Five of My Favorite Travel Items

We’ve all go those items we can’t leave home without. It might be a favorite jacket or your trusty sneakers. Maybe you have a favorite hat or a water bottle that has traveled the world with you. The point is, we’ve all got them. Yes, we aren’t going to leave home without our cell phone, wallet, id, camera and probably a portable battery, but I wanted to look beyond that. So here are 5 items I never leave behind when packing for a trip.

Garmin Watch

The importance of time when traveling. Sometimes my phone is stashed away in my backpack, or I don’t want to constantly fish it out of my purse to see what time it is, so wearing a watch is a must for me while traveling or on an adventure. The Garmin watch is great because it will also track your steps and calculate mileage. When I was in London, I would average over 10 miles a day exploring the city, and I love having my watch on hikes to calculate where I’m at or how much longer I have to go. It might not be the most attractive watch to wear on my wrist, but it has all the features I need. Check it out for yourself at REI.

Photo Courtesy of REI

Packing Cubes

When packing for 8-weeks in a 36L backpack, packing cubes are a necessity. But I love them so much I even use them in a suitcase to keep everything organized and neat. The packing cubes are perfect because if you are looking for one item, you don’t have to search through your entire travel wardrobe and risk leaving a sock behind. You can organize your clothes in the cubes and use them to save space in your bag. I bought mine on Amazon and never leave home without them.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Athleta Shanti Jacket

If you need a versatile, multi-purpose jacket, don’t leave any further than the Athleta Shanti Jacket in Powervita. This is my go-to jacket for everything which makes it perfect for traveling. I can take it hiking, on a run, or I wear when exploring a city and trying to look trendy. I can wear it on a business trip, or even use it if I’m dressing up for the night. When space is limited in your bag, and you need one jacket that will go with each outfit this is it. It also works as the perfect layer in the winter time. I thought I lost this jacket in a hotel room in Vietnam and started to have a mild panic attack. You can find the jacket online at Athleta.com.

Athleta Trekkie Hike Pant

 This is my favorite go-to pant for hiking, or if I want to explore the city, but don’t want to wear jeans. The pants are comfortable, durable, breathable – basically everything you could hope for in a pair of pants. They aren’t waterproof, but I would rather be caught in a torrential downpour wear these pants than a pair of jeans. One is just more comfortable to walk in afterward. They are also great in the wind. I wore these pants when hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, and they handled all the elements. The wind, cold, and the heat on our descent. I also wore them on my Irish road-trip and they were that perfect amount of car comfy yet stylish. You can find these pants online at Athleta.com.

Paperback Book

So, this isn’t a specific item, but I still don’t like to leave home without a paperback book. Yes, the Kindle app on my iPad is great, but there is just something about the concept of a paperback book. Plus, a tradition of mine now when I’m traveling is, I bring a book with me, read it, and then exchange it at my hostels or hotels book exchange. I have read some awesome books through the book exchange like The Martian and The Secret Life of Bees. I like to bring a book hiking, and I don’t really want to carry a tablet. And it’s hard to read from a tablet with chilling on a beach. I know the kindle paperwork is good for that, but I’m not ready to carry around two tablets just yet. Costco always has a great deal on books. In fact, I just picked up the Alice Network and will be bringing it to Mexico with me.

What are some items you can’t leave home without? Tweet them at me @keeliec5 or tell me in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

Five Must Attend Reno Tahoe Events

Reno Tahoe is home to some great events. During the summertime, there is basically an event every weekend. Every month the Riverwalk District has a wine walk and a beer crawl, and check out this events calendar to see when the next major pub crawl is. The Santa and Zombie Crawl are by far the largest. There is a weekly food truck event, free art and music around town during the month of July, and food events galore. Pick between chili, ribs, bbq, wings, spaghetti you name it. Now, unless you live here it might be hard to attend all of these events. Just a short disclaimer, these opinions are all my own, but here are five events in Reno Tahoe that you need to check out.

Great Reno Balloon Races

Totally worth the early morning wakeup call. This event takes place in early September but after Labor Day at Rancho San Rafael Park by the University. The Great Reno Balloon Race is one of the largest hot air balloon events that is free and allows spectators on the infield. The event has three major parts, the Glow Show, Dawn Patrol and Mass Ascension. The Glow Show starts at 5 am – I told you it was early – and Mass Ascension is at 7 am. So set your alarms early, pack your camera and prepare for one of the best mornings of your life!

Reno Rodeo

They don’t call it the Wildest Richest Rodeo in the West for nothing! The Reno Rodeo takes place over 10 days in June and this year is celebrating 100 years. Enjoy muttin’ bustin’, bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel riding and more at the rodeo. Come early to enjoy the on-site carnival and stay late for the full Jack Daniels Tent experience. Cowboy boots encouraged!

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Watch one of your favorite Shakespeare tales come to life set to the backdrop of the gorgeous Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is held at Sand Harbor during the months of July and August. Each year features a new Shakespeare play and musical. Past performances include Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The theater at Sand Harbor has a kitchen with a delicious menu, or pack your own lunch filled with your favorite drinks and snacks. The shows start at 7:30, so come early and enjoy the turquoise waters and sandy beach of Sand Harbor.

Reno River Festival

The Reno River Festival takes place every Mother’s Day weekend and is held at Wingfield Park on the river. This event has it all. Buy a ticket to the craft beer tent or wine village for a refreshing treat. Check out the food vendors and shop some of the local goods. There is always a free live performance by an up and comer. One-year, Old Dominion played at the River Festival! Zipline across the Truckee River in the Adventure Park, or partake in the Reno River Roll on Saturday morning. And while this is all going on, there is a kayaking competition in the river! Watch them as they maneuver through the gates and complete tricks in the rapids. This event really has it all.

Burning Man

Okay, so this event technically doesn’t take place in Reno, but Reno is the “Gateway to the Black Rock Desert.” The city also embraces the Burner Culture year-round. A lot of the art is made in a shared art space called the Generator, and you can find past Burning Man Sculptures with new homes by the river or in the Playa Art Park. However, the event itself is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. This counter-culture event takes place in the Black Rock Desert about 150 miles northeast of Reno. Over 70,000 people attend the event every year. It’s about a week long, but you don’t have to stay for the whole time. I know a lot of people who head in later and leave earlier to avoid crowds. There is a lot of planning and prework involved in attending this event. You must bring everything with you and pack it all out. There are no supplies on the playa. If you are interested in attending the event, definitely read the survival guide.

Reno Tahoe has so many awesome events I couldn’t name them all! You’ll want to check out all of their iconic events, and then see the events calendar for a full listing. What is your favorite Reno Tahoe event? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

We were headed to Thailand with some friends. My boyfriend wanted to check out Vietnam while we were in Southeast Asia. I said, if we’re going to Vietnam, I want to go to Ha Long Bay.

So, what is Ha Long Bay? It’s a bay in northern Vietnam that features thousands of little limestone islands. Because of this, Vietnam has the most islands in the world. It is a UNESCO World Herit age Site and popular among tourists. The best way to see Ha Long Bay is by boat, and you’ll see that’s how everyone visits the bay because it’s populated with tiny cruise boats everywhere. However, even with tons of other boats nearby, you still feel like your sailing in your own oasis.

Hanoi is the largest city to Ha Long Bay. Here you will find plenty of tour options that include transportation from the hotel to your ship. I recommend booking your tour through your hotel, it was such a seamless process and allowed us to enjoy our short time in Vietnam a little more. We even coordinated transportation from the airport to the hotel which was nice. We had a late flight, and I was glad I didn’t have to navigate the busy streets of Hanoi. And when I say busy, that is an under- exaggeration. I’ve never seen so much traffic. Scooters everywhere, sometimes on the sidewalk, and no pedestrian right away.

When we checked into our hotel, the Meracus, they gave us a guide to navigating Hanoi which included tips for crossing traffic – basically, don’t hesitate and be assertive. The scooters will swerve around you. Through the Meracus we booked a two-day, one-night cruise to Ha Long Bay. The bus picked us up bright and early, and we made our way east. Our bus probably had 50 or 60 people on it, but that was not everyone we would be cruising with. The Ha Long Bay cruise is quite intimate with about 12-15 people.

The boats are made of wood and beautifully designed. Our room had a balcony which I enjoyed, and there was plenty of outdoor seating on the top deck and inside the main cabin. After settling into our cabin, the boat set sail and we were off to our first destination. All Ha Long Bay two-day, one-night itineraries are the same, you just might do them in a different order.

Each boat comes with a tour guide that will also serve as your translator. Our first stop was a massive cave. We took a smaller boat to shore, and make our way through the cave with the other tourists. The cave was massive. We probably walked around for about an hour and only touched a fraction of it.

The other activities are kayaking and hiking or swimming. The weather wasn’t ideal during our cruise, overcast and cool, so it was a trip when the water was warmer than the air. The hike is a short yet steep one to a top of a lookout point with an amazing view of the bay below. If you are a fast hiker, you might be able to hike to the top and take a quick dip before getting back on the boat. The kayaking excursion takes you through a limestone tunnel and into a clearing surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. You can paddle to the edge, but beware of any monkeys!

You itinerary while on the cruise is basically booked, so it’s critical you head back to the boat at the time your guide gave you. Your meals are also planned. Everyone ate together in this gorgeous dining room with massive windows on all sides. And the food is fantastic. It was probably my favorite part, and you will not go hungry. It happened to be my birthday (and Thanksgiving back home) that first night on the cruise, and they made me a cake! My boyfriend made the reservation, so he must have told them about my birthday (swoon). After dinner, you can try squid fishing, just relax and enjoy the evening, or maybe you’ll find the crew downstairs and hang out with them as we did!

You can’t really go wrong with a Ha Long Bay cruise, and it really is an immersive experience. The cruises are intimate, the boats beautiful, the food is delicious and the scenery is amazing. Plus, you’ll learn more about the history of Vietnam and Ha Long Bay and the Vietnamese culture. So are you convinced? Ready to book a cruise to Ha Long Bay? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

12 Hours in Vancouver

So clearly 12 hours in Vancouver is not enough time to see this beautiful city, but sometimes that’s all you have, so you have to make the most of it. For me, I was spending time with my sister who lives on Whidbey Island, Washington and we decided to take a day trip to Canada and explore the city. It was just over a two-hour drive from Oak Harbor, WA to Vancouver. We left just after the sun came up, and were home just after sunset. So here is how to make the most of your 12 hours in Vancouver

Rent a Bike

If the weather is awful, you might not want to rent a bike. But if the sun is shining, and the weather is good, there is no other way to see Vancouver than on two wheels. Also, the city was meant for biking. I’ll touch on Stanley Park later, but Vancouver has designated roads with protected bike paths – meaning the bike path is separate from the road. I felt completely safe on the bike, and I was glad I didn’t have to deal with traffic or parking. We paid for long term parking in one of the lots, and it was two wheels for the rest of the day. For full-day or hourly rentals, you can check out bike shops like Cycle City or Spokes Bicycle Rentals. The city of Vancouver also has a docked public bike share program called Mobi.

Stanley Park

You’ll forget you’re in the city. Bike or walk the 8.8km seawall located along the perimeter of the park for views of the Pacific and Vancouver Harbor, and then venture inside the park for dining, off-road riding and the Vancouver Aquarium. Since my sister and I were short on time, we biked the seawall and then explore just a fraction of the 400-acre park. The aquarium is definitely on my list for my return trip.

Granville Island Public Market

Ride your bike along the coastline and make your way to Granville Island. You can either ride your bike across Burrard Street or take the Aquabus (bikes are allowed). We took the Aquabus there and rode our bikes back. The public market sits right along the water and is a huge indoor area filled with endless fresh baked goods, produce, seafood, candy and gourmet food. I highly recommend you grab some lunch while you are here and a few macarons. Souvenir shops are also plentiful on the island. Since you are in Canada, I recommend Maple Crème cookies. There is a brewery on the island, but I’ll touch on that later. After refueling yourself, grab your libation of choice and relax in the harbor while you watch the buskers perform.

Lululemon Flagship Store

People flock to the original Starbucks in Seattle, so I wanted to visit the Lululemon Flagship store in Vancouver. It isn’t really any different than the other Lululemon stores, but I was still jazzed to check it out and buy a pair of what are now my favorite exercise shorts. The flagship store is located on the corner of Robson and Burrard, so an easy ride down from Granville Island. Plus, this is the shopping district of Vancouver. Just remember you’re on a bike!

Brewery Hopping

Think of it as a pedal powered self-guided pub crawl, or you can join a brewery tour with Vancouver Brewery Tours. I mentioned the brewery on Granville Island before, so hopefully, you were able to check that out before heading back downtown. I recommend heading to Gastown, especially if you are looking to visit more than one brewery. If you don’t mind back tracking a bit, hit up Yaletown Brewing Company before heading back to the water. At this point, my sister and I had to bike back to the shop to return our bikes before they closed and moved the car closer to Gastown. Grab some dinner at Steamworks. They are a brewpub with a huge two-story location right on the water. The beer was delicious and definitely order some poutine fries.

This was the last stop for my sister and I in Vancouver. We still had a two-hour drive back to Oak Harbor and stopped for gas and coffee on our way out of town. Even though we only had a short time in Vancouver, it was so fun exploring the downtown area. At one point in the day, the clouds moved away and I could see the massive mountains in the short distance. I know where I’ll be going during my next visit to Vancouver. Have you been to Vancouver? What was your favorite activity? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie

Seven Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo (At Least Once)

You love traveling with your friends. The jokes, the memories. It’s those times wandering through Time Square or getting lost in Barcelona that you’ll remember for a lifetime. But you will also remember the first time you successfully navigated the London underground by yourself or sat on the Spanish steps eating some delicious gelato pondering the meaning of life. Traveling Solo is an incredible experience and one that everyone should try at least once.

Build Self Confidence

If anything is going to help you build some self-confidence it’s traveling solo. You have to make all your own travel plans and ensure they are carried out. If you want to talk to someone, you’ll have to break the ice. If you get lost, you will be the one to find your way. There is something empowering about traveling solo – especially in a foreign country. I will always remember my first solo journey in New Zealand and my first adventure in the country. I took a ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island. I ventured around the island visiting wineries, finding hidden beaches, and devouring the most delicious burger I’ve ever had.

Mt Cook NZ

What You Want

This is a big one. No more agreeing on what sites you want to see or what hikes you want to do. You don’t have to worry if one friend wants to go rafting, but the other wants to zip line. If you are on a road trip, you create the itinerary and even better you are in control of the playlist. When you travel solo, you can do whatever you want, no questions asked.

Quad Ride Peru

When You Want

What you want, when you want. I was on a water taxi crossing Lake Te Anau getting ready to hike the Kepler Track. There were two other guys in the water taxi and we were all traveling solo. The driver asked if we liked traveling solo and in unison, we said, Yes! We can do what we want when we want. If your alarm goes off, and you want to hit snooze (for a few more hours) you can do it. You set your own schedule and you choose if it changes. There is truly something liberating about traveling solo.

Make New Friends

Either someone will see that you are by yourself and approach you or you’ll be craving for a conversation that isn’t on your phone and you’ll strike up the conversation. I believe it’s almost easier to make new friends when you are traveling solo vs with a group, and especially with other people also on their own. While traveling through New Zealand, I sat down for breakfast at a table with two girls and we started a conversation. I mentioned how I would be traveling to Ireland soon, and one of the girls said she lived in Ireland, and I should hit her up when I was there. Not only did I see her in Ireland, but I was headed to Scotland in a few weekends and she also had plans to go to Scotland with some friends, and we met up again! It was so much fun!

Rose and Keelie Ireland

Learn About Yourself

When you only have yourself to rely on, you tend to learn a lot about yourself. Like if you are good at directions, what type of activities you like the most and how you want to spend your time. You learn your limits like how long you want to spend exploring a city or how adventurous you are willing to get with the local food. There is no one there to persuade you in a direction and every choice in one you made.

No Expectations

Timon and Pumbaa said it best – “It means no worries.” When it’s just you, you are forever on island time living the island lifestyle. You might have some bad days, but no one but you will know. And tomorrow will be a brand-new day filled with brand new adventures. Create your own schedule and go with the flow. It’s relaxing when the only needs to service are your own and there aren’t any expectations to meet.

New York Skyline

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

I always thought of myself as a shy person. The new people I would meet were through friends or we would be paired together somehow whether it was school, work or a sporting team etc. And I usually took the safe route. I went to the safe school, took a safe job. But when I was in a foreign country all on my own, I had to broaden my horizons a little. Eat foods I wasn’t used to eating, jump off rocks I thought were a little high, and strike up a conversation with countless strangers. I love traveling with my group of friends, but I think we tend to be complacent when we are around people we know. When it’s just you, the limits tend to get pushed and you step out of your comfort zone.

Vatican Rome

So what do you think? Have you traveled solo before and it changed your life? Do you have an reservations about a solo trip? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @keeliec5 and let’s get the conversation started!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

Four Reasons You Should Plan a Trip to California’s Eastern Sierra

I had lived in Reno for almost 8 years. I’d been to Gardnerville countless times, but never any further south on Hwy 395. One day I randomly came across a picture of Bodie, a mining ghost town located just south of Bridgeport, and instantly became infatuated. I convinced a few of my friends to head down there for a weekend getaway and instantly fell in love with the area. Here are 4 reasons why you should plan a trip to the Eastern Sierra.

Hot Springs

The land along Hwy 395 is loaded with hot springs perfect for soaking those sore muscles after a long day of skiing or just relaxing and enjoying the breathtaking views. You can either pay to enjoy a natural hot spring that has been funneled into a man-made pool like at Grover’s Hot Springs or David Wally’s, or you can venture into the unknown and find a natural hot spring. If you decided to go the natural route, please read this blog on hot spring etiquette. Finding them is always the tough part. You can definitely google “Eastern Sierra Hot Springs”, but I think the best thing to do is adventure out and find one on your own!

Natural Park Areas

We’ve all heard of Yosemite, turn right at Lee Vining from Hwy 395 to see its granite cliffs and magnificent waterfalls. If you’d like to read more, check out my blog on Half Dome. However, there are plenty of great parks located in Eastern California without climbing Tioga Pass. Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve is located near the Yosemite turnoff. This shallow saline soda lake is considered prehistoric and filled with large Tufa Towers or limestone towers. Bodie is a California Historic Landmark and a preserved mining ghost town. Rumor has it that during the gold boom Bodie was the 3rd largest city in California. The mines started to close, and by the early 1900s, the once-booming city was now considered a ghost town. The people left so abruptly, that they left behind vehicles, clothes, dishes among other items now on display in the historic town.

Skiing

You can’t write a blog about Hwy 395 and the Eastern Sierra without mentioning skiing and Mammoth Mountain. With over 3,500 skiable acres and an elevation of over 11,000 ft, Mammoth Mountain is often the training mountain for Olympic winter athletes. If you want to avoid the long lift lines at Mammoth, you can give June Mountain a try. With 1,500 skiable acres, June is a much smaller mountain, but still great to ski and a local’s favorite after a storm. Backcountry skiing is also really popular in this area. I was camping in the Bridgeport area Memorial Weekend after the epic 16/17 ski season. The mountains were still deep with snow and backcountry skiing was a popular activity. We were hiking a trail near Twin Lakes, and we were the only group not hiking with skis on our back. We saw the bowl everyone was hiking too and a couple of my friends started drooling.

Outdoor Recreation

Basically, if you are looking for a weekend getaway and love the outdoors, you should plan a trip south (or north if you’re coming from Southern California) on Hwy 395 and explore the Eastern Sierra. Here you can camp, hike, fish and play on or in the water with the beautiful Sierra as your backdrop. Paddleboard on Lake Mary or cast your line in the East Walker River.

For more information check out VisitMammoth.com or MonoCounty.org. Have you explored much in the Eastern Sierra? Where is your favorite place to go or thing to do? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Your Guide to Nevada’s Ruby Mountains

Known as the Nevada Swiss Alps, The Ruby Mountains are located near the town of Elko in eastern Nevada. Home to Big Horn Sheep and steep jagged mountains, this place was made for the adventurist. The Ruby Mountain are about 5 hours east of Reno and right of I-80, which makes this the perfect weekend getaway if you’re coming from Reno, or a great pit-stop if you are road tripping along I-80. So, what should you do in the Ruby Mountains? Where should you stay? Keep reading to find out.

Where to Stay

If you prefer a hotel, you can stay in Elko and drive in, but there are plenty of great camping options in the Ruby Mountains. Popular places include Thomas Canyon Campground in Lamoille Canyon or South Ruby Campground located near the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There are around 10 different camping areas nearby, so visit recreation.gov and take your pick.

What to Do

The area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. They have hiking trails galore. I would start inside Lamoille Canyon. If you are staying at Thomas Canyon Campground, there is a hiking trail inside called Thomas Creek Trail. This trail is an out and back and follows the creek to a vast meadow and a waterfall. I went in August, so the waterfall was a trickle, but I imagine it’s much larger in the spring. This trail is not well traveled, so do keep an eye out for the path. My sister and I got lost a couple of times. She decided to turn back, but I was determined to find this waterfall (and I did).

Another great hiking area is at the end of Lamoille Canyon. This out and back trail will take you by alpine lakes, granite cliffs and rocks, and you’ll even find some patches of snow. The trek is part of a hike through called the Ruby Crest Trail. The Ruby Crest Trail is 42 miles longs, so you could hike a part of it as a day hike, or backpack the trail in a few days.

Hunting and fishing are also popular near the Ruby Mountains. When I went with my dad and sister, we didn’t catch any fish but did see a rather large marmot.

In the winter you can heli-ski! I don’t know much about heli-skiing in the Ruby Mountains, but you can read more here.

Insider Tips

Whether you are staying in Elko or camping out, if you get a chance to go out to dinner one night, you have to try the Star Hotel. This place has some of the best Basque Food you’ll find in the U.S. Another great tip is beware of the altitude. If you are coming from Reno, you probably won’t have an issue with the altitude, but if you’re like my sister and coming from sea-level, it might take a bit to get used to. Adjust, take it easy and try to wait a day or two before doing anything strenuous. Also, the nights will be cool! So, come prepared for warmer days and cool nights, but most importantly remember to have fun!

Did you know Nevada is the most mountainous state? You’ve probably heard of the Sierra Nevada, so now it’s time to check out the Ruby Mountains. Have you been before? What were some of your favorite trails or camping spots? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie