Saturday, July 12, 2014

What do I want?

If you read my blog regularly-ish then you may have seen my post about a non literal fork. Well I found my fork, but did I find myself?

I had grand plans for 2015, and boy was I excited. The possibilities were infinite!  And almost overwhelming. But more importantly, infinite. And as my self imposed deadline approached, I started to feel things. Excitement. Anxiety. Depression. Impatience. More excitement, followed by dread. Quiet nervousness. Desire for conflicting things. But mostly the excitement thing.

There has been a lot of inner turmoil to say the least.

So when I got a phone call that drastically altered my current options and my idea of the future simultaneously, I pursued it. Because after all, a big component of my grand 2015 plans was the desperate need for change.

I was stuck in a rut of unknowable proportions, and that one phone call was my tow chain out.

So in my pursuit of change, I have been incredibly successful. My career is thriving, which is what altered my plans to begin with. I found my fork and I think I chose wisely.

My choices the last few months have had a snowball effect though. Not only did I make a big life change (that whole career thing), but I've made loads of small ones leading up to this. I changed phone carriers, canceled a credit card with an unruly company and replaced it for one with better bonuses, ended a situation that I wasn't committed to, reconnected with some great people, and recommitted myself to travel. I also released myself of responsibility for things I cannot control, forgave myself for past mistakes, and became Switzerland in situations I cannot avoid.

I've been busy!

In all of this change I've started to reevaluate who I am. Turns out I'm a lot of things, most of them awesome (in my totally unbiased opinion of course). But if anyone is going to think I'm awesome, shouldn't it be me? Self worth and love are important. I'm really starting to discover myself in a way I never imagined. I'm resolving all the unresolved feelings I've kept hidden all these years while trying to seem strong and unbreakable.

But I am breakable. And I have feelings. After dealing with all that, I know what I want now. The whirlwind of change has actually brought me clarity, once I started to pay attention to that sneaky brain of mine. It's actually quite refreshing. I'm done playing by everyone else's rules, so it's time to put myself first and tear down anything standing in the way of my life rebuild. But I'm human, so naturally what I want is random and complex.

I am a woman of complicated and conflicting desires. I want both adventure and stability. I want all the fun and quiet nights in my own space. I want more outdoor activities and more hammock naps. I want travel and an excellent career. I want love and freedom. I want a lot of things but I want to go to bed happy every night too.

But most of all, I want my life's stories to be worth a book.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My favorite travel planning tools

I plan actual trips and dream trips constantly. I've always got an idea of where I want to go in the next 12 months, what the budget would be, how I would do it, and how much time I would need. I spend a lot of time dream planning these trips to entertain myself (and satisfy my wanderlust) and have a few trusty sites that I love. So here's my profession of love for technology that feeds my wanderlust!

This website is awesome because you can search flights for the entire world, and it gives you a whole lot of airline options for flights. I primarily use this to plan international trips. You can do one way, roundtrip, etc and search multiple other flight search engines simultaneously. So you get a lot of results and price options. I have never bought a flight through, but it's a great place to start pricing flights.

My second favorite feature is the aspect. You put in the airport you want to fly out of, and it gives you results for everywhere you can fly to from there. For example, if I put in my departure airport as JFK in New York, and my price limit as $600 it gives me a bunch of flights in-country as well as international. Turns out I can fly to Reykjavik (Iceland) for $560 in February 2015 or fly to Cusco (Peru) for $487 in September 2014 or San Jose (Costa Rica) for $423 in September 2014. These are all examples of many other results I got!

This website is helpful for flight searching in the States. This is my primary flight search tool in-country. It's really useful and as we all know, I do love Google.

My favorite airline in the States is Southwest, hands down. So naturally this website would be my favorite. Fly Southwest, just do it, and don't be a dick in line.

4. TripIt
This is one I just started fooling with today but I absolutely love it. I'm planning 2 trips this month and have lots of reservation emails to juggle. This made it super super easy to keep it all straight. All I had to do was forward the confirmation emails to TripIt and the app sets it all up. It's awesome!! It made my reservation juggling quite easy. Use TripIt!

Useful for reviews on places / tours / hotels / etc. It is incredibly helpful for figuring out if one aspect of your potential trip is worth it or overrated because the reviews are very honest. It's also helpful for figuring out what to do in a destination if you don't have plans.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!!!

On my second trip to Hawaii, I finally made it to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!!!

Kilauea Crater

Super awesome KC let me borrow her car for the day so I could make the trip while she was at work. What an awesome friend!! I got up early, hit the road, and was at the park by around 9am. It's such a big park with a lot to do so I decided to do a hike first thing in the morning and chose the Kilauea Iki Trail. It was beautiful! I did this part first because it was still early, and also because I was informed at that parking would be limited later in the morning. And it was - the parking lot was empty when I arrived & over full when I returned. 

the Kilauea Iki trail

view from the trail, Kilauea Crater in the background

The Kilauea Iki trail connects to the Thurston Lava Tube which was really cool too. It was sort of like a mini cave, which I suppose I should have expected. Dark, damp, drippy, and sort of relaxing in a way. 

Blurry Thurston Lava Tube

I then hopped back onto the connecting trail and back to the Kilauea Iki parking lot. I then drove the Chain of Craters Road. It's got some really sweet and really sweeping views. Lava is remarkably pretty in a very simple, primary succession kind of way. 

View from an overlook on the Chain of Craters Road

Once you reach the end of the road, it's a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful! There's the lava arch thing that's pretty photogenic, and you can walk down the end of the road and see where lava overflowed and at the road however many years ago. That was pretty weird seeing lava covering a road. 

Lava arch!


I returned up the road, and headed back towards the visitor center. From there you can hop onto a trail and walk to the Sulphur Banks. The Sulphur Banks were cool - very much reminded me of the sulphur spots in Yellowstone. It's a quick little jaunt through the Sulphur Banks and then if you keep going and cross the road you end up at a Kilauea Crater overlook. 

Sulphur Banks

Overlook of the crater

I didn't particularly feel like backtracking and luckily the trail connects to another trail and loops back to the visitor center area. I did that and it was completely deserted and quiet. Very lovely and with many more great views of the crater!

Once I got back to the car I headed up towards the crater overlook. I was a few hours before sunset but looked around a bit, and then just relaxed in the shade while waiting for the sun to set. I thought about leaving because I was tired but after a rally PB&J I stuck it out and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT! 

Crater at dark!

My recommendations for visiting HVNP if you only have 1 day: 

1. Get there early & hike your trail of choice first. 
2. Do the Chain of Craters road in the afternoon. 
3. Definitely don't miss the sunset and lava glow in the Kilauea Crater. 
4. Have fun!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things I learned about myself while scuba diving

I was just in Hawaii visiting the ever awesome KC and getting scuba certified. It's a really strange thing, breathing under water. But when you stop thinking about the fact that you're breathing under water, it's pretty awesome. In the dives I did either getting certified or after, I learned a few things about myself.

1. I don't like it when water goes up my nose. It feels weird, makes me cough, and it generally sucks.

2. I like Moorish Idols. You know, like Gill from "Finding Nemo". But the ones I met seemed nicer.

3. I still get super excited every time I see a sea turtle.

4. The advice "just keep breathing, just keep breathing" in Dory's voice is super entertaining and super helpful.

5. Basically I learned I reference "Finding Nemo" a lot.

6. I freaking love manta rays. They are amazing creatures!! (PS - there's a ray in Finding Nemo, but he's a spotted eagle ray. Fun fact.)

7. Turns out, it's not as scary as I thought to have your mask fill up with water or have to take it off, put it back on, and clear it of water. Just don't think about it, just do it.

8. I tend to break rule #3 ("don't overthink it") a lot, and this was no exception. So as long as I don't break rule #3, I'm perfectly happy doing all kinds of weird things like breathing underwater and watching manta rays from a rock at night in 35' of water.

9. Swimming in the ocean makes me have to pee. Sorry but it does!

10. I learned (remembered?) that I have pretty awesome friends that get me to do pretty awesome things - like getting certified and night diving with manta rays. THANKS FRIENDS!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Demands, down time & dragons

The last few months have been super quiet for me. It's been weird but it was by design. I needed the opportunity to get my savings plan on track, to earn some adulting points, to take a break from travel and plan a few things, and to just relax a bit. Tomorrow though it's back on the traveling bug and I'll be up to the usual Villani shenanigans starting with a trip to El Paso to see some of my favorite people!

They're pretty cool. 

In all this downtime I accomplished a lot - I bought a new car in January, and just sold my Tracker a few days ago. I have renewed my passport, found a place to live when my lease is up, gotten my savings plan on track, got the cat microchipped, planned to get scuba certified (thanks KC!), etc, etc. It's been an accomplishing few months. I got a lot of stuff in order!

I bought a new car!

In the middle of all the accomplishing stuff & downtime, I realized what stresses me out the most. I'm the manager at work, I captain a kickball team and a softball team, and I'm a commissioner in the kickball league. That's a lot of demands on my time. Most days, it's absolutely fine. I'm very organized and I'm very efficient so I can get a lot done like that. But there are days when it seems like everyone needs something from me all day long, and it gets overwhelming. I get tired of making decisions for everyone else. Sometimes, I just want someone else to decide for me. But when you're so often the decision maker, nobody else takes the wheel. I guess that's why I have a life captain!?

I've also realized what really relaxes me. Turns out a warm bath + an episode of "Cosmos" is pretty relaxing. Hammocks do the trick too. And naps. And beer. Not necessarily in that order or combination.  It's been a really great few months getting my act together and enjoying fun times.

More travel-y posts will start back up after my trip to Texas, promise!

And dragons? Game of Thrones starts next weekend!