A Weekend Exploring New Mexico

Happy June everyone! Over Memorial Day Weekend I embarked on a solo road trip to a state I’d never been before: New Mexico! I explored the towns of Santa Fe and Taos and had an amazing time. I was only able to stay for one night, so I’d love to go back to New Mexico and take some more time to see everything it has to offer. This is a little recap of everything I did and saw during my short time in New Mexico. If you haven’t already watched my road trip vlog, you can check that out right here!

Santa Fe

My first destination for my solo road trip to New Mexico was the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market. I arrived around 11:30am and was excited to see that the market was huge! There were a lot of people there because it was a beautiful Saturday morning, but I had a lot of fun wandering around and checking out all the vendors. I didn’t purchase anything this time around, but I highly recommend visiting the market if you want to pick up some local produce, baked goods, or arts and crafts.

After exploring the farmer’s market, I made my way over to REI Santa Fe. REI may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a former employee, I find it interesting to visit the different stores when I travel. REI is also typically a great place to buy local goods, and especially souvenir items. While there, I grabbed a few freeze-dried foods and snacks to have for dinner at my campsite.

For lunch, I decided to stop by La Choza because it has amazing reviews, with some people calling it the best Mexican restaurant in the whole city. I had pretty high expectations, and La Choza did not disappoint. To start, I tried their house margarita with prickly pear, which was highly-recommended in reviews. The margarita was incredibly fresh and not too sweet – just my style! I also got an order of their chips and guacamole. While the guacamole wasn’t as chunky as I usually like it, the flavor was amazing and I loved the addition of blue corn chips. For my entree I tried the crisp taco plate with green chile beef. The taco itself was amazing and the green chile beef was super flavorful. The plate also came with beans and posole, a type of pork/hominy soup that I had never tried before and really enjoyed. I chose a sopapilla for my side item which was super simple but surprisingly delicious, even though I totally forgot to try it with honey!

After lunch, I made my way over to Kakawa Chocolate House, which was one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. Kakawa serves up drinking chocolate and all kinds of chocolate creations ranging from truffles to caramels and even brownie sundaes. I got their Mayan drinking chocolate with whipped cream which was the perfect combination of sweet, bitter, spicy, and creamy. I also tried a sampling of their truffles and caramels which were mind-blowingly good. The prickly pear truffle and pinon caramel were my favorites!

Next, I decided to visit the downtown Santa Fe area. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind, so I just wandered through the various streets and popped into a few shops. I stumbled across a beautiful church in the heart of the city that was an amazing find, and I loved the big park in the main square as well. The whole area has a very artsy feel, with lots of galleries, museums, and art vendors around every corner. I didn’t get to spend much time exploring, but would love to come back sometime.

Taos

My next stop on my New Mexico road trip was Taos, where I’d be spending the night. Taos was about an hour and a half drive from Santa Fe, and the ride there went by the Rio Grande which was beautiful. Taos is a pretty small town, and I immediately loved the atmosphere as soon as I arrived. My first stop after checking in to my campsite was the Taos Inn to try their world-famous Cowboy Buddha Margarita. The margarita was very fresh and delicious, and I took my time enjoying it.

As the night came to a close I returned to my campsite at Taos Valley RV Park and settled in for the evening. I had hoped to do some hiking while in New Mexico, but wildfires had sadly closed many of the national forests. All the more reason to plan another visit!

If you’re looking for simple and comfortable camping or RV accommodatioins, I definitely recommend Taos Valley RV Park. All the facilities were very nice and well-maintained, and the park was surprisingly quiet so I got a great night of sleep. There are also beautiful views of the surrounding mountains which made for a beautiful sunset.

The next morning, I started my day with a visit to Michael’s Kitchen for breakfast. The restaurant is clearly a favorite in town because it was very busy, but I was able to grab a table without any wait. I opted for the atole-pinon pancakes which were made of blue corn. I absolutely loved how hearty and almost savory these pancakes were in contrast to your normal buttermilk shortstack. On my way out, I also grabbed a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread, a chocolate croissant, and an apple empanada. All of their baked goods were amazing!

After breakfast, I took a short stroll through downtown Taos. Like Santa Fe, Taos is full of shops, art galleries, and museums. I picked up some handmade margarita glasses, which I can’t wait to use, and enjoyed my morning walk through town before beginning the journey home.

All in all, I had an amazing trip to New Mexico for the first time! I loved all the art and history that was evident in each town, and would love to return to explore some of the state’s beautiful hiking areas as well. I definitely recommend paying a visit to New Mexico if you’ve never been. What are your favorite things to see and do in New Mexico? Leave your recommendations in the comments so I can be sure to incorporate them during my next trip!

Peru Photo Diary – Part 3

Hi everyone! Today I’m wrapping up my Peru Photo Diary series with part three. This may be my favorite installment in the whole series because these photos were taken in Cusco and Machu Picchu!

Cusco is a beautiful town in the Andes where many people stay before continuing on to Machu Picchu. It’s a great place to acclimate to the higher elevation and is so full of incredible history. We only spent one night there, but I loved wandering the streets and watching the sunset.

Of course, the highlight of my whole Peru trip was seeing Machu Picchu. It took a plane, a train, a bus, and a hike to make it there, but it was so worth it. Machu Picchu is just indescribable to see in person, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to experience it for myself. It’s incredible to think about the work that went into creating the city and what it must have been like in its prime. And, of course, it was so cool to see the llamas that wander through the ruins! I would love to return and backpack to the city via the Inca Trail.

It’s been so fun for me to reflect on my Peru trip and revisit the memories through this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos and if you’ve ever thought about visiting Peru, I highly encourage you to make it happen!

Peru Photo Diary – Part 2

Hello everyone! Today I’m sharing with you the second part of my Peru Photo Diary series. These photos were primarily taken in Centro Historico and Miraflores. Fun fact: we actually got caught in the middle of a protest while we visited Centro Historico! Thankfully it didn’t turn violent at all, but there was a heavy police presence and we had to barricade inside a restaurant at one point to avoid being tear-gassed. Crazy times! Miraflores was one of the highlights of the trip for me personally. I loved walking through the street markets and seeing all the artists.

Stay tuned for part three where I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photos from the entire time when we had the amazing opportunity to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Peru Photo Diary – Part 1

Hello and happy May everyone! I can’t believe we’re already 5 months into 2022 – it seems like time is flying by faster and faster with every passing minute.
I was recently looking through some of my photography archives and realized I never properly shared photos from my study abroad trip to Peru in May of 2019. I had the most incredible time visiting Peru, and it remains one of my favorite travel experiences to date.
In honor of it being the three year anniversary of my Peru trip, I plan to share three photo diaries in total throughout the month of May. This first photo diary focuses on activities and sights throughout the city of Lima. My fellow students and I had the amazing opportunity to learn about Peru’s incredibly rich history while we were there – we visited lots of museums, toured some historical sites, and walked a countless number of steps exploring every day! Getting to experience a new country in such an immersive way was honestly incredible, and I definitely hope to return to Peru one day. Throughout our trip I was continuously amazed by how vibrant and colorful the country was, and it was seriously a photography dream.
I hope you enjoy these photos and stay tuned for parts two and three!

Colorado Summer Bucket List

The weather is finally starting to warm and the snow is beginning to thaw which means spring is almost here. Before you know it, it’ll be summer and we all know the warm weather never stays as long as we hope! I really want to take advantage of the warmth this season, so I’ve put together a Colorado Summer Bucket List as motivation to try some fun new summertime activities. Colorado is full of activities year-round, but I think the state truly shines in the summer. So here are some goals I have for this summer in Colorado, and some activities I’d love to experience for the first time!

  1. Whitewater rafting – I’ve whitewater rafted a number of times before in the Southeast, and I’ve loved every experience. Colorado is known for having some great whitewater rafting, and there are tons of companies that offer trips ranging from beginner-friendly to advanced. Since I haven’t been whitewater rafting in a few years, I’ll probably aim for an intermediate trip, but I can’t wait to escape the heat by hitting the river this summer!
  2. Go on an overnight backpacking trip – I did a good amount of hikes last year, but due to my husband getting shoulder surgery at the beginning of the summer, we weren’t able to go camping or backpacking at all. This year, I’m determined to go on at least one overnight backpacking trip! I’d love to do one in May at a lower elevation spot, and then work up to a really epic and challenging overnight trip later in the season. Let me know in the comments what your favorite beginner/intermediate Colorado backpacking trip is!
  3. Take a scenic train ride – there are a bunch of scenic train rides throughout the state of Colorado, and I’d love to experience the state’s natural beauty this way. I haven’t been on a train ride in several years, but I always love sitting and watching the changing scenery go by.
  4. Spend a weekend in New Mexico – I’ve never been to New Mexico, and Santa Fe is only about a 5-hour drive from Colorado Springs! I figure this may be one of the only times in our life we’re living near the Southwest, so I want to take advantage by spending a weekend in a new state. My husband and I also haven’t had the chance to travel somewhere new to both of us in a few years, so I think it would be a really fun time.
  5. Visit another national park – like I mentioned in by Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado post, the state is home to not one, but four national parks! I’ve only been to Rocky Mountain so far, but I’d love to visit at least one, if not all, of the other three (Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Great Sand Dunes). Great Sand Dunes is only about a 3-hour drive from us, so I’d love to spend a day exploring it sometime over the summer!

And there you have it folks! What’s on your Summer Bucket List for 2022? What are your favorite Colorado Summer activities? Let me know in the comments!

How to Start Freelance Writing

Hi everyone! I’m switching up my normal content to share with you some insights on how I started freelance writing as a side hustle. One of my big goals for 2022 was to grow my freelance writing portfolio and start doing it as a consistent side hustle. I first started my freelance writing journey in summer 2021, and I’m so excited that I’m now writing for two companies on a regular basis and taking on extra projects on a monthly/bi-monthly basis. I’ve always loved writing and have wanted to do it part time or full time, so it feels really exciting and rewarding to bring in some consistent income from it! Without further ado, here’s how I personally started freelance writing, and how you can start too.

Before you even begin freelance writing, you’ll want to identify your niche. You can write on pretty much any topic, from finance to travel to food, and so much more. I specialize in travel/outdoor writing, so a lot of my work consists of travel guides and trail reports. The key to determining your niche is finding a topic that isn’t overly-saturated with writers, while still ensuring it’s broad enough that you’ll get consistent work. This can take some trial and error, but really think about what topics you’re personally interested in, or have some existing knowledge about.

Once you’ve identified your niche, you’ll need to put some work samples together to show potential clients your writing skills. Starting a personal blog is one great way to start writing consistently and prepare samples for potential clients. Another good option is to start contributing to websites or companies where you can submit your work to be featured. For instance, I have a few trail reports published on Outdoor Project, and I often link to those when I’m seeking out new jobs or clients.

Now that you have a target audience in mind and some work samples to provide, it’s time to start finding gigs! My three big tips for finding work as you start off are to reach out to your personal network, offer your services on Fiverr (or a similar website), and join Facebook groups related to freelance writing.
One of the first regular gigs I got was the result of me reaching out to business owners I knew personally. I let them know I had a goal of expanding my freelance writing portfolio and wanted to work with them, which would be mutually beneficial for us both. From there, we figured out expectations for services I’d be providing as well as rates. I will say that when I first started off, I priced my services very low. I still made sure I was getting paid appropriately for the time and work I was putting in, but I wanted to provide a competitive edge to my services by offering very fair pricing. A few months in, I still price my services very competitively because freelance writing is just a side hustle at the moment, and I really want to focus on taking on new opportunities to build up my portfolio.
Another great way to find freelance writing jobs is by offering your writing services on Fiverr or a similar site. I’ve gotten some really cool gigs through Fiverr, and can easily point to those blog posts as examples of my work. Let me know if you’re interested in a whole guide to starting your Fiverr profile!
The last way that I personally started getting freelance writing jobs was by joining several Facebook groups related to the topic of freelance writing. Specifically, I’m a member of some female travel creator Facebook groups, and business owners often post seeking writers for one-off projects or short term contracts. By being active on these Facebook groups, I got partnered with a travel blog who I recently started ghostwriting for on a short-term contract basis.

Once you start seeking out jobs and actually getting paid to freelance write, make sure you regularly check in with yourself about how much time and energy you’re prepared to dedicate. If you want to jump into freelance writing full time, you’ll want to be really active in seeking out opportunities and making connections. If you plan on just doing it as a side hustle, make sure you’re balancing your responsibilities properly so you’re not taking on too many projects at once.

Another big piece of advice as you begin your freelance writing journey, and honestly something I think you should maintain throughout your career, is to always be open to feedback. I make sure to ask very specific questions before starting a gig so I have as much information as possible to give my client exactly what they want. If any other questions arise during the writing process, I reach out ASAP so I can get clarification, instead of just guessing and potentially delivering something they’re unhappy with. I also offer revisions for my work, so that I can make sure my client leaves 100% happy with the product I delivered. I make a point to set realistic expectations for how long it will take me to complete my projects, and I always welcome feedback throughout the process.

Starting your freelance writing journey can be an intimidating process, but nothing beats the feeling of getting your first published work or paid gig. I’m so excited to continue building up my writing portfolio and challenging myself with new and exciting opportunities. I hope you find this guide helpful as you start your own freelance writing career, and I wish you the best of success!

Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado

I’ve called Colorado home for a little over a year now, and I’ve embarked on some pretty amazing adventures since moving to the Centennial State. Colorado is known for being an outdoor-lover’s paradise, and there are tons of activities to enjoy year-round. Today, I want to share my list of the Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado. This list is definitely not comprehensive, and I’d love to do an even more in-depth post in the future, but it can be a great starting point as you plan your next visit to Colorado! This guide is also especially helpful if you have limited time to visit and want to hit some of the most unique and iconic Colorado activities that the state has to offer.

  1. Hit the slopes – first up on my list of Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado is hitting the slopes! Colorado is home to some incredible ski resorts and is known as one of the best destinations for winter sports in the U.S. I think everyone should try skiing or snowboarding at least once in their life, regardless of age or background! I’ve skied at Monarch Mountain, Breckenridge, and Keystone, and thoroughly enjoyed my time at each. Skiing and snowboarding can be pretty intimidating as a first-timer, but once you get the hang of it, you’re going to have an amazing time! I recommend researching ski schools or lessons if you’ve never been and want a professional to show you the ropes.
  2. Visit all 4 national parks – did you know Colorado is home to not one but four national parks? Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park can all be found in the state of Colorado. I’ve only been to Rocky Mountain myself (click here to read my post about Dream Lake) but I definitely plan on visiting the other three while I still call Colorado home. All of the parks are uniquely beautiful, and I can’t wait to fully explore them so I can check this off my list of Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado!
  3. Soak in a hot spring – next up on my list of the Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado is visit one of the state’s many beautiful hot springs. There are a bunch of hot springs throughout the state of Colorado that vary in price, aesthetics, and amenities offered. From low-key resorts to luxurious mountain spas, there is definitely a Colorado hot spring for everyone to enjoy. My personal favorite so far has been Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort! This is one activity that is great year-round, and a good option if you want to enjoy Colorado’s natural beauty without embarking on a physically strenuous activity.
  4. Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater – this is one item on my Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado list that I have yet to experience, but am really looking forward to. Red Rocks Amphitheater is known for having awesome acoustics and being a super cool concert venue in general. I have tickets to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in April and I cannot wait to check it out for myself!
  5. Summit a Fourteener – last but certainly not least on my list of the Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado is summit a Fourteener. Colorado is home to a whopping 58 Fourteeners, aka mountains with a summit above 14,000 feet. Each Fourteener is a challenge in and of itself, but there are definitely some mountains that are more beginner-friendly than others. I personally have summited Mount Bierstadt (14,065′), Mount Sherman (14,043′) and Pike’s Peak (14,115′), and they were all incredible experiences. Check out my video “How to Summit Your First 14er” for a ton of info on how to train and prepare for your first Fourteener!

I hope this list of the Top 5 Things to Do in Colorado is helpful as you plan your next Colorado trip! What activities and experiences are on your list of the top things to do in Colorado?

North Georgia Bucket List: 10 Must-See Sights and Experiences

I was born and raised in Georgia and spent my childhood and teen years exploring the mountains of North Georgia. Even though I now live in Colorado, North Georgia holds a special place in my heart, and I think the whole area is seriously underrated. This guide will highlight 10 must-see sights and experiences for you to add to your North Georgia Bucket List ASAP!

  1. Visit the Bigfoot Museum in Blue Ridge – First up on my North Georgia Bucket List is Expedition: Bigfoot. Expedition: Bigfoot is a humble and quirky museum located in Blue Ridge that is entirely dedicated to the legendary creature. The museum is chock-full of Bigfoot-related artifacts, documentaries about the mysterious creature, and a map of reported Bigfoot sightings throughout Georgia. Whether you’re a believer or not, Expedition: Bigfoot is a super unique and entertaining way to spend an afternoon.
  2. Stand Atop Georgia’s Highest Peak – As the highest peak in Georgia with an elevation of 4,700′, Brasstown Bald is definitely worth adding to your North Georgia Bucket List. You can reach the summit of Brasstown Bald by hiking a short yet steep paved trail from the visitor’s center, or you can hop on a shuttle that makes the mountain accessible for all. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. On a clear day, you’ll actually be able to see four states from the summit: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
  3. Backpack to Springer Mountain – Springer Mountain is an iconic North Georgia hike because it is considered the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, aka the point where hikers either begin or end their journey along the 2,000+ mile long trail. To reach Springer Mountain, most hikers begin from Amicalola Falls and hike 8.8 miles along the AT Approach Trail before camping overnight at the summit and returning to the Falls the next day. Springer Mountain is a classic hike, making it one of the top experiences on my North Georgia Bucket List.
  4. Go Tubing in Helen – If you’re not familiar with the concept, “tubing” is a classic summertime activity where you float down a river in a large inflatable tube. There are a number of places to go tubing in Georgia, but one of my personal favorite options is floating along the Chattahoochee River in Helen, a small town modeled after a Bavarian village. Helen is definitely a little touristy, but it’s honestly a super cute and quirky town that has definitely earned it’s place on my North Georgia Bucket List.
  5. Pay a Visit to Mountain CrossingsMountain Crossings is another legendary, Appalachian Trail-related addition to my North Georgia Bucket List. Mountain Crossings is a small outdoor outfitter located right along the AT in the town of Blairsville. Everyone who works there has thru-hiked the trail and can offer expert advice on gear, hiking the AT, and backpacking in general. Even if you just drive up and stop there for a quick lunch break, it’s a great opportunity to connect with the AT community and learn about some local history.
  6. Climb and Rappel at Mount YonahMount Yonah is an iconic mountain in Georgia that is known for its massive granite dome feature. Mount Yonah is a great hiking and backpacking spot, but one of the best ways to experience the mountain is by climbing and/or rappelling the massive granite face, making this one of the most thrilling experiences on my North Georgia Bucket List! If you’re new to rock-climbing, there are a number of companies in the area who can guide you up and provide all the necessary equipment (including this one, which was co-created by a former coworker of mine). You can also hike to the top and simply rappel down if you don’t want to commit to fully climbing it! Note: don’t attempt to climb or rappel Mount Yonah unless you are going with a knowledgable climbing partner/group or are an experienced climber yourself.
  7. Become a Member of the Canyon Climbers Club – next up on my North Georgia Bucket List is becoming a member of the Canyon Climbers Club. The Canyon Climbers Club is a super fun challenge put on by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The challenge is to hike the 4 major canyons in the state of Georgia: Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, Providence Canyon, and Tallulah Gorge. Each of these areas are unique and beautiful in their own way, and the challenge is a great opportunity to explore areas of Georgia you may never have otherwise. Fair warning: be prepared to take on a lot of stairs during this challenge!
  8. Do Some Shopping at the Wander North Georgia Store – a North Georgia Bucket List wouldn’t be complete without visiting the mecca of all things North Georgia! At its heart, Wander North Georgia is an outdoor store with all kinds of apparel, gear, and souvenir items, but the company also emphasizes conservation and education. Wander North Georgia’s store in Clayton is super cute and fun to “wander” around, and they’re currently building a new, even larger second location at Tallulah Falls!
  9. Kayak and Swim at Lake Blue RidgeLake Blue Ridge is a gorgeous reservoir that is a super popular summertime destination. Lake Blue Ridge is one of my favorite lakes in North Georgia because the water is clean and cool, and it offers a number of recreation areas to choose from. You can enjoy this North Georgia Bucket List destination by kayaking, swimming, boating, or paddle-boarding.
  10. Camp at Blood Mountain – last but certainly not least on my North Georgia Bucket List is spending a night camping on top of Blood Mountain. Blood Mountain, the highest point of the AT in Georgia, is my favorite mountain in the state, and a great place to go camping for the night. Despite the ominous name, Blood Mountain is actually a beautiful hike, and there are amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the summit. You’ll also find a historic shelter that was constructed in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program during the Great Depression that employed men to work on various environmental projects.

I hope you find this North Georgia Bucket List helpful as you plan your next visit to the area! What are some of the top sights and experiences on your North Georgia Bucket List? Let me know in the comments!

Seattle Bucket List: 10 Must-See Sights and Experiences

Seattle is an amazing town with so much to offer, it can often feel overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to do and see. If you need some inspiration for your Seattle bucket list, here are 10 must-see sights and experiences to add ASAP!

  1. Journey to the top of the Space Needle – you can experience this iconic Seattle landmark through general admission or by grabbing a cocktail in their revolving lounge
  2. Do some shopping at Pike Place MarketPike Place Market is full of unique shops, vendors, and restaurants, making it a great place to wander around for an afternoon
  3. Visit the Museum of Pop CultureMoPop is truly one of the coolest and most unique museums I’ve ever visited
  4. Picnic at Gas Works ParkGas Works Park is one of my top recommendations for first-time visitors to Seattle because you’ll get fantastic views of the skyline and Lake Union. Plus, you may recognize it from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
  5. Hike through Discovery Park – an outdoor-lovers oasis right in the heart of the city! The Discovery Park and Lighthouse Loop Trail is a great day hike
  6. Take in views of the city skyline at Kerry ParkKerry Park is a gorgeous spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset
  7. Sample some coffees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great alternative to the Original Starbucks
  8. Pay a visit to the Ballard Locks – the Ballard Locks are interesting and educational, truly the best of both worlds
  9. Admire the architecture of Seattle Central Library – visiting the Seattle Central Library is the perfect rainy day activity: check out my photo diary from a recent visit by clicking right here
  10. Go sailing or paddle-boarding in Lake Union – enjoying Lake Union is a classic summertime activity

How You Can Support Ukraine

This isn’t my normal type of content, but the situation in Ukraine has been weighing heavily on my heart as events have continued to unfold. Today I simply want to share a list of resources to support Ukraine and its people.

UNICEF – provides “lifesaving support for children and families under threat” in Ukraine

Doctors Without Borders – as of March 1 they are “working to set up emergency response activities in the country [of Ukraine] and dispatching teams to Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia”

International Committee of the Red Cross – provides the Ukrainian people with “emergency assistance such as food, water, and other essential items”

UN Refugee Agency – coordinates emergency relief efforts and provides cash assistance, education, and other opportunities for displaced people

Save the Children – your donation will help “provide children and families with immediate aid, such as food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and cash assistance”

Here are some additional articles with ideas on how to support Ukraine:

“22 Meaningful Ways You Can Help Ukraine” – Global Citizen

“How can I help Ukraine?” – International Rescue Committee

“Ukraine conflict: How to help yourself, your kids, and others” – BBC News

Header image courtesy of Euronews.