in Cusco (for whatever reason my body absolutely HATES altitude, and anything over 9,000 ft makes me nauseous and uncomfortable). This trek would be pushing my body to limits i’d never pushed it to before- and I worried these beautiful mountains could very well be the death of me.

The morning of the hike starts EARLY, or late if you want to look at it that way- the van picked us up from our Airbnb in Cusco at 2:30 a.m. We all instantly regretted not bringing a pillow for the 3 hour ride ahead of us. Blankets were provided for us, so we attempted to sleep on each other and catch up on some zzz’s (we didn’t get to sleep till 10 p.m after the Machu Picchu trip ). The rough ride made that difficult, and nobody got much sleep. I’m pretty sure there are more speed bumps in Peru than the entire continent of South America…

We arrived at a village 15 minutes from the trail head where we were fed a light breakfast by the locals. Breakfast consisted of breads, jams/butter, a plate of scrambled eggs, and some tea (it’s highly recommended you drink the coca tea- it will help with the altitude sickness). I was nauseous from the van ride and/or altitude so I skipped breakfast.

When we got to the trail head around 6:30 a.m. we were at 14,000 ft and it was cold! Layers on layers was key to this trek. There were locals selling wool gloves, hats, scarves, parkas and other souvenirs- a couple people from the group bought some hats and gloves. We still had 2000 ft in elevation to gain and it was already cold…

There were horses for rent that you could ride up the mountain for 60 soles (about $18 USD). SOLD. And that was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Half our group decided to rent horses, while the other half decided to brave the mountain on foot.

The horse came with a local guide who led the horse up the mountain for you- these guides were the real heros. They were wearing sandals on their feet- and made the trip up and down the mountain MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, sometimes running past other hikers… it was impressive and made me feel like a whimp on my horse- but then I’d try to take a deep breath, and considering I was having a hard time breathing just sitting there, I knew the horse was a wise decision. Riding the horse up the mountain allowed me to relax, and enjoy all the incredible views along the way. These views included cuteness overload, with thousands of alpaca, llama, and farm animals.

The horses do not go up the last quarter mile of the hike- the mountain is too steep, and the air is too thin- so you know what that meant? It was up to us to make it through the hardest part of the hike. Since we had left at 2:30 in the morning- we were the first tour group to arrive to the mountain. There was only 4 people in sight, and we had the opportunity to be some of the first people up the mountain that day. So I moved as fast as I could before the other tour groups started arriving to summit. The key was slow and steady, I would take 5 steps and be panting and out of breath.

The photo above doesn’t make it look very daunting, does it? I remember being so frustrated I couldn’t breathe, my stomach was rolling with nausea, and I was in tears just 10 feet away from reaching the top. I didn’t think I was going to make it, I thought for sure I was going to die by asphyxiation right there on that mountain in Peru.

**This hike is extremely difficult regardless of how great of shape you’re in, there was a range from people that never work out to people that compete in fitness competitions – and everyone struggled in the high altitude. It is recommended you not spend more than 30 minutes at the peak (the air is too thin)**

Making it to the top of the peak was a huge accomplishment for me. I fought through physical and mental exhaustion not allowing myself to give up (believe me, I wanted to) Everyone cheers each other on at the top, those that’ve reached it, know that it’s those last few steps where people hit their wall and almost give up, and they NEED that encouragement. When I finally took my last step to the top- I collapsed to the ground, gasping for air, trying to catch my breathe for a couple minutes. I felt like a fish out of water. Finally my breathing slowed- and as I lifted my head to look up at what I had just worked for- a smile of pure joy spread across my face, and I knew instantly it was all worth it.

We were offered the horses again on the way down. I was confident enough that I could make it down on my own, so I declined the assistance. The trip down as always- was easier than the trip up. When we got to the bottom we were served a homemade authentic Peruvian lunch, and I had no issues stuffing my face this time around. It was after all, Thanksgiving 🦃

 

CONSIDERATIONS

Our group of 6 did a tour package with Flashpacker Connect- they were awesome, and our guide Johnathon was extremely knowledgeable. Our package was for the 2 day inca trail hike, 1 day Machu Picchu, and 1 day rainbow mountain. They provided transportation to and from each expedition, an over night stay after the inca trail in the town aquas calientes, and a good majority of our meals.

The Rainbow mountain trek takes place above 4000 meters; the terrain is challenging, and weather is unpredictable ranging from hot and humid to rain and wind. Hikers should be in reasonable shape, and healthy. Ensure you have proper gear and be prepared for variable weather conditions throughout the day.

**If you area concerned with the altitude please consult your doctor for proper advice.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING?

  • Day Pack with Rain Cover
  • Trekking shoes
  • Warm clothes
    • Thermal base layer
    • Fleece/ Sweater
    • Insulated jacket
    • Hat, gloves, scarf
  • Buff/ Handkerchief
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Sun cream
  • Lip Balm
  • 1 Liter of water (per person)
  • Personal snacks
  • Motion sickness tablets (for van ride)
  • Toilet paper
  • Camera/ extra battery
  • Cash
  • Dry change of clothes, shoes and plastic bag to store wet items

 

30 Before 30 List

For years now I’ve been talking to anyone that will listen about starting a blog. I’ve had numerous people tell me I should start one. BUT, for me it’s not as simple as sitting down and typing up my thoughts. There is A LOT more that goes into it than I ever imagined there would be. Just coming up with a name took me forever. Then I had to figure out what the hell I was going to write about, how I was going to write it, and who my target audience would be. I kept putting it off and putting it off- telling myself that eventually, one day, I was going to sit down and just DO IT. That day is finally here, and I am beyond excited. What a great tool for me to use as a form of self-expression. There’s no limits, no restrictions, no “right way”- because its 100% MINE! 😊

FDDA740B-582F-45E2-A026-0F2C4010E645
Peyto Lake, Banff National Park- Alberta

 

I work way more efficiently if I have a deadline, that’s something I’ve learned about myself over the years. So I set a deadline for getting a blog started. Enter 30 Before 30 list- which is basically a list of things I want to accomplish before I… dun dun dunnn… turn 30 (May 20, 2018). I don’t know why I’m so scared of leaving my 20’s- but I am, eeeek. To help make it a little less scary/help me feel better about entering a new decade of life- I made the 30 Before 30 List. I challenged myself to complete this list in a year. I’ve been knocking some pretty big things off my list this year- but this blog by far is the biggest (blogging also terrifies me). Check out the full list below to get inspired- and follow my blog for all the juicy details!

white water rafting
White Water Rafting, Jasper National Park, Alberta

 

ifly
iFly Wind tunnel, Los Angeles, California

  1. Alberta
  2. New York City
  3. Visit a lavender farm
  4. Run through a sunflower field
  5. Hike the inca  trail
  6. Fly first class
  7. Go rock climbing
  8. White water rafting
  9. Go rock climbing
  10. Go white water rafting
  11. Bikini wax
  12. Complete the 30 day photography challenge
  13. Visit Rainbow Mountain
  14. Get lasik surgery
  15. Plant an herb garden
  16. Take a hot air balloon ride
  17. Make a compost
  18. Start a blog
  19. Sleep under the stars in my hammock
  20. See sleeping bear dunes
  21. Go on a backpacking hike
  22. Rainbow mountain
  23. Iceland
  24. Go credit card free for one month
  25. Plant a tree
  26. Dye my hair purple
  27. Take a piano lesson
  28. Take a mud bath/weird spa treatment
  29. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  30. Do something new: iFly

sleeping bear dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

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Rainbow Mountain, Peru