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Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Three U.S. Road Trips Best Done by Bike

Most people dread the driving aspect of a road trip, especially if you’re riding solo. But that completely changes when you’re taking the road via motorcycle. The adventure hones in on the ride itself, and the destination becomes an afterthought.

We’re reminded of this fantastic quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of our favorite books about travel and philosophy:

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.  On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

Here are three road trips best done by bike:

Tail of the Dragon

Some of the greatest adventures on the open road can be found in the United States. First and foremost, we must talk about the Tail of the Dragon. The name in itself is enough to offer a great deal of excitement and anticipation. This road is more than an enticing name, though. The Tail of the Dragon offers 318 curves over 11 miles of Robbinsville, North Carolina. While this road is a great sight and perfectly suited for an adventure on the back of your bike, it is not for the faint of heart. Even advanced riders should prepare themselves with reliable motorcycle gear and accessories. That being said, If you’re up for a challenge, then this is the route for you.

San Juan Mountain Skyway

Next up we head to Colorado, specifically the San Juan Mountain Skyway. One of the most interesting things about this route is that it is a loop. This is a road equipped perfectly for the biker seeking to take in beautiful scenery and simply enjoy the ride. Because of the loop shape, you can technically hop onto this route anywhere, head either direction, and end up where you started again! Of course, it wouldn’t be Colorado if you didn’t spot some of the nation’s most breathtaking mountains throughout this amazing 225 mile ride.

Highway 1

Lastly, we go back to the beach. The world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway nestled in beautiful and sunny California. The beauty of the Pacific Coast Cruise is not only in its physical scenery and views, but also in its simplicity. It is one road that stretches all the way up and down the coast and overlooks beautiful oceans from southern to northern California.  It stretches from the beautiful beaches of Malibu to the foggy hills of Big Sur to the spectacular Redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. What a phenomenal way to spend a summer day!

These road trips all provide bucket-list views that prove the adventure is in the journey itself. If you’ve been inspired to hop on the back of a bike, we’d love to hear about your adventures and tips you may have for other riders.

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Plane in Flight

The Secret to Surviving Long Flights

I’ve never known anyone who was a fan of long flights. Sure, there are people who don’t mind flying or who see it for exactly what it is: a necessary part of travel and maybe even, on a good day, the doorway to a new adventure. But even those people wouldn’t be caught exclaiming, “I just LOVE long flights. Everything about them lights me up. The crowded planes, endless sitting, and mediocre meals are just a few of my favorite things!” Even if you travel in the lap of luxury, you don’t do it for the flights. Amirite?

Tips for Surviving Long Flights

That said, there are a number of ways to make surviving long flights possible. In some cases, they may be more tolerable and even, dare I say, moderately enjoyable. Like bringing a fully stocked library of books, movies, and music, for example. Hear me when I say that entertainment is KEY, people. If you’re going to be crammed next to a couple of strangers for more than five hours at a time, the least you could do is make a solid effort to distract yourself.

Books for Surviving Long Flights

If you’re anything like me, you’ll also want to bring snacks. Because nothing says misery like being hangry, and nothing screams misery like paying $10 for in-flight snacks only to be disappointed. I think, because of the liquid limitations for flights, many people think they can’t bring food either. I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can. Better yet, you can bring as much as you want: fruit, chips, sandwiches, gummies, cookies – literally whatever you need to survive.

Choosing your seat wisely is also a strong move, if you plan far enough in advance. At the very least, aim for an aisle, where you can let your legs linger in between the drinks and meal services. From there, you can try to get an exit row, where space is sacred, or even the bulkhead so no one can lean back into your lap. Or, if you like a little risk, you can choose something in the back row, which is usually reserved for attendants who don’t always use their seats, and spread out.

Putting comfy clothes to good use

If any of these options, in your humble opinion, sounds like more effort than they might be worth, then I offer only one last refuge. Listen closely. Ready? COMFORT. It is actually the only necessity for surviving long flights. Justin and I recently shared our favorite clothes for lengthy trips with GoEuro, and the common denominator was being comfortable. (Obviously we want to look decent as well, but that ranks much lower on the list of priorities. Now you know!)

No amount of food, space, or entertainment will do any good if you can’t relax in your small space. So get yourself a comfy pair of pants, and get on the road! Also, tell us what your must-haves are for long trips. We want to know!

 

 

 

 

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Baja Camping at Playa Saldamando

Baja Camping on the Coast: Playa Saldamando

It’s not often that we write posts about the places we call home. As travel bloggers, we’re always writing instead about the faraway places that stole our hearts or are sure to steal yours. It’s easy to forget that travel, exploration, and adventure are not limited to international flights or cross-country road trips, or that adventure doesn’t need to be extravagant to change your perspective. In fact, and especially as California residents, we’re as inclined to explore as much nearby – like Baja camping – as we are anywhere else simply because there’s so much to see.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I’m going to anyway: One of the best things about living in California, and San Diego in particular, is the access to all kinds of nature. Not just any nature. Like, ALL nature. This great state is widely known for its giant sequoia forests, its massive snow-capped mountains, its pristine beaches, and, yes, even its sprawling, dry desert. When nature junkies want it all within reach, California answers the call.

Blue at Playa Saldamando

While the climate is usually quite moderate, the temperature rises slightly in the summer months and the streets overflow with visiting tourists. We head fast for the van, but during these months, the nearby desert camping can be less appealing. It’s just too hot for anyone’s general enjoyment during the day. Instead, we recently planned a three-day trip down California for a little Baja camping, where the conditions are blissful and the Mexican food is even better (and cheaper).

Baja Camping

After a bit of quick research on Baja camping, we landed on Playa Saldamando, a privately owned campground just 10 minutes north of Ensenada that proved to be the perfect choice. We were able to make a reservation with the owner, George, in advance over the phone. When we arrived, despite unusual traffic into Mexico (side note: If you drive, make sure to get Mexican car insurance), we found our site roped off and awaiting our arrival.

The Hammock at the Playa

We wound up right on the bluffs overlooking the water, with enough space to accommodate our group of six, and plenty of distance from the neighboring sites to maintain privacy. In addition, each site came with a shade, a garbage can, fire pit, and a small table. Yet we had room enough to park the van, hang our hammock, set up a tent, two tables, four chairs, and play Kubb. It was pure perfection.

Bathrooms at the Playa

Though the grounds had a handful single-stall toilets only a short walk from each site, there weren’t any showers. Luckily we were wise enough to bring our Epic Wipes, which are basically full-sized, personal wet wipes, to wash with. We don’t often miss showering for a few days, but the Mexican sun and the sand require exception, and the Epic Wipes handled the job with grace. By day two, we were refreshed enough to head into Ensenada for more ice (and more beer).

Futball at Playa Saldamando

We spent the day watching other campers play on the soccer pitch, laying on the beach, and watching dolphins frolic in large pods just offshore. Mind you, I’m not kidding when I say the sun is stronger in Mexico, and protective eyewear is essential. Justin and I each have a polarized pair from Vision Direct, and they come in especially handy for trips like this because they’re sturdy and they provide just enough share to see the beautiful views more clearly.

Dolphins During Baja Camping

All in all we got good (and safe!) sun, played in the sand, and still managed to keep clean. Though maybe the best part was on the way home, when we stopped in Puerto Nuevo for fresh-caught rock lobster and one last Mexican coke. It was almost enough to make the hours-long wait at the border worthwhile. Though I’ve no doubt that we’ll return to Playa Saldamando, sunnies in hand, as soon as we can anyway.

Walking to the Playa

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Riad in Morocco

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB: When and Why to Choose Where to Stay

There are a lot of decisions to make when preparing for a trip. (Yes, we’re talking about planning AGAIN.) One of which, and perhaps most important, is where to stay. Usually you want something easily accessible from the airport or metro and centrally located. You almost always want something affordable, unless, of course, you’re celebrating something major or that’s just how you roll. But these are the things I think most about when I’m getting ready to hit the road.

No two destinations are alike, and neither is it necessary for your accommodations to be the same. I have stayed in a hostel, a private guest room, and an AirBnB all on a single trip, each for different reasons, and it’s important to consider all the options before deciding where to stay. Sometimes things like size, location, or price will automatically exclude one or the other from your search. If you’re on a shoestring, for example, hotels will likely be the least budget-friendly option. (Though I do recommend treating yourself once in awhile.)

Hostel vs. Hotel vs. AirBnB

I almost always start with hostels. They’re affordable, they usually offer ideas and discounts on sightseeing, and they leave you less secluded in a new place. You get to meet people and cook your own food (most of the time) and they’re usually strategically located. They cater more-specifically to the backpacker types and they do a damn good job. (Side note: Justin has been known to couchsurf but I’ve never had the chance and need to try it.)

hotel vs. airbnb

When we were backpacking through Portugal, for example, Justin and I stayed at the Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo, where Nick, the owner, gave us super useful information on where to stay along the rest of our journey. He even arranged a private guest room for us in the next town when the rest of the hostels were booked – something we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own because of how shockingly bad our Portuguese is.

Guest houses, or pensions, are usually more common where hostels are fewer. You can find them in smaller towns, where there is a train station or a port, but perhaps not much else. Sometimes they are just a room in a private residence (that was the case in Portugal) but sometimes they are a small boarding house.

I’ve stayed in two others, once in Mozambique, when we arrived in Metangula late at night via the ferry and once in Miranda del Ebro, Spain, when I missed a train connection. All were found not by Google, but through local recommendations upon arrival. In these cases, there was neither continental breakfast nor any English spoken. I simply needed somewhere to sleep for the night and they served their purpose.

When I’m abroad, I look to hotels on rare occasion. Like when it’s the only option, or when I’ve been on the road for a while and I could use a good, long bath and a solid night’s sleep. I usually find them too expensive for what little they offer beyond a hostel. It’s unlikely that I’d be able to prepare any of my own meals or meet other travelers, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Traveling can wear on the body after a while, and it can be worth the extra cost to restore a little.

AirBnB also comes in handy for restoring the spirit. In many ways, it is the best of both worlds between a hostel and a hotel. You often get a little extra space and a little more quiet, with amenities like a kitchen and the company of others if you so desire. Though, I’ve never rented an AirBnb when traveling solo, I wouldn’t recommend against it. Frankly, I’ve never had a bad experience. In most cases, I default to AirBnB when I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a few days.

Lobster in an Airbnb

Justin and I rented one when he arrived in Lisbon, so we could have a few days to ourselves to figure out our plans. We stayed in another for a week in Tofinho, Mozambique, when we were nearing the end of our trip and really wanted to relax near the beach. The owner was remarkably accommodating, as I couldn’t make the reservation from my mobile, so we had to shift a night on the schedule. Plus, the casita was amazing.

I rented another while traveling with my friend Ashley in Barcelona, Spain. We were staying a week and wanted somewhere we could cook and do laundry and still be in the mix. We found Fran, who lived right on Las Ramblas and rented two rooms. He was a spectacular host, always giving recommendations when we asked and even made us a full Spanish meal one night. We even wound up going out one night with the other renters and remain Facebook friends to this day.

Spanish meal at an AirBnB

These kinds of experiences are not something you would likely find in hotel, but they are the kind of experiences that make travel more enjoyable, because it’s not just the places, but the people who make a destination. So, wherever you go, keep an open mind about where to stay and why.  When it comes to weighing benefits of a hostel vs. a hotel vs. AirBnB make sure that your accommodations are as unique as the location.

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Annelise backpacking in the U.K.

Beauty Products on the Go: How to Stay Fly While Traveling

As a woman, travel, and packing for travel, always seem to take a little extra planning than it does for my male counterparts. Even on camping trips, I have to remember things like bras or extra underwear (which I have admittedly forgotten at least once). When you start taking beauty products and toiletries into account, the matter becomes even more obvious. If I’ll be gone for an extended period (pun intended) of time, I need to account for feminine products and pills as well.

But then there are things I often bring even on short trips, like makeup and hair care essentials. By some standards, I’m actually somewhat of a minimalist in this area. I don’t usually wear thaaaaat much makeup day-to-day and I wear even less when I’m traveling – mostly because I sweat easily. It’s also worth noting that I don’t always feel the need to take much because I know that I can get products almost anywhere I go. Though this assumption holds less true when I travel to more remote places, like Morocco or Zambia.

Beauty Products Intended for Travel

Still, because I fit it all into a backpack, I aim to travel light. I focus only on what I absolutely need and things I really like. For example, I prefer beauty products I use to be fragrance-free. Otherwise I overwhelm myself after using only two or three strongly-scented products. I don’t go anywhere without Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap and I use it for literally everything: face wash, body wash, quick laundry, dishes, and sometimes shampoo if I’m running low. Justin has even used it as toothpaste in a pinch. (Literally everything.)

It’s a good example of the types of beauty products I choose because it’s natural, cleansing, and not overly potent–a little goes a long way. When I traveled Europe for a few months two years ago, I took only Dr. Bronner’s, toothpaste, and deodorant, plus shampoo, conditioner, and baby powder for my hair. Mind you, my hair is not unruly by any stretch of the imagination. It gets a little frizzy when I let it dry naturally and a little fluffy when I blow dry it, but I’ve learned some tricks to tame it when I don’t bring heat tools (and I almost never do).

fly girl travel products

I’ve recently become a fan of Fly Girl beauty products for the same reasons I love Dr. B’s. They come sans parabens, sulfates, sodium chloride, or gluten and are compact enough to fit in a small tote. They don’t smell overwhelmingly like chemicals or fragrance trying to mask them. Of the things I’ve tried, the intense calming balm has been my absolute fave, but I could totally see myself taking the dry shampoo, conditioner, or hairspray on my next trip as well.

At the end of the day, the moral here is that even though we women sometimes have to put in a little extra effort when it comes to travel accessories, we can also get exactly what we want from them. We don’t necessarily have to give up looking good or feeling good for the sake of shedding pack weight. So go ‘head with your fly self.

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